The Apple iPad

On Saturday, I stopped by South Burlington's Small Dog Electronics, an Apple retail store, to check out the recently released iPad. Announced last December, the device has certainly captured the attention of the rest of the world, opening a new product category and selling like crazy. My visit was out of curiosity: I had yet to see one of the devices in person, but a couple of my friends have purchased one, and I was interested in seeing what the hype was all about.

The bottom line is: I want one. I want one, despite the cost, and the fact that I already have an iPhone, because it seems to be the type of computer that I would be using constantly, far more than my aging desktop computer, sitting in my den, and more than my iPhone. It seems to fit nicely between the two of them, filling in a new product category that moves to fit with changes in how people interface with the internet, and ultimately, each other.

My dad and I have been watching the various updates online and in print concerning the device. He seems to think that something along the lines of the iPad will spell the end of the desktop, and ultimately represent the future of computers, and while I agree in part, I don't think that's necessarily the case. Apple's latest creation certainly fits with changes in how people use the internet: typically on the go, for consumption and interaction, but that's largely where it will stand: for now. My impression is that the desktop computer or laptop will remain, abit in a more highly specialized role.

Playing with the device the other day, I was intrigued by what this thing could do, and realized that it would be something that I would use often. Typically, I use computers for writing - e-mail, blog posts and commissioned work, among other things, and that's largely done on my work laptop in the evening, on the couch, where I have a good workplace with my coffee table. But, I'll shift around to the kitchen, outside, at my parent's home or elsewhere. My desktop, affectionately nicknamed 'Hal', sits at home, where it's hooked up to an external hard drive and speakers, and largely holds onto my music collection, and serves as a sort of home entertainment and filing system for written works.

What I can easily envision the iPad doing was clinched when I checked out the Pages app - a viable word processing program that has a way to save files, properly format documents and with a large on-screen keyboard that would take a little getting used to, but something that is much, much better than doing something similar on my phone. To date, I've written two posts on my iPhone, and they were pretty short ones: the combined nature of a small screen and small keyboard doesn't lend itself well to writing long pieces, and with the notepad app that each phone comes with, there's no easy way to save or view other files.

As news poured out from everywhere about the device, it's clear that this is something that's largely aimed at a pre-existing audience that surfs the web and interacts with people. Despite what critics such as Cory Doctorow say, I have a feeling that people largely don't need to open source their own iPad, and would largely be happy with the existing applications on Apple's store. I'm not a programmer, and I can't say that I really care if Apple has a somewhat draconian hold on what apps will work on it. So long as it works, I'm fine with that - Apple's products seem to be pretty balanced, and if they want to hold to a somewhat higher moral standard and keep their own hardware in mind when it comes to a device, that’s fine by me. It's their device, and I'm happy with consumers voting with their dollars: if they don't like it, there'll be a bunch of competitors out in the next year or two.

I'm okay without one of these things: this isn't a device that I feel compelled to buy just for the sake of buying it: my laptop and home computer fit the roles that they fill right now nicely, and I have few complaints about that situation, save for one: the iPad, unlike my laptop, or my house, has connectivity options that would be the clincher for me. I use my phone for a large part of my own internet browsing, and my biggest complaint is that the screen is really just too small to browse the web. The iPad solves that problem nicely. Hopefully, at some point, I'll get one of my own. The iPad itself is a very good, futuristically looking device, one that I would be able to put to effective use, over just having an expensive toy.