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.
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.
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.
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.