It has been a little over a week since My iPad was delivered, and in that time I have had the opportunity to try it out at home, at work, and on the road. In fact, I’m currently typing this entry on it from the hotel restaurant at the CNI Spring task force meeting. I feel that I have used it enough now to provide some of my insights and thoughts about the iPad, how I am using it, and what I think of it.
So, how best to describe the iPad? Fun. Convenient. Fun again. The iPad is more than the sum of its parts; much like the iPhone, it provides an overall experience, one that is enjoyable and yes, efficient. Browsing is great fun; I have only run into one site where because of the lack of flash support was completely inaccessible (a local restaurant site). A number of sites that I regularly peruse have some flash aspect that is not available via the iPad, but typically this isn’t a big loss. For example, if there is an engadget article that contains video, I won’t get the video. However, the NY Times, ESPN, and other major sites are already supporting HTML 5 embedded video, and I expect to see a strong push towards HTML 5 and away from flash. In the grand scheme of things, most of the sites I browse are text and image based, and have no issues.
Likewise for email and calendaring – both work like a charm. Email on the iPad is easy, fun, and much better than on the iPhone. The keyboard, when in landscape mode, is actually much better than I expected, and very suitable for email replies (not to mention blog posts). I’d go as far to say that the usability of the onscreen keyboard (when the iPad is in landscape mode) is as good or better than a typical net book keyboard. Also, an unintended bonus is that typing on the keyboard is pretty much silent; this is somewhat noticeable during conference sessions where a dozen or so attendees are typing their notes and the clack of their keyboards starts to add up.
So, how am I using my iPad? Well, on this trip, I have used it to read (one novel and a bunch of work-related articles), do email, listen to music, watch videos, stream some netflix, browse the web, draft a policy document for my place of employment, diagram a repository architecture, and take notes during conference sessions. Could I do all of this on a laptop? Sure. Could I do all of this on a laptop without plugging in at any point in the day? Possibly, with the right laptop or net book. But here’s the thing – at the conference, instead of lugging my laptop bag around with me, my iPad replaced the laptop, my notepad, and everything else I would have dragged around in my bag. I literally only took my iPad, which is actually smaller than a standard paper notebook, and honestly I didn’t miss a beat. Quickly jot down a note? Easy. Sketch out an idea? Ditto. It’s all just right there, all the functionality, in a so-much-more convenient form factor.
Is the iPad perfect? By no means – the desktop interface is optimized for the iPhone / iTouch, and feels a bit inefficient for the larger iPad. Because of the current lack of multitasking (something that Apple has already announced will be available in the next version of the OS), I can’t keep an IM client running in the background. There is no inherent folder system, so saving files outside of applications is more complex then it should be. Fingerprints show up much more than I expected, though they wipe away fairly easily with a cloth. The weight (1.5 lbs) is just enough to make you need to shift how you hold the iPad after a period of time.
Again, here’s the thing: the iPad doesn’t need to be perfect, it needs to be niche. Is it niche? Ask my laptop bag.