…and all I can say is:
I’ve been hot for a tablet-style device for years. You’re looking at a guy who not only had a Newton 2100, but a Casio Zoomer (briefly) some years prior to that. The Zoomer, by the way, was pure misery… the Newton a joy. As technology moved out of the PDA realm and into true tablet computing, the possibilities got more exciting but the implementations were always, in a word, crap.
Along came the iPhone, a device that I consider to be truly revolutionary. It’s fantastic in its form factor and, like most everyone else, I use it less as a phone and more as a miniature tablet-style device. All this did was increase my yearning.
I’ve been a Kindle owner (1st gen and DX) and a fan of e-books. All of my computers are laptops. I have a Dell netbook Hackintosh that is handy for network tasks in switch closets but has a keyboard that would make the Pope kick a puppy to death.
Computing and the Internet are the focus of my career and much of my life. Computing for me is technical, creative and often casual. I watch TV with my iPhone nearby because I can’t resist looking up things about actors of whatever other trivia springs to mind. I read blogs like I read novels and alternate between the two on the fly. TV shows, movies, video podcasts… I’m surrounded by the stuff and my consumption of these things scales from my 30″ Cinema Display at my desk to my 4.5″ iPhone screen in my pocket.
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I’ve already written about all of my wishes concerning the iPad and how I plan to use it. I won’t rehash all (or at least much) of that here.
That was written during the pre-order era. I’m, thankfully, now writing in the “got my hot little hands on the freakin’ iPad” era.
The thing is even more sexy than I expected. It has a heft to it that screams of quality and craftsmanship… the same reaction I had to the dense little iPhone the first time I picked one up. Since 90% of the thing is screen, that’s obviously the first thing you notice. Out of the box you’re treated to the usual Apple logo and, shortly thereafter, the USB-meets-iTunes symbol that means “give me an identity and some media to chew on”. Once you’ve gotten that out of the way, you’re ready to sink into exploring the iPad and the sheer bright, crisp beauty of the display hits you. And hits you again. And again the next day. And the day after that, too.
The main thing you have to understand about the iPad sounds like fan-boy hyperbole in numerous reviews and blog posts: performance and interface merge on this device and change the whole game. The thing is engaging in a way that other computing devices are not. You go from marveling at the device itself to ignoring it entirely while you become immersed in whatever content it is that you’re consuming: the web, videos, photos, a game… whatever.
In a nutshell, the thing is gorgeous to look at and wonderfully invisible all at the same time.
And by combining an unrivaled touch interface with the kind of responsiveness that leads you to believe that you can’t move faster than it can dish it out… well, that’s what makes it immersive. The invisible human/machine barrier more or less ceases to exist and it’s just you and your very touchable, flickable, pinchable content.
So do I have any gripes? Sure… some little stuff.
Yes, the screen gets all finger-smudged, but the oleophobic glass allows it to be wiped clean with the swipe of a shirtsleeve. It can feel a tad heavy when reading in bed… but on the flipside, it’s perfectly balanced and never has a tendency to want to tip forward or backward. iFixit, in their iPad disassembly, determined that the front electronics and rear aluminum case weighed the same to the gram, thus creating near perfect balance.
The docks you can buy for it are pretty fiddly. They don’t have a scooped guide like the iPhone dock, so it’s a matter of aim to get it seated. Worse, the docks don’t weigh enough and removing it is always a two-handed operation trying to hold the dock to the table while tugging on the iPad. I envisioned docking it on the bedside table at night before sleeping. Sadly, docking it nearly involves climbing out of bed and planting both feet squarely on the floor to get it seated. Beyond that, the cat would probably knock it over in the night which, admittedly, is a Dobby flaw more than an Apple flaw.
The dock issue for me, however, might well be a moot point already. The iPad’s beauty leads to that usual Apple-device conundrum of wanting to put it in a case to preserve the looks and, of course, sacrificing the beauty of its design by putting it in a case. I’m currently trying out Apple’s case which scores high in the functionality department. It protects the surface, but also folds into a wedge shape that allows for easy typing or stands up for watching video or to create a hinge-less laptop when combined with a bluetooth keyboard. The case is not dock-compatible and insertion and removal of the iPad to and from the case is NOT a trivial, mindless process. You put it in the case and leave it there until you have a damn good reason to remove it.
Unfortunately, Apple’s case most decidedly does NOT bring the sexy. It’s remarkably fugly for something with Apple’s logo on the front and especially surprising since the industrial design of the iPad is so stellar. But, as I said, the functionality aspects of that case are slowly winning me over, even at the cost of masking all of its sleek glass-meets-aluminum beauty. I at least feel less like I’m going to drop it (the case is a bit rubbery) and a tad less concerned if I do.
In the coming days I’ll write some posts about specific aspects of the iPad: as an e-book reader (and Amazon’s future role), its role in a photographers portfolio, ways in which it is (and is not) a laptop replacement, etc. I also have some pretty strong opinions on the raging debate about Apple’s seeming heavy-handedness when it comes to interface compliance, complexity, etc. I’ll write about those thoughts as well because, God knows, the Internet needs another editorial and review about the iPad.
So why am I bothering to write about this device? The odds of my writing anything original are slim to none considering the sheer volume of discussion going on throughout the net. I think the reason is because, when something impresses you this much, you feel compelled to share your thoughts with others.
On that note, I’m off to bed to read some more of Cory Doctorow‘s novel, Little Brother. My copy is an ePub-formatted book I grabbed from Gutenberg and dropped right into iBooks. My Kindle DX, by the way, sold on eBay last night and was placed in the hands of UPS earlier today to start its journey to a new home. The irony? The best fitting box I could find in the house in which to pack it for shipment: the outer box UPS brought my iPad in this past Saturday.