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In which I enter the Brave New World of iPad computing

In which I enter the Brave New World of iPad computing

Like a kid with a new toy

Like a kid with a new toy

For the last couple months, I’ve taken great pride in pontificating that Apple had finally created a product in which I had zero interest. I sneered that the iPad was either a mere giant iPhone sans phone or a primary computer for digital idiots.

I am typing this entry on my new iPad, purchased Saturday and already my favorite gadget ever. I’ll explain the tremendous potential and impact it has, despite a couple serious-but-fixable flaws, but I suppose I should first explain why I changed my mind and made the purchase in the first place.

While I still partially chalk this up to a global conspiracy that makes me crave Apple products fortnightly, a lot of my change of heart came from reading reviewers who lauded the iPad’s use as a simple reader for Instapaper. I don’t like reading long articles on my computer at a desk, and despite my insistance that you could read just fine on a iPhone, I had literally hundreds of articles backlogged– primarily because the truth is that reading and constantly scrolling on a 3 x 4 inch screen sucks. Add the half-dozen Kindle books I’d bought thinking I read them on the iPhone or laptop to the resolution to blog more here, and I felt I had my rationale…So why am I so high on the iPad?:

  • It is screaming fast. You never realize how much time you wait for a digital device to perform a task until you see it done faster. The processor works so quickly, I sometimes think it’s ahead of my intent. Even the autosuggest on Google search in Safari seems to presage my wishes before I know them myself. I can do many tasks on it far faster and more efficiently than on my laptop.
  • It is a new level of gorgeous. Apple is, if anything, the master of interface and UI. Everything is exceedingly well thought-out and transition animations are sci-fi sexy. But it’s more than smart design– particularly in landscape mode, many of the interfaces innovate far beyond a size-shift, making me wish that desktop designers would recast their apps. (Mail.app is a prime example.)
  • Typing sucks less than you would think. Maybe it’s because my touch-typing has always been less than proper, but I don’t really have any issues with the keyboard — it’s far better typing than on a phone and a little tougher than a physical keyboard.
  • It renders most apps unnecessary. Flash aside, it has a pretty much fully functional version of Safari. It makes you realize that most apps are just designed to deliver a lighter mobile browser experience and only exist because mobile browsers are comparatively weak. Facebook app? Nowhere near as good as Facebook.com. Bank of America app? Quicken? WordPress? Same story. And I can’t work up much agitas over App Store censorship when anybody can build a website. (And by the way, in four days of heavy use, I’ve not yet missed Flash.)
  • The apps that are needed are pushing the envelope. I’m universally more satisfied with the apps I use daily on the iPad compared to the iPhone. From NetNewsWire‘s desktop-competitive RSS reader to Dropbox — these are really good, really functional programs that don’t skimp on functionality because they don’t need to do so.
  • It is of the cloud. For the first time ever, I bought the smallest available disk space. On WiFi, it’s amazingly fast to stream video on apps like Netflix and ABC TV. Hell- it pulls in video much faster than my Xbox360. Pandora works great. The NPR app is amazingly good and fast. After a couple days’ hiccups, Google Apps work pretty well.
  • It encourages creation. I now give no credence to those who decry it as a fat, lazy, couch-potato device that discourages creation. As any 19th Century romantic poet will tell you, consumption and creativity go hand in hand. Experiencing art, technology, literature are all incentives to creation. I’ve read and written more in the last few days than I have in some months.

Is it a perfect device? Of course not. Although most of my complaints (especially backgrounding, lack of folders and file transfer) look to be rectified in the 4.0 software coming next month, there are still annoyances. However, I see hope in those, as they’re all solvable under the new Spirit jailbreak. Tethering is a good example of an issue in this category. Yeah, it sucks that AT&T and Apple haven’t worked this out, but the hardware is well capable and the market or enterprising hackers will provide. I’m disappointed at the lame pixelated doubling of old iPad apps. It’s an inelegant and very un-Apple solution, and something I imagine will work out over time.

I’m an unabashed Apple fanboy, but I’ve never enjoyed one of their products this much this quickly, especially a version 1. I’m getting more done and enjoying it. I’m using my laptop less, sitting in more comfortable chairs and spending more time outdoors. To me, that’s a huge win.

(NB: While I wrote most of this on the iPad, I did go back and add some of the links via my Macbook after the fact.)

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  1. Jeremy Dunck
    Jeremy Dunck May 5, 2010 at 8:30 am . Reply

    “And I can’t work up much agitas over App Store censorship when anybody can build a website.”

    A website does not have the marketing channel that the app store is. And an alternative app store would be fought, rather than promoted, by Apple.

    Also, websites don’t have access to sensors, of which the iPad and iPhone have more, and are more important than ever in the mobile context.

    It isn’t “censorship”, but it is monopoly, and it could be anti-trust, depending on how widely the platform succeeds.

    “I’m disappointed at the lame pixelated doubling of old iPad apps.”
    It’s perfect for demoing iPhone apps to other people — this has always been a little awkward.

    Also, backwards compatibility with iPhone apps is necessary (both from the consumer’s and developer’s points of view) — and Apply couldn’t magic all those apps to be properly designed for the larger resolution.

    “consumption and creativity go hand in hand”

    Totally agree — there is no culture without reuse. But creators (of software and poetry) get their start scribbling notes in the margins of their starting inspirations.

    As long as iPad is a shiny toy I give to people who really want as little as possible to do with computers, I’m happy with it. But when kids decide to be electrical engineers instead of programmers because hacking their own stuff was never fun as a kid, then I get a little concerned.

    The iPad, as long as it isn’t the dominant form of computing, can be viewed as another market where experts can ply their trade. But there’s no vector for apprenticeship, or cross pollination between the different media, or straightforward way to learn from your predecessors.

    You can’t read a poem without learning from the poet. The same is *not* true of software. The code is what matters when learning to shape the bow.

    Go and read a few histories of programmers here:

    You’ll see that most didn’t say “I think I shall become a programmer because there’s good money in that.” Most said “I wonder if I can make this game a little more fun.” And the answer, on the iPad, is “no.”

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