The iPad is smaller than you think.

Dave Pell: “I Can’t Read Anything Longer Than This Headline”

The introduction of the iPad has re-energized an ongoing technology debate. Is it better to have one device that does a whole lot of things, or do certain activities require a device all their own?

I have a device vibrating in my pocket, resting on my lap, sitting on my desk, hanging from my wall, and soon, blinking and buzzing in my car dashboard and everywhere else.

Wait a second, what was I talking about?

Speaking of the iPad, after I mentioned to a co-worker yesterday my decision that my next Mac would still be a laptop (even though I will be buying an iPad), and after reading some tweets by iPhone/iPad developers about how they had to re-work some UI concepts because they misjudged the size of the screen, I printed out a scale mockup of an iPad:

iPad mockup

Pictures do a great job of obscuring just how small this device is going to feel in a person's hands. The screen, in particular, is very small. Not too small. It'll be perfect for reading text or watching movies. I think it'll make a great sketch pad or simple writing tablet. Games are gonna rock on this thing: I can imagine it feeling as light as a Nintendo DS, but with a ten-times-bigger screen.

But an iPad is not a laptop, which is really the point, isn't it? iPads are for things that are uncomfortable on an iPhone (like email, or reading for long stretches) but for which a full laptop would be too much.

It's like this: you use an iPhone standing up, while waiting in line at the coffee place. You use a MacBook when you're sitting comfortably at a table or on a couch, when you have a few minutes and want to do something like work. Right now you also use a MacBook for surfing the web and reading, but when it comes out you'll be able to do that with an iPad. The iPad will also be good for riding on buses, or trains, or planes. One day it'll make a real nice video conferencing tool.

But it won't replace my laptop. It won't even help keep me from having to carry my laptop around a bunch, though that's mostly because I don't like having my life spread across two computers and so use my work laptop for everything. At the very least, the iPad will make it possible for me to do some things without a laptop, like writing or working with photos. That's pretty cool. And meanwhile I don't have to feel like a schmuck for still wanting a new MacBook Pro.