I'm thinking an iPad 2 might be the way to go for mom. She's 86 and, despite several computer classes for seniors, she's always getting into trouble on her PC.
Software asks her if she wants to update it, and then the installation screens intimidate her. Once, she accidentally locked the screen but didn't know the password to unlock it.
Sometimes she can't find the poem she was working on the day before, or somehow the default printer setting gets changed so she can't print.
It's always something.
iPads, on the other hand, seem simple and well adapted to what she uses her PC for: Checking email, surfing news sites on the Web, composing poetry and prose for writing groups and workshops.
It seems like it would be a lot less intimidating to her, and the portability means she wouldn't go weeks without checking her email when she visits San Diego.
And if it's right for mom, it might be right for another 45 million to 60 million people this year. Those are crazy numbers, but they're what analysts are tossing around for iPad sales predictions for 2011.
When the original iPad was introduced a little more than a year ago, I told friends I thought it was just a niche device—something people might keep on their coffee tables to access email and the Web while watching TV. I mean, who needs an oversized iPhone?
I just don't have the vision thing that Steve Jobs has. I'm skeptical by nature and have never been a big fan of Macs. And there's the hype, always the hype.
The hype for the iPad: With its introduction, we're now entering a post-PC era, according to Jobs.
Alas, the hype is proving at least partly true. Not only has Apple made tablet computing viable, its iPad is pushing PCs into obsolescence, at least for some consumer uses.
In particular, inexpensive netbooks and mini-notebooks, a promising growth sector just two years ago, are dying on the vine.
Companies like Acer and Dell, which invested heavily in those sectors, have seen their year-over-year U.S. sales decline by 25 percent and 12 percent, respectively, for the first quarter, according to researchers at Gartner Inc., a technology analyst firm.
Apple, in the meantime, grew by 19 percent.
Overall, U.S. notebook sales have declined for three quarters straight. The only thing that has saved the PC industry is a rise in office computer sales as companies began to invest in new equipment after the recession.
And although alternative tablets are beginning to take some market share, Apple owns about 90 percent of the market with the iPad. It likely will be a year or two before the alternatives can present real competition with stable operating systems, a good selection of apps and lower prices.
In the meantime, the iPad is moving off the coffee table and into people's lives.
Restaurants use it as an interactive menu; artists use it as a sketchpad; doctors use it to check x-rays and other medical information.
And mom may soon use it to write poetry.