So, the iPad?

 

It’s pretty damn cool.
I’ve largely already known that I’ve wanted to get one, and this past week, the opportunity to purchase one came up, from a coworker of my father’s. The asking price was more than reasonable, and with a paycheck coming, bills under control, I figured it was time as any to get one. My verdict? I like it, although there are some drawbacks to it. Still, it is literally something out of science fiction, when you consider just how short of a time ago computers first came about, and just what they were.
I’ve used my iPhone for over a year now, and have owned several different iPods over the years (and unfortunately, breaking them at points) and this feels like a very good, solid Apple product, even for the first generation line. Originally, I had held off, wanting to wait for an upgraded version of the computer, for A) improvements in the new line, of B) a dirt cheap one when they had to get rid of inventory. Price notwithstanding, The first day or so of playing with it has left me very impressed with what it can do. Moreover, because of my own situation, there are significant differences in how I’m going to be using it, as opposed to my iPhone.
Currently, I don’t have internet or cable at home. (And, to answer a lot of friends who’ve asked how can I live like that: I read. And I use my phone to check twitter/facebook/e-mail). This division between the two devices has limited what I can put onto the iPad (for now – I’ll likely get internet at some point), leaving me to use it for a couple of tasks that I’ve used my desktop or work laptop for. Certainly, as I begin to write more for other places, such as io9, SF Signal and Tor, I’ll probably just begin to write more on this, simply because it’s very easy to cart around the house, prop up and type something somewhere. I’ve pulled over some of my music from the music library for my phone, although different playlists, such as most of my classical and soundtrack songs, because it helps me focus when I’m writing.
I’ve also placed a couple of television episodes from one of my favorite shows on it, and I’m impressed with the quality of the screen, and that I can watch it in several different ways. I do a lot of my television watching based on what I’ve downloaded from iTunes, and while laptops are portable, this is far easier to carry around and to watch something somewhere, and represents a far better alternative than watching things on my iPhone. As a result, TV is off the phone, and onto something that’s far more superior.
What really sold me on this though, was the word processor, Pages, and the keyboard that the seller threw in with my purchase (which made this a really good deal, in my eyes).  The dock keyboard is really cool, and almost the size of a proper one, which makes typing on this for longer things very good, although I’m still not sold on the on-screen keyboard. I’m used to writing on the phone with its own keyboard, and while I’ve adapted to that, I have yet to adapt to the larger keyboard using all of my fingers. The regular keyboard is nice because I actually feel the key depressing under the weight of my fingers, whereas the onscreen one is just tapping the same surface over and over again. It largely works, but with more errors. Still, it works pretty well. Pages itself is something that I like, because I can upload regular Word files to the program, but also export documents that I type up, or eventually, upload them to the internet without the middleman.
What’s surprised me the most is iBooks, which I’m really growing to like. I’ve acquired various eBooks over the past year, but without anything to really read them on. The phone is too small, and I dislike reading things on the computer screen for page after page. During graduate school, I just printed things out. The bookstore has a number of free classics that have interested me quite a bit, and I’ve built a small library of books that I’ve wanted to read, and a couple that I have, for the times that I’ve found myself looking for something to do, but without a book, which does happen on occasion. Reading on a screen is really something that doesn’t interest me, but the convenience factor is a boost, and it’s not as strange as I thought it might be. Still, I prefer the ink and paper publication over the digital one.
At the end of the day, it’s a sleek, science fictiony computer, one that comes a very long way from the first computers that I learned on when I was in elementary school – the one piece Macintosh 128ks that still look very cool to me, with their grey screens, keyboards and clunky mice. It’s interesting to see the progression, and I suspect that this style of computing is here to stay. On any given day, I don’t need to open my work laptop – it’s docked, and hooked up to a monitor, and within the next decade, I wouldn’t be surprised if the laptop itself is killed off, in favor of something that’s much smaller, and with fewer moving parts, with the ability to hook into a much larger network and external keyboards and monitors.
The first time that I saw something like this was in a science fiction film, and it’s interesting to be living in the future.

The Apple iPad

On Saturday, I stopped by South Burlington’s Small Dog Electronics, an Apple retail store, to check out the recently released iPad. Announced last December, the device has certainly captured the attention of the rest of the world, opening a new product category and selling like crazy. My visit was out of curiosity: I had yet to see one of the devices in person, but a couple of my friends have purchased one, and I was interested in seeing what the hype was all about.

The bottom line is: I want one. I want one, despite the cost, and the fact that I already have an iPhone, because it seems to be the type of computer that I would be using constantly, far more than my aging desktop computer, sitting in my den, and more than my iPhone. It seems to fit nicely between the two of them, filling in a new product category that moves to fit with changes in how people interface with the internet, and ultimately, each other.

My dad and I have been watching the various updates online and in print concerning the device. He seems to think that something along the lines of the iPad will spell the end of the desktop, and ultimately represent the future of computers, and while I agree in part, I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. Apple’s latest creation certainly fits with changes in how people use the internet: typically on the go, for consumption and interaction, but that’s largely where it will stand: for now. My impression is that the desktop computer or laptop will remain, abit in a more highly specialized role.

Playing with the device the other day, I was intrigued by what this thing could do, and realized that it would be something that I would use often. Typically, I use computers for writing – e-mail, blog posts and commissioned work, among other things, and that’s largely done on my work laptop in the evening, on the couch, where I have a good workplace with my coffee table. But, I’ll shift around to the kitchen, outside, at my parent’s home or elsewhere. My desktop, affectionately nicknamed ‘Hal’, sits at home, where it’s hooked up to an external hard drive and speakers, and largely holds onto my music collection, and serves as a sort of home entertainment and filing system for written works.

What I can easily envision the iPad doing was clinched when I checked out the Pages app – a viable word processing program that has a way to save files, properly format documents and with a large on-screen keyboard that would take a little getting used to, but something that is much, much better than doing something similar on my phone. To date, I’ve written two posts on my iPhone, and they were pretty short ones: the combined nature of a small screen and small keyboard doesn’t lend itself well to writing long pieces, and with the notepad app that each phone comes with, there’s no easy way to save or view other files.

As news poured out from everywhere about the device, it’s clear that this is something that’s largely aimed at a pre-existing audience that surfs the web and interacts with people. Despite what critics such as Cory Doctorow say, I have a feeling that people largely don’t need to open source their own iPad, and would largely be happy with the existing applications on Apple’s store. I’m not a programmer, and I can’t say that I really care if Apple has a somewhat draconian hold on what apps will work on it. So long as it works, I’m fine with that – Apple’s products seem to be pretty balanced, and if they want to hold to a somewhat higher moral standard and keep their own hardware in mind when it comes to a device, that’s fine by me. It’s their device, and I’m happy with consumers voting with their dollars: if they don’t like it, there’ll be a bunch of competitors out in the next year or two.

I’m okay without one of these things: this isn’t a device that I feel compelled to buy just for the sake of buying it: my laptop and home computer fit the roles that they fill right now nicely, and I have few complaints about that situation, save for one: the iPad, unlike my laptop, or my house, has connectivity options that would be the clincher for me. I use my phone for a large part of my own internet browsing, and my biggest complaint is that the screen is really just too small to browse the web. The iPad solves that problem nicely. Hopefully, at some point, I’ll get one of my own. The iPad itself is a very good, futuristically looking device, one that I would be able to put to effective use, over just having an expensive toy.