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Initial Thoughts on iPad

Here are a collection of random jottings on my iPad, which I picked up on the launch weekend in the UK, delayed again by Pipex...

Day 1 (May)
I picked up my iPad today, just a basic WiFi one rather than a 3G model as I thought that it would better align with what I want to do with it. If I want a mobile connection in the future I'll get a 3 mifi to address that need. That's got the added benefit that it will interface with my MacBook etc.

Anyway, the moment I walked through the door of the Liverpool One Apple Store I knew that I was going to be leaving with one. Just looking at the form factor and knowing what my iPhone 3GS does meant that I had a clear application in mind; reading PDFs from my gaming collection and also doing some limited work in place of my laptop.

Firing it up when I got back home to my in-laws was a fantastic experience. Yes, it is effectively an overgrown iPod Touch, but the interface has moved on even further, the size is just perfect, and it feels exquisite. I fully understand the reason that Apple was describing it a "magical" in press releases and demonstration sessions. The Jobs reality distortion field was not running on high; it is a gorgeous device that I am confident will establish its own niche. The build standard is at the high end that Apple excels at producing and it is a gorgeous piece of industrial design.

The next step is to get back home, and connect it to my iMac to sync in my existing apps and settings. Can't wait to do this, as this will really start to show whether I've made the right decision. [And it did, flawlessly syncing...]

A Month later (June)
Since I started to write this, I came across an
article1 in the Guardian citing a recent interview with Steve Jobs that discussed the genesis of the iPad, which shed some interesting light. The original concept shown to Jobs was like a slab of glass (a feel that it has successfully achieved) but the tablet project ended up being delayed when they decided that it would also make an awesome technology platform for what would become the iPhone.

The form factor is a definite winner for me, as is the effortless way of switching between portrait and landscape views. When I'm surfing the net, I find myself in landscape, which feels most natural, using two thumbs and forefingers to navigate. It's a very tactile and rewarding experience, incredibly intimate compared to mousing the net, or even navigating on Safari on the iPhone.

It is perfect for consuming data and the Internet. I'm not a hundred percent certain that it's ideal for more than casual content creation, but – with the right apps – you can certainly write and manipulate data and content. I think that I would miss the feedback of a keyboard, especially in the sense that you can orientate the position of your fingers by touch whereas it is quite easy to drift with the touch interface during extended typing sessions.

The availability of
Dropbox, of Documents to Go (which gives good Word, Excel and Powerpoint compatibility) and of photo-editors such as Photogene certainly hints at possibilities for more in-depth content creation in the future as the applications market matures.

In my case, I am most heavily using the iPad to consume eBooks, mainly game supplements in PDF form using the excellent
Goodreader application. After that, it's casual browsing and social networks plus email. I'm also rediscovering computer games with a few choice examples.

All in all, I'm really satisfied with the iPad. It fills a new niche really well.

Another Month on (July)
One thing I didn't mention before is the fantastic battery life on the iPad. It will happily run all day, on the Internet or doing heavier video tasks, on a single charge. In fact, with my usage, it generally only gets charged twice a week. Really impressive.

The MiFi by Three is excellent. It's a small wifi 3G modem that works like a treat and has really easy set up. I bought a pay-as-you-go version, which is fine for my data consumption. Signal strength seems fine in most places. I haven't connected the laptop to it yet, but it'll work with anything wifi.

App-wise, the main thing I am missing is a killer writing application.
Notes, the built in editor, is fine, but there's only so much Comic Sans/Marker font I can take and landscape is limited to less screen than portrait because of the menu selection. Documents to Go works fine, but isn't pretty and sometimes less than obvious in how to do things. I've not tried Pages yet, but the interface options for file transfer are more limited than I'd like. I'd prefer to be able to link directly to Dropbox more easily. I think that the forthcoming PlainText (from Hog Bay Software, the maker of WriteRoom) may hit the spot if the previews are anything to go by.

The Omni Group applications are fantastic, but expensive.
OmniGraffle is a mini-Visio, OmniGraphSketcher works just like its desktop equivalent and is much more simple for graph production than Excel ever is. OmniFocus is a great implementation of their GTD application which flawlessly syncs wirelessly with the Mac version. OmniOutliner isn’t out yet, but CarbonFin’s Outliner hits most of the same points and is very well done.

Keynote gives the ability to show presentations externally, which is useful for work related usage. The PDF editor, iAnnotatePDF is really good; I'm using it to proof books for friends. Goodreader is a great PDF reader, which I use for a large number of RPGs.

Social media-wise,
Twitterrific has a great interface (although mobile twitter works fine in Safari). Facebook works okay in Safari, but some of the scrolling functions don't work properly, but not enough to kill usability. They do have a dedicated touch version as well, but it didn't seem as featured.  It'll be interesting to see if they update the iPhone app to work with the iPad screen resolution. LinkedIn's app remains at iPhone resolution, so the website is a better option. Flipboard is an interesting take on social media interfaces for multiple platforms, but I'm not yet convinced that it's a stayer for long term, and indeed have subsequently found it becoming less and less something that draws my attention.

If you follow a lot of websites, you'll probably be using RSS. If you aren't you should, as it saves a lot of time!
Reeder is perhaps the best implementation of an RSS reader on iPad, very slick and simple. Pulse is a more magazine style application, but is limited in the number of feeds that it can pick up. Both work well with Google Reader, but if I had to choose one only, it'd be Reeder.    

There’s been a lot of noise recently about forthcoming Android or ChromeOS tablets which will be iPad killers, and even Microsoft is making noises about entering the market in the near future. I think that there is space for a wide range of tablets out there, but anyone entering should take stock on why the iPad has succeeded, whereas the old tablet space was very small. Ars Technica has a good
article2 on why bolting a desktop OS onto a tablet won’t work.