I think I “get” the iPad in a way most people still can’t.  A business week article posted today illustrates that fairly clearly…

Don't get me wrong. I am a fan of the iPod Touch and therefore get the point of the iPad. I often use the Touch to catch up on e-mail, catch up with friends on Facebook, and send tweets to Twitter. When I travel, it becomes my newspaper and—thanks to the Amazon Kindle application—a less-than-ideal book reader. I even use it to catch video from time to time. The iPad had me at the bigger screen. Then again, I am a tech enthusiast.

I've talked to a lot of people who don't seem to get what the iPad is for, no matter how many times I explain it to them. Dave Letterman joked about it in his Top Ten list on Feb. 1. Among the surprises in the $3.8 trillion federal budget: "A $1 billion research grant to figure out what the hell the iPad does." On Saturday Night Live, Weekend Update host Seth Meyers said: "This week Apple released a thing that does stuff that its other stuff already does."

With no offense intended, if you think you “get” the iPad because you have an iPod Touch than you’ve missed the point.  The iPad is a bet on the future not on the present.  It’s about meeting a need that is imminent not one that’s necessarily here yet. 

Let me walk you through the thought process that Apple appears to be using.  Two points…

Point #1 - Once documents start moving to the cloud people are going to want a way to view those documents on the go. In the same way that people carry a notepad to meetings now they’ll want to pull up documents in the future.  They need a device that focuses on viewing device (as opposed to PCs, laptops and netbooks which make huge concessions for data entry).  The same is true of paper media like books and newspapers.  People need a way to carry around these digital representations.

Point #2 - People aren’t going to redefine the page.  Digital documents will continue to be based around 8.5” by 11” dimensions just as Roman Chariots defined the Space Shuttle’s booster rockets (The link says false but it really isn’t if you read the “Origin” section below).  So paper will be the form factor that defines the mobile devices we carry around with us in the future. 

In the end we come to a point where we can define a need people will have.  The device in question will have to be roughly the size of paper, small enough to carry around, able to access the Internet (or “Cloud”) and able to display documents in as pleasing a way possible.

That need is what brings Apple to the iPad.  The important point is that the iPad’s competition isn’t the iPhone or the iPod it’s Paper!

Think about this for a second.  Apple didn’t bother with a camera, they used an aspect ratio that forces video scaling, and made all kinds of other concessions to get the device out the door.  But what did they make sure to get right?  What did they spend a big chunk of their presentation on?? 

iWork for the iPad and a Book Store.

So Apple is not being secretive about this.  The conclusions I’ve laid out are obvious based on what Apple has done and said.  The blogosphere is so focused on “media” that they’re forgetting the rest of the world.  The iPad is positioning itself to replace paper of every kind and that’s why it’s important.

And Yes, it might not be an instant success but that’s all the better for Apple.  They don’t need the money now and time just means a chance for further refinement.  When the need finally becomes apparent Apple will be 2 generations ahead of the competition (just as they are with the iPhone now).  Again I say, the first generation iPhone was missing some pretty key features too (most notably 3G). 

In conclusion, “getting” the iPad is about looking beyond today’s needs.