Lee Heidel

iPad: First Impressions

Screen shot of Apple iPad in use

Image by Tom Raftery via Flickr

Traveling for the Easter holiday forced my iPad delivery to be a few days behind. After reading everyone's unboxing and first-look stories on Twitter and blogs, I was initially pretty jealous. The plus side was that we had a great time with our family, without new-gadget distractions. The benefit of reading everyone else's impressions also gave me the gift of tempered enthusiasm.

The packaging has been well documented for the iPad. I really appreciate Apple's commitment to removing as much "stuff" as possible from their product boxes. The iPad was a case study in minimalism. The product guide was just a few small pieces of paper in a small envelope. I remember my first Compac PC that came with manual after manual for every piece of third party equipment. I had a dedicated binder for storing all of the collateral (and I had to refer to it often).

The lack of "openness" on iPads and other recent Apple products has its merits for the hobbyist community; but for average users that just want their products to work, this methodology is proving to be a winner. Personally, I don't want to tinker with my gadgets from a hardware perspective. I want to be able to grab it and use it at a moment's notice. I want the software to perform as expected, and I don't want to perform any maintenance. The iPad (and its iPhone predecessor) are proving to be that anytime, anyplace gadget, without compromise.

The iPad (which I named "The Swish" - all of my current Macs are named after songs by The Hold Steady) is a bit heavier than you might expect. That being said, it's also very sturdy. The plus side is that you feel okay about throwing it into a tote bag. The downside is that you have to specifically arrange yourself and the device when reading books or watching movies so that you don't suffer any fatigue in your wrist. I'm sure I'll develop a technique for dealing after further use.

In regards to usage, this is where my complaints start to creep in. It is definitely a limited use machine. It's purpose is solely for consuming content, not creating content. Typing on it is a chore. There's no external input device for drawing or technical manipulation. Simple creativity apps like Adobe Ideas are fun; but they immediately leave you wanting to do more.

Current Killer Apps:
Netflix - It's perfect. Streaming movies in real time, right where you left off from the living room.

USA Today - It's a strong entry in the already crowded news & magazines space on the iPad; but it has a great, useful layout and it's true to the USA Today style.

Most of My Daughter's iPhone Apps - I've been really impressed with how well many kids apps scale to the iPad. AniMatch and Elmo's Monster Maker are both good at full screen.

Future Usage Wishlist:
iPad as drawing tablet - I would love to connect my iPad to my iMac and use it with a stylus for input like a Wacom tablet. The ability to load an image onto the iPad screen to "trace" or guide my work would be amazing.

iPad as secondary monitor - I'll be trying out the iDisplay app tomorrow. Initial reviews don't look good; but I'm willing to give it a chance. I'll probably use it to display Tweetie and/or a chat window.