I never liked being called "Jack of all trades" because the assumption that follows is "Master of none." In reality, I consider myself to be a Renaissance man, capable of performing well in multiple fields, such as programming, marketing, design, teaching, and writing. This has served me well as an entrepreneur. The iPad is in a similar position. The iPad may not be the best eBook reader because it doesn't use e-Ink which aids screen legibility and battery life, but it's pretty darn good. The iPad may not accept DVDs or SD cards, which my current portable video player does, but it's pretty darn good. The iPad might not be the best video game platform because it lacks physical buttons, but it's pretty darn good. The iPad might not be the best web browser, because it doesn't support Flash and lacks a physical keyboard, but it's pretty darn good.
The iPad, while not offering everything to everybody, certainly offers plenty of functionality to plenty of people. Apple's multipurpose device has a chance to achieve economies of scale that any single purpose gadget could not. For example, I see less need for an in-car DVD player now that I can load up 64GB of videos on a beautiful and portable 10" screen. DVD's require physical handling and easily get scratched and lost. I don't plan to buy more video game cartridges for our Nintendo DS. They can also be lost and are rarely worth the price compared to most games in the App Store. Textbooks, traditional books, magazines and newspapers will all be impacted by the iPad. And my HP and Asus netbooks will get dusty as I leave them at home and travel with my iPad.
I call this the Decathlon Effect. When Bruce Jenner crossed the finish line to win the Decathlon, as depicted on the Wheaties box, he wasn't the first one to cross that line. It was the 1500 meter race, the last event of the Decathlon and Jenner had enough of a lead in points that he just had to perform well to win the overall contest. He didn't need to be first. If Apple's iPad is good enough as an eBook reader, a video player, a portable game console, and a web browser, it will be good enough to win the hearts, minds, and money of millions of consumers. And that's good enough.
What gadgets do you think the iPad will replace or displace?