iPad Love and Most Searched Gadgets

If Moses had owned a tablet, it might have been an iPad.

The iPad stoked a messianic fervor, and with its debut, rumors already sprang for the second coming of Apple’s “magical and revolutionary device.” DigiTimes Systems reports from its sources (Taiwanese component makers) that the magical day will be sometime at the end of February 2011 — and don’t forget, that’s a short month. Plus, the first shipments are between 400,000 to 600,000 units, which may not be enough to satisfy all those fence-straddlers.

Might that cut into holiday sales? PC World hardly thinks so: The magazine declared that the “tablet is virtually guaranteed to be the most coveted gift of 2010.” Of course, coveting doesn’t mean buying, but iPads were indeed selling at a rate of 8.8 an hour during the Black Friday and Thanksgiving weekend.

And coveting (or at least hype) figured strongly for the iPad online: It topped the list of most-searched gadgets on Yahoo!. Keen-eyed readers will note that the iPad beats out the iPhone 4 — whereas in our lists for Top 10 Searches and 10 Obsessions of 2010, the general keyword “iPhone” beat out “iPad.”

Most Searched Gadgets of 2010

1. iPad
2. iPhone 4
3. Nintendo Wii
4. Garmin GPS
5. Motorola Droid
6. xBox 360
7. Kindle
8. iPod Touch
9. Nook
10. TiVo

A look back at a year of iPad passions
How far we’ve come since April. Before the iPad was released into the wild, technologists sniffed at its sheer “amateurs-only” basics — a “giant iPhone” without the phone. Bloggers piled on. Critics tried comparative logic, explaining how benighted netbooks had so much more flair. Besides, there was a pesky thing called a recovery happening — who had the Benjamin Franklins for yet another toy destined for quick obsolescence?

All blasphemy. Hadn’t the cult leader, Steve Jobs, called it “magical and revolutionary“? Wasn’t Jobs, pulled from the brink, seeking to leave a legacy, like saving the future of news? Didn’t he use the L word (that would be lazy) in calling out Adobe? The fearless Jobs didn’t even let a State of the Union address delay the iPad reveal.

Yet even in the 60-day cooling period between announcement and hot-in-your-hands gadget, it seemed to trigger industry face-offs, like the one between publisher Macmillan and Amazon. Businesses — from online grocery store Tesco to news service Reuters to game developers — hustled to get into the iPad frontier.

The snowballing numbers really were no surprise: 300,000 sold on day 1, 1 million in 28 days, double that in 59 days.  In its bid for everyman ubiquity, iPad went on sale at Target and Walmart.  And how many ways did people love thee, iPad? The chameleon doubled as a medical chart, a digital art portfolio, a wedding album, a classroom aide. The tablet didn’t save media yet (there are limits to its magic), but early signs were hopeful. It forced long overdue makeovers in Web design.

That art of its interface design — beyond ergonomics, ease, and aesthetics — was what truly distinguished the iPad. The magic lay in the fact that it really had no interface; it was a Zen template of possibilities. One Apple Distinguished Educator (and medieval lit prof) put it this way:

The collapsing of symbolic complexity into the simplicity of touch enables participation by new groups of people — even relative technophobes — and this mirrors the increased accessibility offered by Gutenberg’s revolution while lowering the barrier characteristic of most recent technologies.

And just as Gutenberg’s movable type reshaped the way man shared information, the iPad offered the most promise to trigger “information’s third age.” Now, if the first iteration is magical and revolutionary, just imagine what could happen in April. Flying iPad carpet, anyone?

–Senior Editor Vera H-C Chan is the editorial lead for Yahoo! Year in Review, and she is beat after 2010. Her writings can be found throughout Yahoo!, including her Shine blog Fast Talking Dame. Follow the Dame on Twitter.