Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Exploring the iPad: First Impressions

Well, like 2 million other folks, I bought an iPad (WIFI, 32 gigs of memory). Like others, I couldn't resist the allure of this seductive device, and I'm suffering from Windows weariness:

  • Bloat
  • Security issues
  • Complexity
  • Slow performance
  • Reliability issues
  • Battery life between charges
  • Lack of openness to standards
  • Etc…
Why did I buy the iPad? Primarily as an e-book reader but also as a quicker, lighter web access tool. What do I think of the iPad as an e-Book reader? Marginal, but more about that assessment later. First a few words about my first impressions.

The iPad is seductively beautiful and I don't find the 1.5 pounds to be excessive; it is about the weight of a hardback novel. Getting used to it, if you are not a Mac-head or don't own an iPhone though, is difficult. Using Safari and the iPad is a little like joining a club where you haven't been told the secret handshakes. HELP isn't built-in, although there is an iPad help site automatically listed in your web favorites. After a while I learned to use two fingers to pinch or spread the screen; tapping twice in the middle of the screen enlarges and centers the page (unless you tap on a link that happens to be there). How you do a simple string-search "find" –CTRL F in most other browsers—I still haven't figured out and am beginning to guess that features is just missing.

I'm also realizing that I've traded one vendor's nose-thumbing to standards (or de facto standards) –Microsoft—for another vendor acting the same way: Apple. You'd be surprised, for example, how many sites you cannot use since Apple refuses to support Flash. Forget Hulu and most news video clips from major news sites. They almost all use Flash since it is ubiquitous and has a light footprint.

If you have a Windows PC (I have several), how do you get files from it to the iPad for viewing? First, I was amazed how little the Apple folks (both in the local Bethesda Apple store and the online Apple geniuses) know about --or maybe even have thought about—working with Windows machines. The store rep told me I could use iTunes and essentially drag and drop my files, or just email them to myself. Or I could subscribe for the fee-based MobilMe service to store these files (no thanks). Email all 500 files? No thanks to that either. Drag and drop? Sorry, I misunderstood. It turns out that you can drag-and-drop –as always, there's an app for that. The surprise was that it was built into an inexpensive app I already purchased to supplement the iPad's mediocre eReading abilities: GoodReader.

The notion of using iTunes to get files over to the iPad is itself revealing. I'd never used iTunes before, but its name rightly suggests music, tunes. So you can get your downloaded MP3s etc. to the iPad, and it will also transfer photos. But how about transferring a PDF file, or a folder of PDF files? No, but there's an app for that. Matter of fact there are many apps for that, some with 1 star ratings, some with 4 star ratings. Buy one and try it out. If that doesn't work, buy another and try that one out (I have no idea how you uninstall apps, but presumably I'll learn the secret handshake for that after I've bought several redundant apps.

And remember: I bought the iPad as an e-book reader, a reader for all my Microsoft office, Open Office, e-Pub, and PDF files. I also plan to compare it as an e-Reader to Plastic Logic's Que Pro.  How well does the iPad work natively as an e-book reader? What about the app I picked? Details about that later, as I begin learning more. Full details in an upcoming review comparing both products. Assuming I get my hands on a Que, which appears again to be behind schedule.


NOTE: Unfortunate Plastic Logic QUE ProReader update. As of late June, and announced on Que's LinkedIn group, Que has stopped shipping the ProReader due to changing market realities. I pointed out a couple of those in my interview with their Marketing staff: Lack of color (not a complete Que-killer IMHO), and lack of support for any browser (a REAL Que-killer). The lack of browser means you must purchase subscriptions for online products such as the WSJ even if you already have a subscription. And if you have subscriptions to some niche publication for which they don't offer a Que version, you're out of luck.


I wish Que luck, and I'm told I'll get an eval hardware copy when it is ready, but the rumor on the street is that this could be several years in the offing. As I said in my recent column, "the clock is ticking" and –in this case—time is not Que's friend.


But back to the iPad.


Here are a couple sneak preview pictures. First, here is a screenshot of one slide from a recent presentation I gave.


And here is how it look rendered on my iPad (with both the native iPad viewer and with the $1 app). Picture isn't great but it was an early Sunday morning shot in natural light with my Canon EOS. (Figuring out how to do iPad screenshots isn't easy; I found out by Googling. Once you know the multiple secret handshakes, it is easy.



What's wrong with that picture? Quite a few things as you can see.

I'll try to ratchet down my curmudgeon index a bit before my next iPad post.





I Hate Comcast

Oh, did I mention I hate Comcast?
Unfortunately I must have broadband even if I'd gladly give up their cable "services." Rich media is also content, and it is really unfortunate to be at the mercy of this cable company for accessing that content without constraint, including adding our own (subscription-free) devices to use it.

I spent 4 separate days waiting for them to fix the problem they caused with their little "digital to analog" gadget.

Do you hate Comcast too?

Believe it or not, there is a Facebook page devoted to (and named) just that: I hate Comcast. If you'd like to read the details of my rant and those of others, click here.

About all any of us can do is to press our elected senators and congresspeople to vote FOR Web Neutrality. Reduce cable strangleholds as much as we can. I'd do the same, but unfortunately --living in DC-- I have no senator or representative.