July 5, 2010

I got an iPad about a month ago. I’m definitely not an Apple fan – I’ve never had a Mac or an iPhone. The only Apple products I’ve had are an iPod shuffle and and iPod nano.
Although it’s sold about a zillion units since its launch, the talk about the iPad has been mixed. Some says it’s a bona fide game-changer and others that it’s half-baked and has no obvious use.

So I got one anyway.

And here are my thoughts on it…

The iPad is like an iPod Touch on steroids. It’s about the size of a paperback novel and has a touch screen.
It has 32GB of memory, so plenty of room for music, photos and videos, and Wi-Fi connectivity so you can surf the web, check out Facebook and Twitter, and read your emails.

The touch screen and tilt action makes it much more intuitive than a keyboard and mouse. The games are very cheap. Some really good ones are free or only cost about $3. If you have kids, they will love it, especially the excellent educational games and Angry Birds, a cult classic in which you destroy pigs sheltering in elaborate fortifications by launching birds at them with a catapult.

My mother-in-law loves playing scrabble on it – she’s a teacher so she loves the chance to exercise her vast vocabulary.

The iPad’s niche seems to be couch computer – you can play on it while watching TV or lying in bed – or spending time in your “office”, as the Fonz would call it. Computer is not really the right word for this thing, perhaps it should simply be called a tablet device. After surfing the web for a few minutes with its beautiful high-resolution touch screen, a laptop seems as antiquated as a typewriter.

I’ve already noticed some changes in my behaviour. I’ve never been unable to sit passively watching TV – my attention span is far too short. I need to read the newspaper or a magazine or change the channel every 15 seconds.
The iPad has made watching live sport a much more interactive and enjoyable activity. I watched the World Cup match between the USA and Ghana while following Google’s new real-time Twitter feed and it was like watching the game at a pub catching snippets of hundreds of random conversations. Some of the tweets were funny, like listening to Beavis and Butthead passing snide comments. When the USA lost, I actually felt sorry for some the fans, even though I really wanted Ghana to win. The iPad gave a real sense of community.

We’ve been using it as an iPod to play music through the stereo in the office. It makes it so easy for downloading music, and it’s cheap too ($13 for an album). We’ve downloaded more music in 3 weeks than we have in the least 3 years.

Things to be aware of before you get one:

  • It doesn’t have a camera, and it doesn’t have a USB port so you can’t plug anything into it.
  • The battery doesn’t seem to charge up from a PC, only from a Mac. If you haven’t got a Mac, you’ll need to charge it up from the wall instead.
  • It doesn’t support Flash, but YouTube still works.
  • It doesn’t have a phone, but it’s too big to use as a mobile phone anyway. However, it has a microphone so you can use it for Skype calls.
  • It’s Wi-fi only so you can’t connect to the Internet outside of Wireless hotspots, although 3G iPads are now available.
  • It seems a bit slippery and fragile, and until I got a folder for it, I was always scared of dropping it on the hard floor.

So the big question is “Should you get one?” Hmmmm… The iPad is very, very cool but it feels like it could be better. I would probably wait a while and see what improvements Apple makes to it and then see what else appears on the market. Most of the other manufacturers have devices in the works and some of them look pretty good.

http://mashable.com/2010/01/27/9-upcoming-tablet-alternatives-to-the-apple-ipad/

Rumour has it that Microsoft’s rumoured tablet device has been cancelled:
http://gizmodo.com/5527442/microsoft-cancels-innovative-courier-tablet-project

And Cisco has recently announced a tablet device aimed at business customers:
http://www.cisco.com/en/US/products/ps11156/index.html

If anyone wants to have a play with the iPad, I’ve got it here at the Mogul office most days. Come and check it out!