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Summary:

After watching all 11 guided tour videos for Apple’s iPad, I realized that we’re seeing a glimpse of touch computing’s future. Apple may not have done the first touch device, but it has created clever and intuitive ways for us to interact with portable devices.

keynote-ipad

In between my reading and writing yesterday, I did sneak in all 11 iPad guided tour videos. As I expected, they’re typical Apple fare: high quality, focus on features and make mundane tasks seem magical. Each video highlights a specific application or feature and the most impressive video was the one I wasn’t going to watch: Keynote. (Really!)

I can’t remember the last time I had to create a presentation, but I can assure you it was done in Google Docs. Clearly, I don’t have much need for Keynote and therefore I don’t foresee myself buying it. But I encourage you to watch it, even if you too don’t ever plan to create a presentation again in this lifetime. Why? Because it exemplifies a specific attribute Apple currently offers like few others do today: an outstanding and common sense use of multitouch.

The Keynote video demonstrates how to move one slide in the deck to another location. It’s a simple tap to hold and then a drag action. I was about to say “Yeah, but what a pain that must be to move multiple slides,” since I didn’t see a way to multi-select. That’s because you’re not really selecting the slides — you’re interacting with them. Wouldn’t you know that as soon as the thought crossed my mind, the video showed the use of a second finger to tap other slides while holding the first one. Each tap sends a slide under the first and you simply drag the whole pile elsewhere in the deck. It’s a simple interaction, yes, but it shows how much thought Apple put into the user experience.

Think about that for a second, because touch computing isn’t new. We’ve seen it on computers for the last few years — although it’s only recently that Windows supports touch natively — and on handhelds and PDAs for well over a decade. Multitouch really opens up the possibilities for interaction with computing environments, the web and our data. What we haven’t seen is clever, intuitive and effective use of touch like this before.

Am I saying that the iPad is the best thing since sliced bread? Nope, not by a long shot. My point isn’t so much about the device because there’s plenty not to like for some: a closed ecosystem, lack of x86 application compatibility and an ergonomically challenged keyboard. How to use multitouch while holding the device is another head-scratcher. But the idea here is that Apple isn’t just putting out another touch device. Apple is maturing the old usage patterns of touch computing beyond what its competitors have done. That may not change your views on the iPad, but it ought to get you considering how we’ll interact with computers a few years from now.

I’m sure some of you watched the guided tour videos and I’m curious if anything impressed you. Or perhaps you came away with validation that it’s just a big iPod Touch and nothing special to see. Thoughts?

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

  1. Funny, I showed my wife the videos and she is NOT technical or computer savy at all. She barely uses her ipod, and the only thing she can do on the macbook is check email and facebook. She does own a Kindle and uses it. She absolutely fell in love with the ipad. She told me to put the kindle on eBay and get her an iPad. Of course I slowed her down but she was really excited. I showed her books, pages, safari, and mail and she started begging for one. I have never seen her react to technology like that! Apple knows how to market. That’s for sure!
    As for myself, I am a student and I could see the potential if I could figure out how to take notes on it, download my textbooks to it, and draw and save my professors whiteboard drawings on it. I haven’t seen those things quite yet.

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    1. Marketing is definitely a factor, but breaking down tasks with simple to use tools is another. And for folks that are not technical or computer savvy, the marketing makes it look “magical and revolutionary.” It’s amazing to see people react like your wife did, no?

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    2. Being a student as well, I can’t see the iPad being a good tool for scholastic use, no matter how I’ve tried to slice it. I’ve found a netbook/kindle combination to be best. OneNote is really indespensible for the student. If drawing a lot is part of your notetaking process, I’d recommend a convertible. The iPad is going to be geared much more to casual use, not intense productivity.

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      1. I like the form factor of the iPad and I use Evernote and that will work on it, but what is not clear to me is can I get my textbooks on it. As for drawing I wouldn’t say it’s a huge part of my process but I would want the ability. I do know I’m not going back to Windows so a tablet is not in my plans. I’ve owned 2 and have come to just really dis-like Windows and dealing with MS. Just my experience. That said, you may be right that the iPad is not geared toward you and I.

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  2. The amount of thought that Apple has put into the interface is incredible. The Keynote video demonstrates that well, but for me the killer interface demoed is that of Numbers.

    The seamless, intelligent way that the program produces an on-screen keyboard that fits the task at hand is outstanding. It’s amazing that Apple got this right out of the box, when Windows has had years and still can’t handle Excel properly.

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    1. Just showed my brother the Numbers demo and he just kept saying “WOW!, OMG WOW!. Pretty funny. He is an IT Director.

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  3. I was thinking the exact same thing as far as Keynote & Numbers – I use Excel and PPT, and am already thinking about using this as something I can take to client site and do a preso, travel light, etc. I can absolutely see this as a productivity machine. Certainly more so when multitasking comes around one day. No, it’s not perfect, but I can see use for almost everything I do in a business day where it can probably sub for my full sized Thinkpad 50%+ of the time.

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  4. I also was impressed by the keynote demo. I do think this way of computing will be very popular and eventually replace a lot of laptop usage.

    I personally am hoping that photo editing will be possible; the idea of doing it with fingers rather than the knife is very intriguing. Don’t know if the processing power is enough or if the power will have to come from servers somewhere.

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    1. John, I think it depends on how extensive you want to edit photos. There’s already a number of iPhone apps that allow for basic edits. Will you get full Photoshop functionality on such a device? Probably not. But for everyday, basic editing tasks, I don’t see a problem.

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      1. Depends on what you mean by “full functionality.” You probably won’t be able to run the CS4 version of Photoshop on the iPad, but there were versions of Photoshop available long before 1 GHz processors were shipping, so something beyond basic crop-invert-resize functions should certainly be possible.

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  5. There are three types of things one does with content: content consumption (e.g. reading a webpage or an ebook, listening to music) content creation (e.g. writing a document, taking notes) and content manipulation (e.g. photo and video editing, making a powerpoint).

    The iPad looks to be very good at content consumption and content manipulation, but not so good at pure content creation. So although the Pages demo was impressive, I didn’t see it practical for anything but small edits. Making a PowerPoint however, is more content manipulation than anything, because a PowerPoints feature more pictures, graphics, and effects, than words, so it makes sense that it looks impressive.

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  6. I am a grad student and for me the iPad is the perfect school and work solution. I use keynote regularly and it looks like it would be easy to create, edit, and show keynote presentations on this. I also use a lot of video clips from You Tube in class and it looks useful for that too. However my primary use case is pdf reading and note taking. I already have an iPhone app that lets me read and mark on pdfs but it is hard to read on a small screen. I really hope this app will work on the iPad. If it doesn’t I’m pretty confident that someone will come up with a similar app for it soon. As for note taking I’ve already seen great apps previewed that let you create notebooks for different subjects and both type notes and draw on the screen (great for drawing charts etc. that teachers put on a board). I hope that numbers or Bento will work for me for a gradebook and taking attendance too. I am optimistic that the iPad won’t only replace my laptop in the classroom but my gradebook and notepad as well. It may take awhile until textbooks are available as ebooks for it (if they ever will be) but I can’t get these for my laptop now so it pretty much seems to be a wash on that front. I think that students may actually prove to be the perfect target audience for the iPad, but I understand why many might prefer a netbook.

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    1. Kat thank you for your input. Do you by any chance remember some of the apps you reference so I can check them out? It this works, I can see an iPad in my future. You’re right. I can’t get my textbooks this way now but I can replace other things including my laptop in class.

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  7. I was actually impressed by the Pages demo. Not that everything it did was so much greater than on a standard computer, but by how it used touch to manipulate the document itself, is what stood out to me. Everything seemed more intuitive as to how someone would expect to be able to just touch something to move it around and have everything else on the page adjust to that movement. Realistically, I would not think that most people would need much more in the way of word processing than what Pages could handle. I generate reports on almost a daily basis and they consist of headers, footers, body text, photos, and tables and it appears that the Pages app will handle that without any problem. One possible problem may be handling a document with a lot photos or graphs, but I guess we will just have to see once the iPad is actually out in the wild.

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  8. So, will the new GUI paradigm that was born in the small world of smartphones eventually take over the big universe of mainstreem computing? How about the operating systems? Are we seeing the beginings of an irreversible trend that will challenge the domination of desktop platforms? I am sure that all those interested in mobility must be thrilled by how things change now…

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  9. That iPad is one super hot sexy tablet computer. I think my notebook screen just caught on fire.

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