Apple's iPad is positioned to challenge Google's plans for cloud computing if the tablet PC catches on, analysts believe.
The iPad aims to provide the most compelling Internet experience users have seen to date, with Apple CEO Steve Jobs proclaiming that holding the tablet is like "holding the Internet in your hand."
The 9.7-inch IPS screen displays crisp high-definition video, as well other content such as games, e-books and e-mail for users to consume from the Web or the cloud. Author Nicholas Carr, who watches the cloud computing space closely, summed up the iPad:
""It wants to deliver the killer device for the cloud era, a machine that will define computing's new age in the way that the Windows PC defined the old age. The iPad is, as Jobs said today, "something in the middle," a multipurpose gadget aimed at the sweet spot between the tiny smartphone and the traditional laptop. If it succeeds, we'll all be using iPads to play iTunes, read iBooks, watch iShows, and engage in iChats. It will be an iWorld.""
Not if Google can help it. The search engine later in 2010 is expected to bring its own version of the Internet held in users' hands: netbooks based on its Chrome Operating System.
There is also the slew of Android-based tablets and netbooks that companies such as Acer and Asustek Computer are building. Even Dell CEO Michael Dell was showing off the Android-based Dell Mini 5 tablet at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The iPad will clearly be a challenge to Google's plans for cloud computing, which include making sure Google search and Google Apps reach any device connected to the Web. Gartner analyst Ray Valdes said Apple and Google are on a collision course with overlapping machines.
"You could look and say that iPad is being targeted to the broad market of casual users rather than say the road warrior who needs to run Outlook and Excel and the people who are going to surf the Net on the couch," Valdes told eWEEK. "One could say that a netbook based on Chrome OS would have an identical use case."
That sets up a classic quandary for consumers: Do they buy an iPad starting at $499, or a Chrome netbook that will likely be priced in the same range or lower?
Valdes sees two types of users on the couch: a teenager playing games bought from Apple's App Store on an iPad, and a mom or dad consuming Internet content on a Chrome OS netbook.