I've asked CEOs and celebrities, and they readily admit Apple's (AAPL) popular tablet can quickly become a high-end toy for kids. You buy one for yourself, rationalizing that it'll help you to be more current and productive, and the next thing you know, it's primarily being used by someone under age 10 in the back of your SUV.
That's not to say the iPad doesn't have a role -- probably a growing one -- in academic life. I stopped Huffington Post Tech intern Cooper Smith, a Harvard student, in his tracks and asked, "Hey, do you think an iPad is necessary?" He didn't flinch, answering succinctly, "Of course." He said they're everywhere on the Harvard campus, though he pointed out that they're not ideal for classroom note-taking.
Cooper is a computer science major at one of the nation's most elite universities, but tablet technology is also proving effective in engaging disenfranchised students. From Duke University to middle schools, progressive educators are creating iPad classrooms. Apple prides itself providing tools that have changed the educational landscape. If you can get your kids to use it for something other than games, the iPad's educational resources are stunning.
Donnicia Rabatin of Northern V.A., feels iPads are a plus, and plans to get them for her children, ages 8 and 11, this Christmas. Communicating with grandparents is a big draw: Her parents live in Florida, and video chat is truly a game-changer for long-distance relationships. She and her husband expect to control the passwords and restrict access to inappropriate content. They're also hoping the kids will take to math game apps.
Based on what I've witnessed in my own home and from speaking with many iPad users, it's clear the device doesn't replace anything. You still carry a cell phone, and you'll still need a laptop. But it can find a nice niche in your life -- as a calendar, to-do list manager, magazine or just a nice way to answer email on the couch.
There, are of course, iPad alternatives -- Kindle, Nook, Galaxy Tab, Thrive, etc. -- but I'd actually like to thank Apple for simplifying my shopping decisions. At this point, I don't even consider other options -- I'm all Apple, all the time. In fact, I'm heading to one of their retail locations today to inquire about Apple Workshops to make better use of the gadgets we already own. This, I'm told, is their best offer of all.