iPad impressions

I am not an Apple fan. I do not mean that I have anything against the company. Far from it – I am incredibly impressed by their ability to create products and market them so that they really do have a “fan base”. I have used a PC for ever and, whenever I have tried a Mac, I feel that I do not know what is going on. I have never had a compelling reason to consider a switch. I have an iPod – a classic model which stores my entire music collection in my pocket. Even though there are a ton of other MP3 players around, I somehow feel that an iPod is the “real thing”. See: Apple’s marketing even works on me!

That is how things were. And then, along came iPad …

I read all the hype prior to the launch. I saw the videos. I felt a desire welling up in my heart. I wanted one, even though I could not say exactly why. I guess I had a feeling that this thing would either flop in a few months or it would change the world. If it was the former, I could accept the possibility of being the owner of [another] expensive paperweight. But the possibility of it being the latter is what drove my desire.

They announced that iPad would ship [in the US] on 3 April. That is my birthday, which I took as an omen. As I live in the UK, I would have to wait until the end of April, but I could stand that. Then came the announcement that, due to the success of sales in the US [I read today they topped the million mark], shipping abroad would be delayed. It looks like late May at best.

Fortunately, last week I needed to visit the US briefly and my credit card was ready. I was excited when a colleague showed me his iPad – at last I had seen one in the flesh and had a few questions answered [thanks John]. I was rather dismayed when I phoned a couple of local Apple stores [in San Jose, CA] and was told that they had no stock and my best bet was to go to San Francisco, which I had no time to do. I figured that the imminent launch of the 3G models might be causing confusion. So I made a plan to visit two stores on my way to the airport and I struck gold. One had just received a shipment and they were happy to take my money. In planning my purchase, I could not decide whether to get the 16Gb [as I was just dipping my toe in the water] or 64Gb [no chance of running out of space] models. As it turned out, they had only the 32Gb and 64Gb models. I elected for the compromise – 32Gb – but remain concerned; should I have spent the extra $100 … ?

My plan was [and still is] to play with it and see what it can do for me – very much a solution in search of a problem. For the moment, I can only give a few initial impressions; I will make further posts in due course.

First off, iPad is a delight to use. The complete absence of manuals disconcerted me initially, but it really is very intuitive. It feels very nice and many of the things that I needed to learn [like multi-touch zooming] quickly became second nature. The odd thing is how tiny my Android phone looks/feels now.

The biggest benefit of the device is clear: availability. It is small and fairly light and, most importantly, is ready to use in a moment. So, I can have it by my bedside, for example, and, if I wonder about the weather, I can have the forecast in front of me in [literally] seconds. A laptop might come out of standby quite quickly, but not that fast. There is also something very unobtrusive about the iPad form factor.

My feel is that the value of the device will come from accessing data, rather than creating it. Having said this, my typing on the on-screen keyboard, though a bit slower, seems to be more accurate than with a conventional one, particularly when I prop it up using the recommended case. Yesterday’s release of DropBox for iPad could be a great benefit in enabling access to data. I am also wondering about Evernote.

My first disappointment is the lack of an App Store in the UK. If I try to access it from iPad, I get a message saying that it is not available in this country. I assume that this will change in the coming weeks. I can access a more limited range of applications via iTunes, which is non-ideal, but gives me something to be going along with. I would like to get Keynote [the Apple equivalent of PowerPoint], but that is not yet available. I did obtain one app, which I would really like to use – a mind mapping program – but it only supports the iPhone screen size, which is a frustration; hopefully the developers will address this issue soon.

There will be more to say and further postings will follow. For the moment, am I happy with iPad? Yes – it is fun.

Is it useful? Good question. Only time will tell.

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0 thoughts about “iPad impressions
  • Colin

    My understanding is the the device is designed, like the iPOD to limit content capture to specific Apple, and Apple approved content sites (cos you can’t install non-Apple applications. Have you found this to be true? Does it for example, limit your source of e-books, movies, and audio to Apple stores? If the iPAD is successful, I wonder if this strategy will draw the attention of the EU competition authorities and the FTC in USA? Similar to the Microsoft-browser ruling, that forced them to offer Windows users a choice of browsers.

  • Mike:
    There are limitations, but they are nowhere near as drastic as that. I think the key issue is Apple maintaining control of applications. This has, of course, been overcome on the iPhone by “jailbreaking” them; I believe the same can be done to the iPad.
    I think the success and place in society of this class of device is more interesting that the success of this specific example.

  • Thanks for the impressions. It helps to hear from a fellow agnostic. 🙂

    Do you think the positive points you mention have to do with Apple, whether through design, software integration, or fit & finish, or is it the tablet form factor itself? Would your opinion be the same if your Android phone were expanded to the same size? And of course usage model makes a difference, but how would you compare it to a large e-reader?

    By the time my “gadget fund” builds to acquisition point, I am hopeful that one of the two serious Android tablets will have arrived (Notion Ink’s Adam, or the WePad), if only to have something to discuss with my Apple friends at dinner parties.

  • Jeff:
    I think Apple have really just got the right combination of all those things. iPad is not perfect, but they’re having a good shot at changing the world.
    I think an Android based device could be made to be just as good and I would be happier with the openness that this would incorporate.
    I have doubts about how comfortable reading from an illuminated screen for hours at a time might be, so I think the e-readers on the market still may have a place.

  • Tomorrow is THE day in Canada! Can’t wait to have mine! The question is : “3G or WiFI”? The 3G plan in Canada is astronomically high though.
    Thanks for the post. Patrice

  • Hi Patrice
    I got WiFi for various reasons. One was that I was buying in the US and didn’t know if I’d be able to connect when I got home. Also, I did not know how I would use the device. So far, there has been the odd occasion when I could have used connectivity when I was away from WiFi, but not many. In due course, I anticipate using tethering with my phone to provide the iPad with a WiFi connection.
    I will look forward to hearing your experiences with iPad.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at https://blogs.sw.siemens.com/embedded-software/2010/05/06/ipad-impressions/