Friday, May 28, 2010

The iPad is here! 1. The wow factor.

The iPad is out in the UK today (May 28th), but I have been fortunate (yes, really fortunate) to have owned one for some three weeks.

In a few blogs I thought it might be interesting to give some reflections on this exciting piece of technology.

In this post I'll look at the wow factor. Next I'll consider some shortcomings as I see them, then finally I'll explain how I have already put the iPad to use.

Perhaps the first thing to say is, yes, it is exciting, VERY exciting. Ok, I am an ageing geek, and a recent convert to Apple, with all the fervour if any neophyte. So don't take my word for it. Let me tell you about the reactions of people I have showed it to. People are just wowed by it. My 78 dad has put it high on his wish list. The IT department at the school where i am chaplain took it round the departments demonstrating its potentiality with enthusiasm. People who casually ask for a glimpse are surprised and impressed.

But what is so good about it? After all, isn't it just an extra-large iPod touch, a mega iPhone without the phone? It may look impressive, but is it really useful? What can it do that is not already done by iPhone or Laptop? And aren't there other Slate devices?

Well let me make clear this is not the device to end all devices, just ad the iPhone wasn't the phone to end all phones. But just as most smartphones now have the look of the iPhone about them, so I am really convinced that the iPad has set a new paradigm which will be widely copied.

Why? Well, it’s not that the iPad is perfect (more of that in a later post). But it is very impressive.

Graphically the iPad is stunning. The colours are bright. Images are crisp and striking. It's what people notice immediately when they see the iPad for the first time. Video is really good. I've watched many episodes now of Spooks with great pleasure. Tvcatchup (the iPhone site) streams live TV beautifully, and the new BBC iPlayer beta (released only on 27th May) is similarly wonderful. The YouTube app is great too.

Surfing the web is a dream. The screen size (about A5) gives a great view of a whole page, and zooming in is easy. The text is very readable and photos great. When you surf the web you realise how great a difference the size makes. While the iPhone made the mobile experience of surfing the web manageable, the iPad makes it pleasurable. It would not be an kind of exaggeration to say that this is the best web surfing experience available. If I want to surf the web - this is the device of first choice.

And from that flows some excellent apps which draw content from the web. News apps with a high photo-content excel. IMDB is also outstanding. There are also apps such as Elements, a kind of Cd Rom (remember them?) of the periodic table which combine encylopaedic data with web links to external sites, such as Wolfram Alpha. There is plenty of scope for more, and they will be great.

As a book reader, too, the iPad functions extremely well. The iBooks and Kindle apps work beautifully (iBooks has more features, though Kindle has far more books). Turning pages, leaving bookmarks and notes and even looking up on the dictionary (iBooks) are supported. There is little need to consult help files or installation instructions - the interface is simple, inutitive and effective. There is also an excellent app FreeBooks which draws on public domain titles. It is also possible (using iTunes and iBooks) to create your own books, though I've yet to find an epub book creator that really works for me (you really need the epub format to use book readers well) Perhaps epubs, like PDFs will become standard file types for text editors in the future.

The maps app is very impressive, again illustrating what a difference the screen size makes even with basically the sane set of features as we have been familiar with on the iPhone and iPod touch.

The mail and calendar applications similarly enhance familiar functions from the iPhone and just make them, well, easier and more pleasurable. Though perhaps they also create expectations: I'm probably not the only one who's tried to move from week to week by swiping the screen.

Sitting on the desk, the iPad looks a little like one of those photo frames, and while that may seem to undervalue the device, it also indicates another use of the device which it does wonderfully well. As a way to display your photos, it is just great, and there are already some very powerful photo-editing apps available which mean that as an accompaniment to a photographer on the road - including the professional - it is very usable.

The overall experience is just, well, very impressive. My Dad desribed it as ‘magical’ and I don’t think he’d seen Steve Jobs keynote (I don’t think he even knows who Steve Jobs is).

No comments: