Sunday, May 23, 2010

iPad Reflections, Week 1

I've got an iPad. Well, not exactly. My company has an iPad. We're a gaming company and it's becoming an influential platform for games. So we got one. And it syncs with my computer, so possession being 9/10 of the law, it's been mine for the last week.

Before we got one, it just seemed like a tweener to me. There's space in the world for a device that fits in your pocket, can be used anywhere in any position, connects to the Internet, plays music and makes phone calls (smartphone). There's space in the world for a robust productivity device that has to be carried around in a bag and used in a constrained number of positions (laptop). I'm skeptical that there's room in the world for a media consumption device that has to be carried around in a bag, offers a lousy content creation experience and has to be used in a constrained number of positions. It's why I (and Steve Jobs, kind of) don't get netbooks.

After a week, I still believe all that, it's just that I don't think the iPad really meets with that description. I'm not convinced it's a useful device yet, but here's what I've observed so far.
  • It's heavy. Much heavier than you think it will be. Much heavier than a Kindle. When you hold a Kindle, you think "It's almost like there's nothing there. This is way better than a book!" When you hold an iPad, you think "Wow, this is really heavy. If I've got to hold something like this to use it, I'd almost rather sit down at a desk with a laptop."
  • Consequently, you can't really hold it with one hand. You can hold it with two hands. You can rest it on one forearm and operate it with the other. You can rest it on your lap. You can sit semi-recumbently on a couch and use your knees as a little stand. But you can't hold it with one hand for any extended period of time.
  • The landscape keyboard is really good. Amazingly good. I'm able to do a sort of half touch typing / half high speed hunt-and-peck thing with it sitting on my lap or a flat surface and type almost as quickly and accurately as I can with a physical keyboard.
  • The portrait keyboard is crap. The device is too big to hold it like an iPhone in portait mode and thumb type. Utter waste. They'd be better off with the big landscape keyboard and then a portrait keyboard the same size as the iPhone one offset to one side of the screen or the other so you could thumb type with one hand.
  • Note taking is the killer app. Because the landscape keyboard is so good, I've been brining it into meetings instead of a laptop or paper notebook. It's unobtrusive and with software like Evernote (which still needs work in the iPad version... no formatting, really?!?!?) syncs to the cloud. I could very easily see this becoming the device of choice for, e.g., college students to take to class and have a desktop or laptop back in the dorm room.
  • No multitasking? Seriously? I know it's allegedly coming, but being able to jump back and forth between, e.g., Evernote, Safari and Mail is going to be key. It feels hobbled without it.
  • $500 for the base model seems reasonable, but $830 for the top of the line with Wi-Fi and 3G?And AT&T 3G at that (at least in NYC)?  No way.
  • Not directly an iPad comment, but the Incase Neoprene Slip Sleeve Plus for iPad is a piece of garbage. I don't know how this product got greenlit. I mistakenly brought it thinking it was the zippered version. Instead, you slide the iPad into it from the top and then have to fold a flap over maybe the top 10% of the device. This is impossible to do without getting your fingers caught, pushing the wake button so the screen turns on or dropping the thing (and frequently all three).
The provisional verdict is that it's much more useful than I thought but maybe not useful enough. I strongly suspect I'm going to tire of it after another week. I'll keep you posted.

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