A few days ago Apple confirmed the rumor that had been circulating for some time by officially announcing the iPad, a tablet computer. I have owned an iPod Touch since July of 2008, and while I like it very much, it has some features that I dislike and lacks others. Some of these features will carry over to the iPad so the question I must answer is “Does the good outway the bad?” In this article I will be specific about what I dislike and like about the Touch and why I might consider buying an iPad despite it’s shortcomings.
First my dislikes. Without “jailbreaking” the iPhone or iPod Touch, only software purchased through the Apple store can be installed into the device. Furthermore, iTunes is required to update the device firmware. The problem is that there are versions of iTunes only for Windows and Mac users. As a Linux user I must maintain a dual booting computer. The only purpose of the Windows partition is to run iTunes. It’s mostly a waste of hard disk space.
My other dislike is that it is a “wireless only” device. For home use a router is required for an internet connection. Away from home one must find a WiFi “hotspot.” Fortunately, these hotspots are becoming increasingly easier to find as popular restaurants install open access routers hoping to attract customers. Even so, it would be convenient if there were an adapter for a wired internet connection.
On the positive side there are now about 140,000 apps available in the Apple store. Many are free and the price for those that are not is usually only a few dollars. As the device firmware has evolved (now at version 3.1.2) the apps capababilities have evolved with it. Some productivity type apps can now use “copy and paste.” A game that I play a lot is called Words with Friends. This is a word game similar to Scrabble. It is able to find a random opponent for me anywhere the internet reaches. The game has a chat feature so I can talk to my opponent while playing. This is very nice indeed. I have other apps for listening to internet radio and others to read ebooks. Surely, there is something for everyone.
The portability of the device is superb. I spend quite a bit of time in wating rooms at doctor’s offices. I am never bored as long as my Touch is with me.
For the most part the iPad will be a jumbo sized Touch. It will no longer fit in a shirt pocket, but being about the size of a book it will still be easy to tote around. The larger virtual keyboard will be much easier to use. For people, like myself, who type with one or two fingers, the keys will be larger targets. Ebooks will have pages approximately the size of physical books and will require less page turning. Videos will be more enjoyable on the 10 inch screen.
At the product announcement Apple also said that a version of iWorks would be available for the iPad. It will come in three pieces, i.e., a spreadsheet, a word processor, and a presentation program, each priced at $10. With this functionality the iPad is a viable notebook computer. I can see my laptop going up for sale except I still need that damned iTunes!
There are some hardware improvements. Battery life will be up to 10 hours between charges. Wireless will connect with the b, g and n standards.
Finally, I will mention two criticisms I have read in other blogs. First, the device does not multi-task and second Adobe Flash is not supported in the Safari browser. I will address both of these issues with two comments. First comment. In the computing world what is true today may not be true in six months and will certainly be different in a year. Second comment. Different operating systems will always offer different features. Microsoft Windows is different from Mac OS X and both are different from GNU/Linux. It is unreasonable to expect all to work the same and all to support all possible features.
I wonder if it’s a coincidence that the iPad will available about the same time as my birthday!