Yeah, I bought an iPad. Inevitable, really. The iPhone is still, three years later, at the top of the heap, and I'll buy the new one the first day it comes out. I live on a Mac in a PC ecosystem, and in spite of the interoperability issues, I am not sorry. But the iPad just isn't there yet.
Much has been written about the walled garden aspect of it, and I'm philosophically opposed to that, but that is about the future, not about this week. In any case, I don't need Steve Jobs to arbitrate the morality of what I download, so his holier-than-Android screed is distasteful and will help popularize the competition. Besides, Its just a ruse.
Apple's bun fight with Adobe is shrewd, alarming, and will probably succeed in overturning a broadly deployed rendering platform -- Flash. I wouldn't have believed it possible to swim so quickly against the tide, but such is the seductive power of the the world's most effective smart-phone and its younger, bigger sibling. Rumor suggests that Flash content is being converted on many major web sites, and if the big dogs break out, flash could quickly become the WAIS or GOPHER of Web rendering. Tides do turn. Jason Kincaid's keynote today at Web 2.0 Expo (reported by Tim O'Reilly) suggests that Apple's goal is world domination through the company (App) store, and given how good the Apple devices are these days, they'll have a good run at it. He also suggests, however, that Facebook and Google are way ahead in creating value for users and in the social graph arena, and I heartily agree. Well... about Google, anyway.
But back to the [future] iPad. Yes, the screen is superb (though mine seems to flicker annoyingly at its lowest brightness setting... and getting to that low light setting requires an annoying multiple touch adjustment. The multitouch idiom is, in fact, the way we want to interact with many of our applications... though not all. It is intuitive, fast, aesthetic... wonderful, really. More and more I try to navigate with my fingers on non-multitouch screens as one tries to open one's house with the car key clicker.
The psychologists may tell us that there is really no such thing as multitasking, but context switching... yes. If you're used to (habituated, not to put too fine a point on it) to multiple applications on your screen, you're going to feel lonesome on the iPad. I had hoped for a device that would replace my laptop, at least for short periods (but longer than, say, 10 minutes). Fuhgeddaboutit. One thing at a time, with the exception that some apps will allow you to listen to iTunes simultaneously... and others don't. Twittering? You're tweeting or you're not. No interstitial application capability. #FAIL
Will I read books on it? I am resolved to try one, but I don't expect much. The iPad is awkward to hold in many situations. Too-crisp edges, unyielding, and awkwardly large (to hold, not for reading). And, parenthetically, what is with the NYTs Editor's Choice typesetting??? It is dreadful, leaving extra space between lines for no reason I can discern.
Access to non-Apple clouds stinks. No one has ever explained Mobile-Me well enough to try the free trial, let alone convinced me to pay for it. I'm a heavy Google-docs user, and access is awkward.
The GPS capability makes the iPad the first plausible alternative to a paper map. It is super, and may be reason enough to own one (though, its an expensive map, especially given the data plan you'll need to access it on the road). How many maps have email capability, though... and a good one?
In a variation on this theme, the $10 Navionics Marine application I bought for my iPhone (and tried as many as two times), is a stunningly useful alternative to a chart-plotter costing several times as much as the iPad. Digital charts, route way points, Googlemaps or Bing overlays, and a beautiful, instantly touch-re-sizable chart image. And it worked without upgrading to a newer version. I have not tried it on the water, and there is the issue of connectivity (will the 3G networking suffice for Puget Sound?). I don't even want to THINK of how to protect the device from my own clumsiness and the spray of beating to windward.
The apps available at this early stage are mostly disappointing. Its a good game platform, and I bought Pages, the word processor (yawn). The keyboard is workable for note taking, but it will be much more awkward to type on than a laptop in a conference hall or even conference room. The blue-tooth keyboard works fine... after its paired. That process is sufficiently awkward that I'll never do it or take the keyboard on the road. Yes, there is a cradle/keyboard accessory... tell me again why you'd do that instead of, say, an Apple Air laptop?
The wireless is distinctly slow. Downloading a YouTube video (my ISP is wireless too, so its already a bit pokey) required multiple pauses -- scarcely acceptable on an iPhone... a complete non-starter with the iPad. The same video, 3 minutes later, on my Macbook Pro played without pause.
I'll use it, I'll enjoy it... grudgingly. But for the $800 I could have bought a dinghy for my boat instead, and I wish I had. Wait a generation or two for the device to catch up to the hype.
A camp raven in the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park (April, 2010)