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Limitations

The most important part about the iPad are its limitations.

But they’re important not because it defines what the device “can’t do”; in the fullness of time the App Store will likely bring us all sorts of new and interesting workarounds to the limitations.

Rather, the limitations are important because it delineates the boundaries of Apple’s concept of “what you do with your computer.” Look between the boundaries and see the shape inside, and note how different it is from the shape we had in old WIMPy designs.

Let’s contrast with netbooks. Netbooks are a vision of computing where the primary use case is web access, and your computer has little power. The shape between those boundaries fits snugly into the shape we had before it: netbooks do what we could do with our old computers, but less of it.

The iPhone has a different shape. You’re not ever going to write a novel on the thing, and you’re not going to create a new website from scratch. But it turns out that you can draw New Yorker covers with it. It allows new social networks and redefines how you interact with others. The shape of “iPhone computing” has lost some of the useful corners of the shape we were used to, but it has some large new areas that we’re still in the process of exploring.

The question, then, is if the “iPad computing” shape is different enough that it really is another revolution. We know that the iPad doesn’t allow you to do everything you could do before; the important thing to discover (and I don’t think anyone has the answer yet) is whether or not the iPad allows you to do things you never could before.