Like a million other unique people I’ve succombed to the urge to discover whether the iPad is a viable personal computational device, a larger iPhone without the phone (excepting, of course, the Skype capability that is available from the App Store), a sorry substitute for a ‘real’ computer, or the next “big thing”. Since its been less than 24 hours I’m going to defy the tendency among tech journos and withhold judgement. But I can give you a few impressions.
First, you should know that I’m writing this with the Apple bluetooth keyboard and not the iPad’s own touch screen contrivance. It’s usable, the onscreen keyboard, but I’m a touch typist and not having the tactile feedback is just annoying. The portable bluetooth keyboard is really sweet. It’s the ‘Selectric’ of computer keyboards for those of you who remember the days of the bouncing IBM ‘ball’ typewriters. I paired the iPad with the one I bought to have as part of the portable computing ‘kit’ and the letters you see are the output from it.
Apple has a lock on squeezing money out of consumers for things that should be ‘included’. The docking stand, the VGA dongle, the case for goodness sake… these should all be part of the kit out of the box. I’d gladly pay the extra up front – in fact you HAVE to anyway to get the core things you need. It’s just a pain to have to order it all separately, or if you’re not among the hard corps Apple consumers and know this trait, then you discover it when you open the box and either go back on line to rectify the glaring oversights or traipse to the Apple Store, squeeze through the mobs that are there and buy the pieces you needed all along.
I’ve played with a few of the apps so far. These were, are, mainly things like the WordPress blogging utility (used for this post), the NetNewsWire RSS Reader, the NYTimes newspaper client, and the Kindle reader (I’m an avid Kindle fan). All worked as expected. No glitches that I can see and THAT is the walled-garden Apple iApp experience in a nutshell. You are shielded from the rough and tumble Internet (‘oh no’) and things just… well… work.
This has been called ‘curated computing’ and represents the suburbanization of the Internet, or at least the emergence of gated communities to keep the riff-raff out. And that is the experience of the iPad. A well designed, pleasant, Stepfordian engagement with the web.
That’s not something to be immediately dismissive about. After all. I’m sitting on the couch, iPad propped up on my lap, feet up & with the wireless keyboard tapping away merrily. I’ve been using the iPad a good 6 hours and I’m still at 45% battery. My MBP would have been charging 3.5 hours ago. That’s all very nice.
But then I miss in the Safari browser the things I’ve become accustomed to and depend on in Firefox. For example, I like and use Zotero. It’s a Firefox plug-in and is just terrific. And it has gotten even better with the integration of VUE into the picture. One of my PhD students is using this combo to share their readings, references, and ideas on their dissertation topic with me. Nice.
On the other hand, reading the paper of record (NYT) and catching up on my RSS feeds is a delight, easy and comfortable. Email and writing with Pages is a breeze. For many functions the iPad will challenge my meeting kit and likely replace it.
I’m eager to play with the screen extension app that provides the MBP with a second screen courtesy of the iPad. And the VNC apps (two of the them in the App Store) look really sweet. Being able to run software from my laptop on the iPad is, if it turns out to be sufficiently responsive, a huge win.
The real test is forthcoming. We’re on the plane from Brisbane to LA on Friday morning. That’s a 12+ hour flight. We’ll see how airplane travel and the iPad combine. Others have written about it already, but I’ll get a first person chance to see for myself soon, and let you know the experience.
— pdl —