My iPad Journey - First Impressions

April 5, 2010, 1:16 p.m.
Lance Wilson, Research Director


My iPad arrived as scheduled just before lunch on Saturday, April 3. There were only a few items in the box; the iPad, of course; a USB to Apple connector cable, a small AC charger and a "document packet". This document packet had the world's shortest set-up guide, only a few lines: Connect your iPad to your computer with the supplied cable or something like that. Now to the meaty stuff, how was my first look at the iPad? After connecting to my computer (a PowerMac desktop), I registered the device with Apple via iTunes. A special iPad device section appears and there are multiple tabs that show up in the main iTunes windows that display what's going on with the iPad. So far so good. I then disconnected the iPad from my computer and held it in my hands. At this point, I was simply dumfounded. Like many other owners have reported in the last several days, using the iPad in your hands tells you that something different is going on here. While one may argue that the iPad is simply a iTouch/iPhone on steroids the increase in size and screen make a world of difference. You cannot intellectualize using the device. A hands on "feel" is a must. A Wi-Fi connection was up and running in under a minute and the email App configured itself with only minimal input from me. The IPad is uber intuitive and it is really quite simple to use without pouring over help pages or a manual. The look is stunning with crystal clear images. i visited a few web sites, including You Tube, and the iPad seems to have no difficulty (yes, I know it doesn't have Flash capability) with most web sites. The processor seems sneaky fast and looking at web material is an instinctive capability of the unit. I then decided to become a bit more ambitious and I downloaded my first App via iTunes. This was a PDF file reader and the installation was fast and painless. I next proceeded to download the free iBook App (ebook reader). It comes with a copy of Winnie-the-Pooh. Again, everything intuitive; I simply selected the book, rotated the iPad into landscape mode and I was reading Winnie-the-Pooh. One turns pages as one would with a real book and both the text and illustrations were stunning and sharp, not at all washed out as one feels that some of the other eBook readers are. The final App I downloaded was iPages, the Apple equivqlent of Word. When you install the App a special section appears in the iPad device section in iTunes that allows you to transfer files to and from the iPad. I uploaded some .doc files to the iPad and it opened them all without issue. i also created several simple files on the iPad and exported them as .doc files back to my desktop machine. Word opened them up perfectly. While I will need to give iPages a more rigorous workout at a simple level it looks like it will handle normal workday word processing chores. Typing on the iPad, especially in landscape mode, I found easy and fast. It does use a QWERTY keyborad layout so numbers and letters are on different keyboards but switching them is fast. I am sure that someone will create a standard keyboard layout App for the iPad. There is as much room for one as there is on most ten-inch netbooks. Finally, compared to a netbook or laptop, the battery life is phenomenal. I spent two-days playing around with it, about 6 hours, and the battery was still at 50%. Everything seems great but there are several items that need work or one has to be careful of. First, the iPad definitely needs some physical protection. It's heavy compared to an iPhone and it has sufficient size and mass that if it was dropped on any type of a hard surface it would be history to some degree. The protective folder and edge protector offered by Apple as an accessory will be a must (mine comes tomorrow). The biggest issue is the way that the iPad handles files from a storage and transfer standpoint. While it actually does a good job of both and the iPad system OS keeps things simple, it will take some relearning for "conventional" computer users. There is no file manager or generally accessible file storage loaction (although Apps may be coming). Files are stored within each application. For example, word processing documents are stored within the iPages App. Delete the App and your files go with it. Now, backup can be done via the iTunes iPad interface so it's simply a metter of learning a new way of doing things. Similarly, file transfer has to be done via iTunes or the Wi-Fi connection. There is no USB port on the iPad. All in all, my first impression is that the iPad is really something new and different and that a whiff of "laptop/netbook killer" is in the air. One can't totally identify the scent but it is out there.