I've been working with the Apple iPad tablet on and off since Saturday evening when the UPS man dropped it off at the office. I'm not going to say "this changes everything", but for a lot of people this will be a more significant device, I suspect, than it at first appears. I'm going to log my observations in the first week here. We'll do a complete critique later when we've had some time to experience more media on the iPad and we've distanced ourselves from first impressions.
1. The iPad itself isn't that impressive as a packaging exercise. After you've seen the iPhone, you've seen this. Sure, it is Apple sleek, but nothing more. The proportions aren't especially endearing, and the size isn't obviously "right". Coming from regular Kindle use, you immediately notice that the iPad seems heavy. It isn't so much raw weight (24 oz.), though that's part of it, but the iPad is wider than the Kindle so it torques your hand when you hold it. After two days I conclude this is minor, but an imperfection nonethess.
2. The iPad screen initially impresses with vibrant colors and a sense of high resolution. The screen is 1024 x 768, so it is sized to be just adequate for typical web sites. You can rotate the screen to portrait or landscape mode, as you can with the iPhone. Most of the interface is straight from the iPhone as well. iPhone apps run on the iPad and there are 'new for the iPad' apps as well.
3. I spent some time comparing the iPad to the Kindle for reading experience. As background, my view is that the Kindle is an unqualified success for book reading. It isn't as strong for magazines or newspapers. But a key to the Kindle is that you can read for hours and be happy. Basically as happy or happier than you are with a paper book. So, I did a 2.5 hour reading session of a book I started on the Kindle, but continued on the iPad (the Kindle app for iPad allows you to move back and forth between devices and sync to the last page you read). I'd say the iPad is perfectly usable, but you do hit the eyestrain point on it before you would on the Kindle. For my eyes, 2 hours was about what was comfortable. The font edges aren't as crisp on the iPad, reflections are a bigger deal, and your eye does more work to figure out where to focus. Still, the iPad is perfectly usable for long reading sessions.
The Kindle has it all over the iPad outdoors. The backlight on the iPad is overwhelmed by sunlight, whereas the Kindle's reflective screen exploits the brightness. In low light the iPad might have an advantage, but the Kindle is perfectly usable there. In darkness (e.g. airplanes at night) the iPad would be fine, the Kindle requires some light.
4. Television on the iPad is impressive. I downloaded the ABC iPad app and watched an episode of Grey's Anatomy. The images were high quality, and have roughly 1024 x 576 resolution. The compression used didn't seem problematic (not a lot of motion here though) and the streaming was seamless. Being able to hold a TV in your lap changes the game vs. laptop or desktop viewing in my couch potato mind.
5. The iPad doesn't support Flash. This reduces the functionality of many sites, but it hasn't bothered me a lot. However, media (like our Winding Road digital magazine) that runs entirely in Flash is crippled. That's no fun, but I'm betting that many of these products appear in an iPad app soon. In a related "let's make simple things hard to balance out the hard things we made simple" vein, the iPad lacks an Adobe Reader app for PDFs. There are other apps that will handle this, though.
6. Battery life is excellent. I've read books, surfed the web, looked at apps to my heart's content and the iPad can go for a few days of moderate usage. This would change if I were using it as my primary computer, but I don't think that is its assigned role. I've left the WiFi enabled all the time and I would now say battery life is in the same range as the Kindle with wireless off. This strikes me as an important achievement, and I'm starting to view the weight as almost a plus.
7. The instant on feature of this OS is a big deal. For "just pick it up and do a small task" sorts of work a laptop, with 30 second to 3 minute boot time simply doesn't cut it. And see the point above about battery life. No PC is in the iPad's league there.
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