As expected, it’s beautiful and lightweight. It’s basically a big iPhone. So, if you’re accustomed to the iPhone’s touchscreen interface, there’s not much new except for the “throw” of your moves. Using the iPad demands bigger gestures.
My immediate impression is that the iPad’s best for consuming existing information, not for creating new information. But this might change in the coming days or weeks. The optional keyboard dock I ordered hasn’t arrived yet, and that might make a difference. However, there’s no Word, PowerPoint, or Excel on the iPad, so it probably won’t take the place of my laptop (unless I spend another $30 for Apple’s Pages, Numbers, and Keynote). Still, it might be OK for blogging and email. (However, I couldn’t use WordPress‘ Web-based editing tools on the iPad, and the WordPress app only allows raw HTML editing, which is far inferior to WYSIWYG editing, so this may not be a possibility unless WordPress changes something.)
Initial impressions include:
- The screen smudges very easily, but cleans up just as easily.
- Books and Web sites look great on it.
- iPhone apps work well, and a “2x” button allows them to expand (with some graininess) to fill the iPad screen.
- No Firefox. That’s too bad. (The iPad uses iPhone OS, not Apple OS.)
- I bought the wi-fi version, and that probably will be fine. If I need 3G, my iPhone can do most of what this does.
And that’s a problem — the form factor doesn’t quite fill a void. The iPhone filled many voids all at once. But the iPad doesn’t fill an immediately apparent need, except maybe some springtime enthusiasm represented through rampant consumerism. It’s basically a big iPhone that isn’t a phone.
Using it, I kept asking myself: Why do I need this?
Perhaps it’s too soon to tell. When I migrated from a Treo to the iPhone, I thought the iPhone would be just a good email tool and a phone — like the Treo. I realized the real power of the device when I accepted it as a GPS, a Twitter device, a camera and photo storehouse, my iPod, a game machine, a Web browser, and a text message device.
It may take a few months of applications development and lifestyle integration before the iPad goes from the peril of “nobody knows what it is” to the promise of “I didn’t realize at first it would be [fill in blank]!”
For instance, video streamed through the Netflix app looks sensational. Put on a pair of headphones and enjoy! Publishers with video offerings should begin thinking about this platform and its inevitable mimics. Portable streaming HD video will probably provide a lot of the action around the iPad in the months to come.
NPR’s app for the iPad is excellent — I mean, really immersive, with a well-planned advertising (ahem, support) model, and great text and audio. It’s perfect for the iPad. And the Associated Press (AP) has another interesting app for the iPad, one that makes the news really interesting to browse.
The journal sites I visited worked well, but one in particular recognized the iPad as an iPhone and rendered the site accordingly. The Scholarly Kitchen looks good on it, too — and YouTube has adjusted from Flash video in a big way, so embedded videos work on the iPad, and are very watchable.
There’s been plenty of kvetching about “the iPad doesn’t multitask,” but I think this is just silly. For instance, I was using Tweetdeck while listening to music and downloading a large app. That seems like multitasking to me.
One neat feature I hadn’t read about elsewhere is the “photo frame” feature, which allows you to put the iPad in a dock and turn it into a photo frame with the tap of an icon. And there it will sit, displaying your photos in a lovely fade or fold slideshow.
Another nice touch is a button on the side where the iPhone “silence” button would be. This button locks the aspect ratio of the iPad so it won’t shift from portrait to landscape when it’s tipped.
iBooks is slick, but I had problems with it. For instance, two books (one free and one I paid $9.99 for) wouldn’t download, and following the “redownload” instructions just led to an endless loop. And while I have only occasionally missed my Kindle, I doubt the iPad will beat it for reading. It’s almost too distracting a device to support immersive reading. I kept wanting to do something else, aware it really was just a click away. The apparent wisdom of the Kindle’s very limited approach actually seemed to be confirmed, critics be damned.
The novels I’ve published were instantly available on the iPad thanks to Smashwords, and they look OK on the device — Smashwords formatted them for smaller screens, and the page size rendered by the iPad is bigger than my printed books, so as a former layout and graphic design guy, that kind of bugged me. But reading was pleasant enough.
That said, the Kindle app migrated to the iPad without a problem, works flawlessly, and looks sensational. The Kindle as a device may be relegated to a minor role in the e-reader world (although the price point of the iPad doesn’t make this a certainty), but the Kindle as a version of the Amazon storefront has a lot going for it.
Apple may win the device war with Amazon, but may lose the bookstore war. And I think Amazon would be OK with that outcome.
The only technical glitch with the device I found is that the wi-fi seems to drop after the device has been asleep a while. That’s annoying.
The iPad nestles in your lap wonderfully. That’s where it seems to belong, and that’s a major plus for information consumption. But I kept wanting to create information as much as consume it, and the iPad isn’t good for creating information (blog posts, tweets, emails).
Again, the Venn diagram for this thing isn’t clear. What space does it fill?
Ultimately, the question is: Will the iPad change the commercial game for publishers in any significant way? Probably, but before it does that, it may just accelerate current trends. It renders current sites well, PDFs work, and our current business models migrate without a problem (ads, subscriptions). Otherwise, it doesn’t seem to open up any new possibilities outside of iPhone apps on a larger drawing surface. But that may be enough.
For portability, capacity, and aesthetics, it competes very effectively with print, so the slope away from print as the portable form of choice could have just become a lot more slippery.
It also makes it harder for immersive reading to capture and command attention. The iPad is a toy box in your hands, and using one invites short-attention span misbehaviors.
For me, the jury’s out on this. The iPad is cool, and an impressive design realization of a tablet computer. The question remains, Is a tablet computer what we needed?