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Summary:

Despite their evolution, laptops and desktop computers as we know them are essentially work tools. They’re designed for content creation. The iPad, on the other hand, is made for consumption — the consumption of digital media. Here are some early impression, including a brief hand-on review.

For a long time, the world has been searching for a device whose capabilities and design place it right smack in the middle of a phone and a laptop. But while some have argued that netbooks were the answer, to me they’re nothing more than cheap laptops. Today, that third device came out of stealth, thanks to Apple. It’s essentially a super-sized iPhone with the power of a laptop. Thanks to an uber-mobile chip and stunning 9.7-inch IPS display, the iPad is an ideal device for today’s world.

Despite their evolution, laptops and desktop computers as we know them are essentially work tools. They’re designed for content creation — be that of writing blog posts (or a book), editing photos or creating videos. On the iPhone, we create content of another kind — personal, communication-centric content.

The iPad, on the other hand, is made for the consumption of digital media: games, music, photos, videos, magazines, news papers and e-books. Sure you can use it to check your email or work on a keynote, but the iPad’s primary purpose is to help you consume the ever-expanding amount of digital content on offer.

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iTunes App running on an iPad

So in many ways, today is a brand new day for content creators and owners alike. For if we’re smart, all of us — from large media giants such as Fox to upstarts like my little company — will figure out how to build a new magazine/news experience that leverages the iPad’s powerful processor, great graphics, stunning display and most importantly, Internet connection. In fact I’ll go out on a limb and say that today may be the day we start to rethink how we build web sites.

In the meantime, here’s a short and sweet hands-on review.

Despite the size, the device is light (1.5 pounds) and is easy to both grip and use. The screen size is ample, the processor powering is beefy and as a result, the iPad is amazingly brisk. And onscreen reading is easy on the eyes.

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YouTube Running on an iPad

Most impressive are its multitouch capabilities, which work anywhere on the massive screen. Since I was already familiar with the iPod touch and iPhone, figuring out how to use the iPad was easy.

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Will iPad Kill Kindle? I think so!

First the good stuff:

  • There is one single button on the entire device, which I think is just brilliant because it means fewer distractions.
  • There’s a sleep/wake button at the top, much like the iPhone.
  • There’s a headphone jack.
  • I like how the device switches from landscape to portrait mode so quickly in all four orientations.
  • The web browsing experience is easy and satisfying, thanks to an ultra-responsive touchscreen.
  • The Maps application is pretty stunning, especially the street view, which comes alive on the iPad screen like never before.
  • YouTube works as advertised, including the HD videos. It’s a damn shame there isn’t an iPad version of Hulu.
  • The iTunes store and iTunes Video work very well, and the music buying experience is no different than, say, on a Mac.
  • It’s simple enough to plow through a whole bunch of email very very quickly.
  • iPhoto is a much better experience on the iPad than you would imagine, especially the slideshows.

Now here is the stuff I don’t much care for:

  • The onscreen keyboard isn’t as great as I thought it would be.
  • The screen resolution of 1024 X 768, or about 4:3, is underwhelming.
  • There’s no way to lock the device into either portrait or landscape mode.
  • The decision to work with AT&T for a wireless 3G data is just straight-up dumb. It’s not like Apple doesn’t know how bad the performance of the AT&T network is. (Related GigaOM Pro report: “How AT&T Will Deal with iPad Data Traffic“)

And a couple of additional facts:

The device will work with any Bluetooth keyboard, but not with a Bluetooth mouse. The keyboard dock for the device will cost about $69. A case/stand is going to cost $39.

Bottom line: If I didn’t own a Kindle or an iPod touch, the decision to buy an iPad would be an easy one. But I own both, and even if I only owned one of them, it would be a tough decision. More thoughts on this device later, when I’ve had time to digest its impact and implications.

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  1. Apple iPad Coverage: Across the GigaOM Network, and the Web – GigaOM Wednesday, January 27, 2010

    [...] My Early Impressions of Apple’s iPad & a Quick Hands-on Review [...]

  2. This is such tripe. All of the pros you had listed out above are as much true for the Ipod Touch. If you just replaced iPad everywhere with Ipod Touch, the review would work as well.

    As you are obviously saying, this device is not going to replace the laptop. And you diss netbooks which offer more functionality than the IPad (leaving the multitouch part). So from a market segmentation point of view, where does this device stand. Why can’t users just continue with their ITouch which is easier to carry around.

    Rarely seen a more random review – check out the reviews in Engadget for some wiser counsel.

    1. Guthi

      I mentioned in the past that the tablet would essentially be a bigger iPod/iPhone, so from that point I totally understand what you are saying.

      That said, I would respectfully urge you at least have a look at the device and then you will realize that it is a bit different kind of a device. In many ways we have to stop thinking about the world from the lens of computing as we know it.

      Anyway let’s talk about this in a few months — I have used this device for exactly 10 minutes so can’t really be authoritative.

      On your comment about reviews from Engadget, I would rather stick to my own opinion for now.

    2. It features a high speed processor, large screen, up to 64GB ROM, that’s kinda enough for me to differ it from iPod touch or similar devices. How easy it will be to read newspapers or favorite mags, and not to mention watching films and photos, see it here yourself if you need more arguments magazine.joomag.com/iPad/179

      1. Agree with OM, if you haven’t “experienced the device” how can you judge its utility? I think the biggest challenge this device faces is portability. You can’t just lug it around without a bag (specially padded sleeve, etc.) and therefore is it an in home device primarily? And finally…I’m reminded of the Russian cosmonaut who asked for a writing implement that would work in space. The US spent millions developing an anti-gravity pen and the Russians handed the cosmonaut a pencil. This device while interesting…addresses a population of people who actually read and want a richer experience. The latte crowd are the primary buyers and there are plenty. Another win for Apple.

  3. Envious you played with a real one. I commented earlier here and on my site that I don’t have a problem with the AT&T decision because this first iteration at least doesn’t seem like it would ever need 3G. It’s a “digital media consumption” device, not a communications device per se. Not revolutionary, just better (albeit more expensive) than the existing alternatives (Kindle, iPod Touch, netbooks). For the two regions of the country where people actually commute by train, this thing’s a slam-dunk.
    -Brian

    1. I think it would surprise you as a “reader” especially since it used the web so effectively. I have to show you guys a photo of GigaOM on this device. It completely focuses on the content and has not distractions at all.

  4. So it’s an add-on to a Notebook/Desktop.
    What would you buy Chrome/OS (as much as we know about it) or iPad?
    The integration with a cable to backup/load(local) iTunes, I don’t know.

    Can you print? I mean I sometimes want to print reservations.

    I got the feeling the innovation is mainly in HW, the SW is so-so(meaning old) and lot is missing even for a consumption device.

    1. Ronald

      I have no idea if this can print. Sorry — not enough time to do anything more than what I wrote about.

  5. The iPad is all about internet as an appliance. That concept was exposed with iPod Touch/iPhone, this complements that and goes places an iPhone screen cannot.

  6. “For a long time, the world has been searching for a device whose capabilities and design place it right smack in the middle of a phone and a laptop.”

    I don’t think that is true, which is the whole point. The laptop is, for long periods, just as uncomfortable as a tablet (in bed or the couch), but it allows you to use ALL your tools, has flash and allows you to consume all media, not just that of iTunes.

    As for the iPhone/iPod touch, the size makes it ideal for when you have no laptop.

    With 10-11 inches laptops (not netbooks), there is simply not a need for a big, itunes locked device. This is why AppleTV fails, people dont want to only consume through iTunes!

    1. Gabe

      As a creator of a blog, I think the power of this device will be in building some awesome HTML5 web apps and using the screen real-estate to create a magical experience. I think this is not just iTunes — it is the web which is truly the killer app of this.

      I wish you could see the MLB app up close and personal. So different than MLB.com. I think those are subtle differences. Anyway let’s both wait to see how this does. If you are right, then you are :-)

      1. Agreed with Gabe.

        With the iPad, Apple has just opened the gates for Google to enter into a touchscreen based laptop device that will do everything that iPad does, plus let you install and run all that you need. I’m going for that..

        PS: Is it what the rumored Google Netbook is all about? I don’t have much clue…

    2. The discussion about iPad being a cool device for content consumption, and then talking of specific apps for the iPad in the same breath…likely alludes to the death of the browser. And I don’t want to take that lying down.

      Let a zillion devices bloom, but let none kill the spirit of the net.

      If there will be a plethora of devices (iPad, Kindle, iPhone, ), each claiming as USP, it’s own novelty in content presentation, and hence, needing custom creation / packaging of content, I see the spirit of the net being let down.

      The browser is central to keeping the internet going. I’m happy if the iPad or any other device supports a free and open, standards compliant browser. I couldn’t care less if they run vendor specific apps in the best possible way.

      Of course the device makers and the content makers need to come up with monetization schemes, but not at the expense of creating “vertically integrated” services, much like the cable TV industry did.

      My browser allows me to buy content today while keeping the spirit of the web alive. I sincerely hope that stays.

    3. I agree with Gabe. People that truly like this device are struggling to rationalize its use. As such, Apple fanboys will buy this and, if Amazon doesn’t drop the Kindle down to $99.00, Apple will kick them in the ass, but that’s it. Some people may buy the iPad instead of a Macbook, but this only shirts dollars for Apple.

  7. I’m disappointed that you’ve apparently fallen hook, line, and sinker for the Jobs effect on this one Om. Maybe the iPad could have been the device you claim we all need and maybe it can yet become that device, but it isn’t now and it isn’t close.

    I do think that there is a market for a more general purpose “media consumption” device and I think that what the iPad is trying to be. The problem is without broader media support (lack of Flash being the most glaring example), support for multitasking, and interaction improvements (multi-touch is fine and all, but the blown up keyboard is a joke) the iPad just falls short.

    To me it seems that Apple got a bit lazy on this one and figured that if Steve can say “magical” and “best ever” enough times then no one would notice.

  8. Yeah, but if you have a desktop and want to browse content at home away from the desk then an Ipad looks ideal.

    IF you have a family of four then maybe you don’t have 4 computers you have a couple computers and a couple of tablets.

    Also I’d say a tablet is more convenient than a laptop for reading content based on what I’ve seen today. Much lighter, more compact, always on, better battery life, less unwieldy form factor, ….

    I think it pays to think of this thing as an advanced Kindle rather a giant Touch or neutered laptop.

    Sure many will just use a laptop and smartphone and won’t go for this. But does everyone buy every product Apple puts out? Do you own all the Ipod models they put out? Probably not. You own what works for you.

    No different here.

    Me I have a desktop. No Touch. Don’t want a laptop. This thing would be my document reader and couch surfer and book reader. I’d check my email while at home on this thing instead of jumping onto my desktop. I might use it a modern encyclopedia. My kid is always asking me a question and seems like this would be way more handy to jump onto the internet with than to go to the desk with computer and wake it from sleep etc.

  9. I’m soooo disappointed. Time and money badly spent. They should have spent the time and money designing a MacBook converted with a touch screen running Mac OS X and maybe a phone feature… Just a thought.

    1. That way, Jobs wouldn’t be able to sell all that stuff from iTunes.

      The iPad is just one massively hyped platform that will force you to purchase more and more from iTunes..It does not have a purpose other than to help Apple post even massive quarterly results next time..

      1. anand, no one is FORCING you to purchase from iTunes. you can continue to download from any where you want. why this aggressive stance? no one is forcing you to buy an iPad either. why are you so sore? all ok?

  10. Om -

    I recently took a look at how these types of devices will help communicators to reach new audiences, and I actually couldn’t agree more with you on your point about computers as “work tools” and the iPad being a media consumption device.

    http://www.citycastmedia.com/mediabackpage/2010/01/how-tablets-will-help-communicators

    Thanks for the review.

    Jason Cohen
    CityCast Media, LLC.

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