And now we wait for someone to jailbreak the iPad

Whether you’re excited about the iPad or not, you really have to admit that it’s a beautiful piece of hardware. What people disagree about is whether it’s worth having around, what with Apple’s chokehold on content and the limited inputs. Hell yeah, it is! But for flicking my way through word documents, watching scaled-down HD content in mono, and designing presentations? Nah.

It’s not until one of the thousands of hackers out there, with teeth sharpened on jailbroken iPhone apps, gets their iPad and cracks the mother wide open, that we’re going to have the real fun. And I have reason to believe that’s going to happen mighty fast.

Why do you think Apple neglected to include USB slots and an SD card slot? Because obviously they want you to buy the pre-approved games and apps from the App Store. Sure, those will be nice. Tower defense games are going to be fun as hell, and I’m looking forward to the big Diablo-esque dungeon crawler that’s surely in development. But brother, I want to play me some arcade games! I want a custom file browser, and support for obscure video formats! I want unfettered access to the device I just paid $500 for!

The single input is the big issue, but the dock is essentially a USB-to-iPad cable. Sync everything over that, even — dare I dream — driver support for multiple wireless controllers? I’m thinking how perfect this thing is for couch or travel gaming — but I’ll be damned if I’m going to limit myself to the App Store. Bring on the DOS emulators. Bring on dual-boot with Chrome OS.

The limitations are very few. With the iPhone, it still had to function as an iPhone — adding forbidden functionality on top of that was difficult and broke often. But the iPad is far less tethered to its OS, and I get the feeling that’s going to result in a bonanza for people willing to hack it.

See, here’s the thing. It’s not just that the iPad is a great device. You may or may not think it is; personally, I think it’s incomplete and compromised by Apple’s control fetish. If I pay $500 for this thing, I’m not buying an Apple product, I’m buying a beautiful touchscreen device that has hackers and developers the world over drooling over the possibilities. You may dislike that it’s the Applest Apple product ever to come out, but you can’t argue with the numbers being sold and the hardware itself. Decent CPU, discrete GPU, responsive touchscreen, familiar resolution — it’s a tablet computer, whether Apple wants to let you use it as one or not. I don’t know about you guys, but in my world, the consumer decides what the device is for, and the iPad is a great place to prove it.