Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Well I touched one

Yep. I just got an opportunity to play around with an iPad for about 10 minutes here at the office. (thanks @jpg)

One thing that several people were saying around the office is:

I'm surprised by how fast it is

That confused me. I would expect any tech product I buy to be "fast". I expect my laptop not to be slow. I expect my phone to be reasonably fast. Why would I NOT expect an iPad to be fast? I don't intentionally buy slow tech. Anyway, as someone who has never used an iPhone it was interesting to say the least.

It's heavy
Some of that can be chalked up to the case that Jason had on it but honestly, I really could NOT see myself using this for long periods of time. When I sit down to read, I read. It's not uncommon that Michelle and I would read for hours on end in bed. With her being pregnant, her Kindle has been awesome. She loves it. You could read a Kindle for 5 hours straight and not get tired holding it, nor would your eyes get strained. I can't say that about an iPad (not that I've tried to read on it for 5 hours). Yes the "pages" of the book are beautiful but it will still be a strain on me.

Yes, it's fast.
I wasn't "surprised" how fast it was until I opened Google Maps. It was really snappy. Maybe it's doing some insane caching locally. I have no idea but it was really nice. Safari was really fast as well.

I don't really like the iPhone "desktop"
Coming from my Droid, I really dislike having all those icons on the screen. It's cluttered and hard to find applications.

The Kindle app is really nice
This would be a possible selling point for me. I'm going to do a little research about how it integrates with an existing Kindle.

Netflix is slick
Enough said. This would be great for taking all the kid's shows that Gus likes to watch on the road.

I was wrong about exporting (partially)
You CAN export directly from Pages (I didn't give Numbers a go). It can export as Pages, PDF or Word (no clue on version).

UI transitions are slick and confusing.
Even Jason, who is pretty much integrated in the Apple ecosystem got confused for a minute. When Pages is in landscape mode, there's no UI other than a blank page and the keyboard. When you go to portrait mode, it puts the menu bar up top. This is pretty confusing and honestly, annoying. I would never want to type on the smaller portrait keyboard. That means to do certain operations, I have to swap from landscape to portrait. Several applications behave differently between portrait and landscape. Some of them worked "intuitively" like Mail and some didn't like Pages.

So did I like it? Yes, for the most part. I really would have liked to give the Elements application a shot. THAT is something of a killer app for me. I'm big on educational software right now because of Gus (and as of tomorrow, Nat). In fact, I'm really considering hitting the Apple Store on the way home to buy one but I probably won't.


No sideloading of content.
This is a BIG problem for me. I hate iTunes with a passion. Ignore for a moment that we keep ALL of our media on a server at home, the only reason I have a Windows machine is for gaming. My main desktop is a Linux machine as is my netbook. My wife has her laptop but it's hers. I've taken great pains to keep that gaming machine as optimized as possible. iTunes is a pain in the ass.

Limited format support/Lock-in
Okay so I could load MP3s on it but I would just rather use my Droid. So that's not an issue. What is an issue is videos. All of our tv shows are converted from the MythTV backend to MKV format and archived. Obviously the iPad doesn't support MKV only MP4. There won't be any loss in quality but what there will be is the pain in the ass of re-encoding everything to MP4. To be fair, I would only export a few shows ahead of time so it could be handled then.

App Store/iTunes Store
This is kind of a deal breaker. Let's assume for a moment that I go whole hog and start buying the kid's shows via iTunes. For those of you without toddlers, let me clarify something - they are obsessive. To a scary fault. When Gus gets it in his head that he wants to watch Thomas or Dinosaur Train or Elmo, that is ALL he wants to watch. So now I've got all these shows I bought from iTunes that he likes. The ONLY place he can watch them is on the iPad. I can't export them to my server and play them on my TV unless I buy an Apple TV.

Let me describe our video usage pattern at home. We record PBS shows via MythTV. We stream Netflix with the XBOX 360. Streaming is nice but isn't an "anywhere/anytime" option. So assuming I've bought shows via iTunes, I can't watch them anywhere with my current setup except the iPad or the Windows machine where I've grudgingly installed iTunes. I can't hook the iPad up to the TV and I can't export it so that I can.

So that removes the value of the iPad as a video mechanism unless I want to buy multiple copies of various content just so I can use it elsewhere.

So that relegates it to an eBook reader. This has promise but as I've said earlier, it's way too heavy for long term usage. The interactive benefits don't outweigh that for me.

So what am I left with? It's not a very multiple user friendly device. It doesn't support multiple accounts so I can't have both my social networking profile and my wife's on it. It's mine or her's not a shared resource. It's too expensive as just an eBook reader.

It's not very portable. Yes, it's more portable than a laptop but it's also much more limited in use. Streaming Netflix is nice but I'm not always in range of an AP. It doesn't have a GPS so using it as a physical map replacement is a no go.

I could wait for the 3G version but 3G is on the way out and I ALREADY have a data plan with Verizon for my Droid. Why would I ALSO pay money to AT&T? Sure we pay that cost with our Kindle but it's part of the purchase price.

So where does it really fit in? Educational use? Absolutely. As I said, something like the Elements application would be awesome for the kids but honestly, I don't feel comfortable giving it to my toddler to play with like I would a $50 LeapFrog toy. If he were older, yes but he's coordination isn't there yet.

So will I buy one? Nope. Not right now. I want to see what comes out in the same space with Android running on it. I want to get a device that has a longer lifespan. I also want something more open. I want to get something that I can EASILY move content to and from without any external requirements. I can pair my Droid with any bluetooth device in my house and export the songs I bought from Amazon. I don't have to fire up some application like iTunes to do it. I don't want to get locked in to having to be wrapped from head to toe in Apple gear just to get the flexibility I desire.


Joe said...

Hey John -- thanks for the review; while I'm not as allergic to Apple's ecosystem (although I understand the concerns), I think you and I are in very similar situations -- "Can I hand this to my kid without worrying about it breaking?" The answer still seems to be "no", so I probably won't be picking one up anytime soon.

One question, though: you say, "Netflix is slick. This would be great for taking all the kid's shows that Gus likes to watch on the road." Can the Netflix app actually utilize the internal storage? I was under the impression you had to be on the wifi (not even 3G) for it to work. If that's not the case, if it actually allows downloads (even for a limited length of time), that app now sounds a lot more promising as a commute-time distraction.

lusis said...

Netflix cannot use the internal storage in any meaningful capacity so for on the road usage.

When I used "on the road" I probably should have clarified that I meant in a hotel or on vacation as opposed to actually driving down the road.

That relegates you to loading in via iTunes ahead of time or buying it from Apple. With the limited storage on the device, don't expect to take too many shows with you.

As it stands, I'm already suffering from major content fragmentation. Is that show checked out in Netflix or did we DVR it? Did we watch that movie on Youtube or did I save it on my phone? It's getting really frustrating.

I'm probably going to ditch the idea of a 3G enabled device anyway. I think I'm going to buy an upgradable MiFi style device and keep it with me. That way I can actually use the bandwidth with multiple devices.

Yes, that means the next time you go to the cottage you'll probably have internet access. Heh.

Brian said...

I hear you on the lock-in concerns. Though I'm pretty sure I'll be laying coin down for one of these in the next year that remains my key concern.

Given past abuses of the app authorization process I don't want to place myself at the mercy of the App store for applications. I want something more open.

I think Apple is actually in a position where they will maintain strength in the tablet space despite this shortcoming. I don't think most people that will buy the device see the App Store as a positive rather than a negative. (If you're Apple you sell the simplicity of having one place you go for apps versus the complexity of installing from multiple sources.)

What I'm hoping to see is the marketplace apps of more open systems find ways to chip away at Apple's simplicity argument. For many users the "feature" of the App store is the simplicity and the breadth of apps. If you can duplicate that in Droid marketplace or the like there's a potential to bring in iPad would-bes in addition to those wanting a more open tablet environment.