I held an iPad – Now I Must Own One

Honestly, I don’t know which to write about first – The New Doctor Who or the new iPad. As I sit here on the sofa with my nice, shiny new MacBook Pro (which I love dearly, it’s a wonderful laptop) I can’t help thinking, “Hey, there’s an iPad version of WordPress just waiting for me.” Would it be wonderful, or painful to use?

Since I was holding an iPad thirty minutes ago and reaching for my credit card about the same time (spoiler: I didn’t buy one) I still have to say, “It surprised me.”

First, it’s a lot smaller than I imagined. Looking at Steve Jobs hold one on stage, I thought it was much bigger than it really it. It looked about the size of a typical school textbook, but instead it’s more about the size of a modern hardcover novel, but much, much thinner. I’d compare it to the Oracle, AZ phonebook, but only about 4,000 people in the world would get that allusion. It feels about as thick as a Blue-Ray DVD case.

Being smaller than I expected, the screen was better than I could have hoped. It’s bright, vibrant and alive, albeit smudged with greasy fingerprints from the great unwashed masses that were pawing the demo units. (I, of course, never exude grease from my fingers, the the iPad was cleaner after I used it than before.)

Like the iPhone, the iPad is defined not by its physical description, but by its applications. The pre-App Store iPhone was still a wonderful advance over old smart phones, but the post-App Store has leapt beyond the imagination. Much is made of the restrictions Apple places on the App Store, but it is still filled with clever, fun, outstanding programs.

Once upon a time – before PCs, before Apple – you didn’t buy computers because of the technology, you bought them because they had the software you needed to run. The App Store has brought thousands of programs and therefore thousands of customers to the platform.

The people I know who buy iPhones buy them because of what they can do. Oddly, the people I know who buy Android phones buy them because they don’t want to deal with Apple or AT&T. Sucks to be them – that’s not carving out a market, that’s cleaning up the crap left behind. An honest living, but not usually the fast track to success – just ask the zookeeper at the elephant house.

The demo units were fairly sparse on applications. There were a few games, which I didn’t bother with, the typical widgety stuff, like weather, and then the biggies – Email, Web Browsing, Photos iBook, Pages, Numbers, Keynote.

Email wasn’t setup, so I didn’t test it out and I gave web browsing only a mild glance.

Photos was gorgeous. I can easily imagine a photographer friend of mine carrying the pad around to show off photos. Yes, you can do the same on the iPhone, and I’ve done so, but the iPad’s picture viewer was stunning. It doesn’t hurt that the demo unit is loaded with professionally done photos, but I have no doubt that the picture of my latest pizza would be equally stunning.

Pages, Numbers and Keynote seemed like they might just need a little instruction. I had some immediate questions about editing spreadsheets, creating and saving word processing documents that didn’t spring forth magically from the touchpad just because I was thinking, “How the heck do I do this?” Clearly the brain-reading interface isn’t installed on these new models and the multi-touch metaphor didn’t quite make it easy enough to make it obvious. Still, from what I did do with it, it was quite capable, although, like others have no doubt pointed out, I probably wouldn’t want to write a novel on it.

iBook actually sold me on the iPad.

I’m not a fan of eBooks. I like having a book, I like my library to be full, the shelves crammed with books. They give me comfort, enjoyment, accessibility and the deaden the echo of an empty room. They are convenient, nearly foolproof and, although I might be upset when a friend dropped one of my time-travel sci-fi books into his sink, ruining it (and it was out of print), I don’t feel quite the loss I would If my expensive electronic gadget fell in the toilet – taking not just one, but all of my books with it.IMG_3817

I’ve played with a Kindle – it blows. I’ve played with the Sony eReader – it blows. The Kindle app on the iPhone – sucks, as do the other book readers. Some people read eBooks on their computer screen. I don’t read at my desk, that’s uncomfortable and ruins the experience. Even reading with the laptop just isn’t right. There’s nothing quite like reading a book.

The iPad is the first implementation I’ve seen that I said, “This isn’t so awful. I could read a book like this.” More, I’m looking ahead to magazines. Much though I love having a collection of back issues Skeptical Inquirer, New Scientist or Fortean Times, I rarely read them and they collect dust and waste space. I’m very open to (lower price) magazine subscriptions (or even single issue purchases) on the iPad. While iBook doesn’t do that, it does point out that the form factor and the capabilities of the iPad are perfectly aligned for magazines.

James was reading Winnie The Pooh and turning pages like a pro on the iPad in seconds. It is simple enough to be child-friendly, although I would worry about that glass screen and how James has a tendency to stand on his books.

I have a few ideas for applications of the iPad and now, having touched one, I can see that they really are viable. This is a device that could be used in a variety of non-traditional settings. There are places were even a laptop is too unwieldy and intrusive. Small, lightweight, and most importantly – an actual real computer, with a robust development system – the iPad could (and I think will) begine showing up in places where you’ve not seen computers before – or seen them used awkwardly.

Yes. I’m not saying anything that a lot of other reviewers have said before, and perhaps I’m just towing the party line, but playing with one makes you believe.

I had absolutely no intention of buying an iPad for at least 90 days, perhaps longer. I’m sure Irene had no intention to buy one at all – they are, after all, a minimum of $500. Yet still, she played with the one at the store, read some of the Winnie The Pooh book with James, plunked around in Pages/Numbers/Keynote and she was almost sold. If best Buy had been open for another hour tonight (and not closed for Easter tomorrow) I’d probably have one. They did have just a few left of all models at closing time.

You really do just want to play with it.

I love my iPhone. It’s like an extension of me. It does all sorts of neat things and I’m always pleased to have those things with me, but at the same time, some of them are still a little laborious. Writing blog posts for example. I can do it on the iPhone but… it’s a chore. The iPad feels like a device that will make even those chores easy. Sure, it wouldn’t as mobile and therefore I won’t always have it with me like I do my iPhone and that might be a deal breaker in the end but on balance I think not.

Time will tell. Perhaps Monday, even.

2 thoughts on “I held an iPad – Now I Must Own One”

  1. I haven’t even touched one (they probably haven’t reached our shores yet) but I’ve noticed that as I’ve followed the hype I’ve gone from “wouldn’t want one”, to thinking “if I get one” to thinking “when I get one”.

    They sound yummy.

  2. I haven’t even touched one (they probably haven’t reached our shores yet) but I’ve noticed that as I’ve followed the hype I’ve gone from “wouldn’t want one”, to thinking “if I get one” to thinking “when I get one”.

    They sound yummy.

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