Guest iPad Review

[Howdy, all, and–wow–it has been a long time since I have posted!  I had full intention of “blogging the conference” but it was so wonderfully full that I was exhausted by the time I got to my room each evening.  (I still do plan to make some comments here, though.)  But, as the dust settles (of course, the dust never settles), I hope to get back to posting more frequently.  Today, though, I offer a compromise: A guest post.  This one is from our previous iPad “previewer” (see “A Follow Up iPad Non-Rant”).  It is a very good review, methinks, and reading it has resulted in my referring to my iPhone as an “iPad Nano” at times.  (Note: After all the reviews I’ve read, I still prefer my iPad Nano to the iPad, but the connection is a good one.  As far as I’m concerned an iPad Nano still beats an iPhone Giganto, but to each his own!)

Before cutting you loose to read the review, I should also mention that the reviewer’s comments are two weeks old (been sitting in my Inbox for a while!), so some of the news is already out-of-date.  As a result, I have added his later follow up at the article’s end.  Enjoy! — WGS]

Since I bothered to opine a while ago about the recently released iPad, I thought I would take a moment to bore you with some further thoughts now that I have actually held one in my hands.

Short answer:  I’m more convinced than ever that the iPad really does represent the future of mobile computing.

Shorter corollary:  The future isn’t quite here yet.

After playing with an iPad, I can very much appreciate that for 99% of potential computer users (including a huge number of people who today would never “use a computer” but who would benefit from and enjoy using an iPad), the iPad it is all the “computer” they might ever need.  The iPad makes “computing” accessible to a huge segment of the population who would never consider working with what we today think of as a “computer ” (i.e. keyboard, mouse, monitor and CPU box).

Of course, content creators will still use more or less traditional desktop machines, which facilitate the completion of certain tasks for which the iPad simply isn’t suited.  But, just as very few people make television shows, while many more people watch TV, the number of iPad-friendly content consumers will vastly outnumber the desktop-computer-friendly content creators.

However, while the iPad is clearly an excellent first attempt at filling a once-empty niche, I suspect a few small-but-significant details may slow its acceptance (at least until version 2 and beyond).

For example, I was surprised by the iPad’s weight. The current iPad weighs about 24 ounces — more than twice the weight of Amazon’s Kindle, and about 5 ounces more than the slightly larger Kindle DX.  As a result, unlike the Kindle, the iPad doesn’t become “invisible” in your hands and leave you focusing wholly on content.  I suspect Apple will be looking further into lightweight impact-resistant plastics for version 2.0 of the iPad.

Remarkably, though, the iPad’s slightly bulky feel almost disappeared when I would cradle it at a slight angle in one hand, while using my other hand on the touchscreen — much as I might use a pad of paper.  This got me thinking about a potential “killer app” for the iPad.  What if a developer were to release a “mind mapping” application that could let the writer sketch his mind maps on the iPad surface, using handwriting recognition to make text legible, as well as to give order and shape to scrawled circles, squares, triangles and ovals?  Imagine that the text in the mind-maps would be searchable.   Empowered by the right software, the iPad might be able to do for mind mapping what the computer and keyboard have done for word processing.

Apple Inc. is both praised and mocked for the obsessive attention it pays to the way users will interact with their computers.  Having played with an iPad for a while, I would have to call it a near-perfect ergonomic fit for the task of scribbling text and graphics onto a page by hand.  Yet the current iPad OS does not even support handwriting recognition!  This makes me wonder whether Apple might have developed the iPad with handwriting recognition in mind, but that for some reason (either a technical obstacle, a marketing decision, or a Steve Jobs temper tantrum?) this “killer” feature could not be present in version 1.0 of the device.

Meanwhile, with the announcement of iPhone/iBookstore compatibility, I am starting to think of my current device not as an iPhone, but rather as an iPad nano.  Except that my iPad nano has a camera and works well as a pocketable phone, unlike its big brother.

Now if only Apple would release a new MacBook Air with two screens and no keyboard (or, rather, a software-based haptic keyboard) — sort of a larger version of Microsoft’s prototype “Courier” dual-screen tablet with a few flourishes.  I would buy one of those in an instant!


I notice that in the two weeks since I wrote it, several small-but-significant developments have occurred.  Microsoft has killed its “Courier” development, and HP has at least delayed its tablet computer, pending its acquisition of Palm.  So, Apple will be operating without some potentially serious competition in the iPad niche for at least a little while longer.  This may encourage some on-the-fence consumers to go ahead and make the most of the first-generation iPad — which ironically might end up helping Microsoft and HP in the long run, if Apple is able to legitimize and grow the niche into which Microsoft and HP may later expand.

Meanwhile, the apparent specs of the leaked/lost/stolen iPhone 4G prototype lead me to think that the 1024×768 resolution of the first iPads may seem woefully weak before too long.  Will the second-generation iPads increase their resolution to support HD (1920×1080) or at least motion JPEG (1280×720) resolution?  If the iPhone reaches a rumored 960×640 this June, how long can it be before the iPad will take a leap far beyond?

10 thoughts on “Guest iPad Review

  1. You know, I really wish that they could do something about the way technology is developed and upgraded. A lot of needless effort and waste seems to go into it. First there was the iStick, then the iSpear with its various iHead iterations, then the iJavelin, then the iBullet, then the iRocket… why couldn’t they just go straight to the iCBM and be done with it?

  2. ’cause someone would develop the iGuided missle…RoboCop, then Gort. Take the two movies as Klaatu’s first and second coming, event Gort was upgraded.

    I can concur with the mass appeal of the iPad and Apple’s obsession over weight, but plastic cases isn’t the direct Apple is going. iPod mini was a dramatic start of milled aluminum era of Apple products. It provides a rigidity and a sturdy feel of quality that plastic doesn’t offer. Maybe the next era will carbon fiber or unobtainium.

    iPad current resolution is strangely low, but a VGA standard.

  3. Craig

    Makes me smile when I read this. It is not quite total repentance as in Saul persecuting iPads and then becoming Paul the iPad evangelist, but it will do for now. After all, the iPad has only been out for only a month and only a million people have bought them. How long has your iPhone been around to give you the features you want and need?

    Yes, mindmapping could be a killer app (even though few people mindmap). Let’s hope the mindmapping software gurus also realize this. You might have read about the college student who did a review after a week’s use:

    If I might summarize your posting, it would be “Hey, this thing could have unlimited potential!” Seems someone else originally said that, but was persecuted mercilessly by Saul.

  4. Ha! Thanks for writing, Mr. Marley, and for your humor. And that’s a good bit of hyperbolic analogizing you’ve employed there! I see the potential for other parallels there, such as considering those (surely no one in particular) who hear Steve Jobs say words like “magical” and “revolutionary” and say, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” a la Acts 12:22. To paraphrase my earlier comment, “What’s hyperbolic sauce for the goose…” 🙂

    And, actually, I still generally agree with my original sentiments (as rantily as they may have been expressed), though I think today’s reviewer (who was not me, by the way) makes some great points. The one thing this reviewer considered more than I did was was the appeal it might have to users with low expectations (and, perhaps, money or credit to blow). That sounds more negative than I mean it to be; I mean those users who want to do a few simple things, for whom they don’t need a “real” computer and for whom an oversized iPhone will do just fine. Part of what some people like about Apple is that Steve Jobs will do their thinking for them, and his limiting and constraining embrace makes them feel warm and fuzzy. For those folks, a giant iPhone will do wonders.

    (By the way, who actually believes that gigantic sales are evidence that the iPad is really “magical and revolutionary”? Monster iPad sales were a given–about which, you and I agreed–but what does that really tell us? By similar measures, Samuel L Jackson is the greatest actor in history.)

    Unlimited potential? Nope. I still don’t see it. (Though I’m glad you at least threw in the new qualifier “could”–it’s a start!) Anything that causes someone to slap the label “unlimited potential” to the iPad is really thinking of tablet computing in general and not the iPad specifically, in which case I would be very inclined to agree. And, as I have said before, if the iPad spurs those who can figure out how to actually do tablet computing right, I will be delighted. Apple is just as welcome to try as the next guy, but until then I continue to believe that the iPad is just a big iPhone.

    So, sorry, no repentance here (unless, of course, I truly did cause offense, in which case I will feel horrible and would be very apologetic).

  5. MindNode (touch) … mind maps for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

    Handwriting recognition is something the Newton, even humans, struggled with. Palm Graffiti was a clever compromise, with computers and humans meeting in the middle with simplified print the people can learn easily and computers can recognize easily, but that has been supplanted with tiny keyboards.

  6. Steve

    Being a computer illiterate, I have no idea of what you guys are talking about. Either I’m a free bird flying high above the trammels of everyday life, or I’m the village idiot. 🙂

  7. @Steve: Or both. 😉

    But just think: you’ll be the last of us to be assimilated by the Borg, er, taken in by this Brave New World of multimedia mashups.

    (Two science fiction references in one sentence. Not bad.)

  8. Craig

    I see you, Mr. Wheeler, but resistance is not futile—may you live long and prosper, and may the force be with you! (That’s four!) Gort! Baringa! 🙂

  9. Steve

    Yeah, if somebody tells you “resistance is futile,” then turn into a little kid, and shout “nuh-uh!” I am indeed the village idiot and a free bird at the same time. If you’re an older guy, just get one of the kids to help you out. That’s what I do.

  10. @Steve and Craig: Indeed. As we humans keep reminding both our friends and our enemies, in real life and in fiction: “Wherever there’s a will, there’s a won’t.” 😛 (That ought to be one of the Gods of Copybook Headings, but that’s another post. 😀 )

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