Is the iPad a PC? If we were talking about a touch screen tablet computer running Windows 7, this wouldn't even be a question. But when that question is turned towards the iPad, the general consensus seems to put the iPad as something other than a PC.
So what makes a PC? Is it the operating system? Is it the hardware? Or is it what the device allows you to do?
The purpose of an operating system is to manage the computer's hardware in such a way that services can be provided towards applications and supports interaction with the user. It certainly seems rather arbitrary to rule out the iPad based simply on its operating system. After all, PCs used to be run on MS-DOS. And if we're going to talk about operating systems lacking in features, the old command-line operating systems take the cake. And yet, no one ever had a problem labeling them PCs.
Is it the hardware? The iPad has the same basic components you would find in any PC: a CPU, memory, storage, a display and an input device that allows the user to interact with the device. In fact, the iPad actually has more functionality than the standard PC when you consider the gyroscope, accelerometer, Assisted-GPS, etc.
Which brings us to functionality. If we are going to look at the PC as a "personal computer", the functionality of the device should provide for most of the needs of a standard user. We don't expect it to be capable of producing the same graphics that went into the making of a Hollywood computer, but we do expect it to serve our needs in the home.
So just what do we do with our personal computers? Web browsing. Email. Facebook. Twitter. We play games and write letters and balance our checkbooks in a spreadsheet. We store photos, play music and watch movies. That about covers it for most people. And, crazy enough, the iPad can do all of those things. In fact, it has a lot of functionality that goes beyond the personal computer. After all, you won't see the PC as a device where augmented reality is a common use. And very few people use their PC as a replacement for their GPS when taking a vacation.
Certainly, the iPad isn't capable of doing everything that a PC can do. After all, you can't develop applications for an iPad on an iPad. But then again, you can't develop applications for an iPad on a Windows-based PC either. You'll need a Mac.
And there are plenty of popular games like League of Legends that you won't find on your iPad. But then again, League of Legends just dropped support for the Mac. And we aren't kicking the Mac out of the PC group.
Suffice to say, the iPad cannot do everything that a Windows-based PC can do. But then again, a Windows-based PC can't do everything that a Mac or an iPad can do. Determining what is and what isn't a PC based on individual applications is an exercise in futility.
If an iPad can cover the basic functionality used by the standard person in their home, it seems only logical to call it a personal computer. No one system is right for everyone, but what seems in little doubt is that the iPad was made with the consumer in mind.
In a different world, would we even be having this discussion?
Imagine a world with no iPhone, but where the iPad has the same app ecosystem and popularity as it has now. Would anyone have a problem calling the iPad a PC? Did anyone have a problem calling the Windows-based tablets that preceded the iPad a PC? If Windows 8 comes to a tablet, will anyone have a problem calling it a PC?
Perhaps the biggest obstacle the iPad has to overcome in being able to achieve that "PC" label is the fact that the operating system originated on a smartphone. Without the iPhone, naming the iPad a personal computer doesn't seem that big of a stretch. It might just be the mere fact that the operating system originated on smartphones that obscures us from the true nature of the tablet computer: the next evolution of the laptop computer.