iPad Review: It’s an iPad

apple-ipad-tablet-device-420x0 It’s breathtakingly gorgeous, fast, and attracts interest like no other gadget I’ve ever owned. I’ve had more people come to my desk in the past week than in the previous year, and they all want to play with it. In fact, the only thing stopping me from making a healthy profit on Trademe is the level of interest from work. The thing is booked in for three different client meetings this week.

I too am “shocked” by the level of demand for the device.

But what is it for?

It’s not a work device. Full stop. Unless you regularly carry one of those calculator-containing compendiums, it’s too big to carry around to meetings. You need to make it even bigger with a keyboard dock to get any real work done. If that real work is like mine and includes software creation, you’re up the creek with a paddle-sized Apple device (and I’m sure immersion would void the warranty).

Perhaps with Keynote and a VGA adapter as a portable presentation device? Perhaps as a device for presenting comps and portfolios? Maybe. But be assured: it is not a workaday computer.

At home, things get a bit more fun. Multiplayer Flight Control HD is a blast, and there has never been a better toilet computer. It puts most digital photo frames to shame (more so when coupled with the right app).  But when it comes to anything more than a two-line email, I found the 700 gram device parked on the sofa while I used a real computer. This is emphatically a “lean back” device, directly challenging the television more than it does the computer.

It’s allegorical

I could go on all day about what this svelte tablet doesn’t do. Think of it this way: would you question the utility of a Ferrari? You might question the owner’s ability to afford it, or perhaps even the dimensions of his manhood. But you’re not going to complain about the lack of boot space or towing ability.

So I leave you with this statement of fact: it can’t tow a caravan. Just think about that before you buy one.


  1. The Ferrari allegory goes further: they’re both blindingly fast. I’m left wondering if Apple have cooked up some interrupt alchemy to ensure that UI interrupts are handled first at all times. I even tried tricking it, but it keeps responding to touches, even at the expense of rendering.

  2. That’s the million dollar question. However I think the Apple marketing team deliberately didn’t tell the consumer what it is for on purpose. Apple wants you to figure that question out on your own and everyone will have different answers.

    However I think the killer app here is the App Store and that will help the user to determine what they think the iPad is for.

  3. there has never been a better toilet computer

    Please! No ‘Pooh tweets’!!!

    I did see some speculation from those who have already pulled it apart that the die size of the CPU seems large for what is ostensibly an ARM Cortex.

    There is some conjecture that what might lurk unders apples tightly locked hood is in fact a dual-core Power chip running an ARM emulator.

    In which case the recent Apple edicts limiting development languages to certain C derivatives make a kind of weird sense if they are looking ahead to code portability if they ever pull the wrapper off.

  4. Ha! It couldn’t possibly run this fast and this cool if there was any emulation involved!

    I do agree that a future CPU switch would be a good reason for some of Apple’s recent move, but that still doesn’t explain why they’re against things that generate C from another language and then compile that using Apple’s tools. I’d love to see PowerPC get used again for something. But ARM is nice too.

    As for the device — it is, quite literally, a blank pad and as Ant says, the AppStore will enable it to be a totally different device for every user. It’s not intended to be for we programmer types who would be just as happy with a TTY and 300 bps modem to a PDP11.

    Sent from my iPad :-p

  5. It’s a bit of a niche market, sure, but I think that the iPad will be fantastic for music apps, from toys to semi-pro. The iPhone already has some great music creation, performance and sound editing apps, but they’re limited by the screen size. I doubt any of those will be a killer app, but it looks like a lot of musicians have been drooling over it for a while, and now the developers are starting to deliver.

    Personally, I can see some work applications. For instance, for architects, urban designers and planners it would be great to bring up Google Earth or StreetView in a meeting; good for checking the District Plan while on a site visit; and I’d love to see what SketchUp could do with the platform. Proper interactive GIS and data visualisation tools would also be excellent.

    I’m certainly not rushing out to get one. I’m happy for the early adopters to shell out big bucks to help iron out the wrinkles, see a few more functions added, and wait to see what jailbreak developers can push it into doing.

    1. Early adopters?

      I think with 500k sold in the first week, they might have got past that early adopter stage already.

      Very interesting to see the dynamic with this device – the people who want to get under the hood / do more ‘useful’ computing work are going to be the late adopters with iPad. The early adopters / mass market are the ones who really don’t think of this as a computer at all. They want it so they can do stuff without feeling like they are ‘computing’.

      So I think the Ferrari analogy is not quite right – this might be a lot more like the original VW Beetle. Nothing like what came before it – still got people from A to B.

  6. I’ve found that I use it more than my laptop now, unless I’m programming, or (heaven-forbid) want to visit a Flash site (not often, I can’t stand most Flash sites).

    And I disagree a bit about the work thing too. It’s smaller than folders/pads a lot of people take to meetings already, so the “too big” argument doesn’t hold water with me.

    I’ve found typing on it to be quite easy, if you’re sitting in the right position. This usually means with your feet up to give yourself something to rest it on. Add an external keyboard, and it’s actually quite good. I’ve heard of a lot of bloggers taking their iPads with them in preference to their laptops, and not suffering as a result. Once the 3G hits, this will be even better.

    I don’t think many people will be able to completely replace their laptops. Especially us techy types.

    But some will.

  7. I’ve used the device a couple of times recently in meetings and it works great. The key is that it works perfectly for sharing. Any time you need to demo something a laptop doesn’t come close to the interaction you can get with the iPad.

    The typing can be an issue but I think that is where the Bluetooth keyboard will come in. I think I’ll seriously consider ditching my laptop for most meetings but I would never use the iPad as my only computer.

  8. I love the ambiguity. The design makes people want to try to use it, so they find uses for it.

    Compare that to the other tablets that have tried and failed: people bolt tow bars onto them then wonder why they can’t drive up hills.

  9. I’m a bit surprised that you haven’t found a use for it Ben.

    In my mind (I don’t have one yet) the iPad will be replacing a laptop in a lot of situations for me. I rarely get my laptop out at home and will use my iPhone for web browsing, emails, Facebook, Twitter and watching videos rather than get my laptop out. I think this is because I view my laptop as ‘work’, when I need to get some coding done, sure, I’ll grab it, but apart from that I enjoy using the iPhone far more, and I think the iPad will only amplify this.

    Apart from at home I can also see me taking the iPad to meetings, conferences, on my travels etc while leaving my laptop at home, but then I don’t have one yet, so it’s quite possible I’m completely wrong!

    1. I’d be really interested to see what happens when you get one. If you really love using your iPhone, you might be like me and get a bit confused about which one to use when.

      1. I love using my iPhone for all kinds of things. To a large extent, even with owning an iPad I *still* prefer the iPhone for Twitter, for RSS feeds, for lightweight email checking, for reading unformatted text (novels). It’s small and light and it’s in my pocket when I want to do something, not over on the table or in another room or back home.

        For serious web browsing and reading heavily formatted documents the iPad is far better. But then so is my 17″ MacBook Pro.

        I think it’s fair to say the MBP hasn’t moved from the desk since I got the iPad. But the iPhone is still the machine for casual use. The iPad works for consuming the news of the day while still in bed or on the couch.

      2. Hence I think the Ferrari analogy holds true. Most people have no need for a Ferrari because their existing car(s) do everything they want them to.

        That doesn’t make a Ferrari any less incredible or desirable.

    2. I’d say more like a BMW Mini One (or a motorcycle) than a Ferrari. At under NZ$30k it’s priced with the Korean cars, but with hopefully superior build quality and zippiness and a little bit of posh.

  10. And I disagree a bit about the work thing too. It’s smaller than folders/pads a lot of people take to meetings already, so the “too big” argument doesn’t hold water with me.

    You might want to hold off turning on the wifi at work for now tho…apparently a numnber of big US campus are banning them ‘cos they don’t play nice and release DHCP leases properly

  11. Actually, I think many people are buying it without much more than a vague set of ideas on what they might use it for, because it’s new, it’s cool, its shiny and (let’s face it) because it’s apple.

    Not because they need it.

    In that respect, it’s more ferrati than VW.

    I’m sure folks will end up using it (and other new tablets) in all kinds of ways that nobody has anticipated before, because the combination of price, performance and capability is really what’s new.

  12. The iPad certainly seems to be serving more than just a niche group! With google earth now fully supported on it, it’s become an even greater treat to use.

    But what’s the rush to get an iPhone 4 😉

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