I was sleeping on the office futon yesterday afternoon with my little, furry friend Odin (one of my dachshunds) when my wonderful wife Mandy walks in holding a brand new iPad! Needless to say, I was extremely excited about opening my early birthday present. iBooks! Marvel Comics App! No more book shelf clutter! Then, unfortunately, reality began to sink in. My beautiful, best friend just spent 500 of our dollars on another digital portal. And since I already own a Macbook Pro and iPhone, do I really need another Viewer of Content and Life (VOCAL) device?
The iPad packaging was surprisingly bulky considering the actual size of the device. Nevertheless, the box reflected the austere design aesthetic that we Apple fans have grown accustomed to. Removing the iPad from the box and holding it in your hands is certainly a unique experience. Never before have I felt like I was actually on the ground floor of what promises to be a true revolution in computing. The device itself is a little heavier than it looks, and will probably start to incite fatigue after holding it for long periods of time. After my initial impressions of the iPad I connected it to my Macbook Pro and synced it for the first time.
Setting it up was a snap! I immediately began downloading applications — iBooks, Pages, Keynote, the Marvel Comics App, Twitterific for iPad, WordPress for iPad, ABC, etc. The Marvel Comics application is especially beautiful, but it currently suffers from lack of any recent content — hopefully Marvel will start to use it as a first-run distribution channel in the near future. The ABC application is fraught with bugs, the primary one being that after a few seconds into a video the application will simply quit and return you to the home screen. The software engineers at ABC definitely have a few holes in their code.
I was mostly excited for iBooks, but was disappointed to discover that just like when Blu-Ray launched, there was a dearth of content that was interesting to me. Yes, they have Neal Stephenson, but no Snow Crash. And where are Douglas Adams and Isaac Asimov?! The foundation of any eReader should be, well, the Foundation!
I went to bed last night with the iPad set up on my nightstand playing the Mortal Kombat movie via the Netflix app. It was beautiful. It is a shame then that upon waking this morning that what was beautiful only eight hours before started to prove ugly in my mind.
The Next Morning
As I held the iPad in my hands this morning it finally began to sink in that the love of my life had spent 500 dollars on an eBook reader. A supremely perfect and wondrously beautiful eBook reader, but an eBook reader nonetheless. Sure, you can check your e-mail and browse the web on it, but you can do those things from you Macbook Pro with more ease due to a physical keyboard. Despite what some people may suggest, typing on an iPad is not a pleasant experience. You need a tactile response, or at least a small enough virtual keyboard area, such as that on an iPhone, to enable thumb-typing.
But what it really boils down to is this: the iPad is simply another VOCAL device, a Viewer of Content and Life, where Content is third-party information such as the web or books and Life is composed of information about you, such as your documents, music, e-mail, etc. And if you have an iPhone and laptop already, do you really need another VOCAL device? For me the answer is no, and that is why when the Apple Store opens at noon today I will be reclaiming 10% less of the $500 spent on this revolutionary device.
Please do not misunderstand my opinion of the iPad — it is as magical and transcending as Steve Jobs described it to be — as long as youdo not already have a laptop and iPhone. Activities on an iPad which do not require text entry, such as read books and comics, watch movies, etc., can all be accomplished with a laptop. And the iPad lacks a compelling reason to use it instead of your laptop for these diversions.
Additionally, until the major airlines allow iPad use during takeoff and landing, the Apple tablet cannot provide a distraction for almost an hour of the entire flight — the hour where a distraction is most needed. Also, while I won’t go into detail, most of my reading is accomplished at the kitchen table (take that mom!) or in a certain room in the house — you know the one. In either location I’d be afraid of getting the iPad dirty, wet, sticky, or have any number of bad things that could happen to it because of the proximity to food, and, well, food later on.
In these three very common instances — and honestly, primary use cases for an iPad — the analog and disposable nature of print media far surpasses the iPad. I can read a book or magazine for the entire flight, and if I were to get some food on or leave my book by the toilet after hopping into the shower and it gets wet, well, that’s $7 — a long way from $500.
I love the iPad. It’s just a damn shame that I already own a Macbook Pro and iPhone and do not need yet another digital portal that provides no compelling advantages over my current suite of VOCAL devices. However, for those people with just a desktop or iPhone, go get an iPad — it rocks!
A quick footnote — Whomever at Apple decided to forgo the use of Jim Reeke’s most lasting contribution to the musical landscape of history as the startup sound for the iPad needs to apologize. If it’s good enough for WALL-E it’s good enough for iPad!