Apple's iPhone, iPad, et al.: The triumph of toy technology?

A dyed-in-the-wool business PC user comes to a surprising conclusion as he plays with Apple's mobile 'toys'

Lately, as I've watched numerous people fiddle on their trendy Apple devices, playing games on them, even, I've been wondering if Apple actually could pass for a toy company more than a computer technology company.

Although Apple still offers business computers, it is most prominent today for its nifty consumer devices, including the iPod Touch (which can play music and offer Internet access), the iPhone (an iPod Touch with a phone in it), and the newly released iPad (a much bigger version of the iPod Touch).

[ Stay up on tech news and reviews from your smartphone at infoworldmobile.com. | Get the best iPhone apps for pros with our business iPhone apps finder. | See which smartphone is right for you in our mobile "deathmatch" calculator. ]

Because I don't actually own one of these devices myself, I paid a visit to the local Apple boutique at a shopping mall very close to Apple headquarters in Silicon Valley to try them out. I spent most of my time looking at the iPad, accessing a "Beavis and Butthead" video, and checking NHL hockey scores on ESPN.com. These tasks would certainly qualify as entertainment rather than business uses.

Afterward, I messed around with an iPhone and iPad, finding the much smaller touch interface a bit constraining after playing with the comparatively spacious iPad. I found all these colorful devices generally fun to use. The store itself was filled mostly with college-age kids who I suspect were more inclined to use the devices for recreational purposes rather than to run businesses.

There are plenty of applications for these systems, many of which would be more categorized as fun and games than business operations. A glance at Apple's App Store Staff Picks reveals iPhone applications ranging from gas mileage, flight tracker, and expense trackers to a pocket guitar, a digital fishing game, and a New York Times reader.

Users also can buy songs from iTunes or new applications geared to iPad in categories such as games, social networking, and e-readers. And judging by my train rides into San Francisco, I'd say the iPod and iPhone have long become the music players of choice for commuters.

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