Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The iPad and Me

My wife bought an iPad, putting in an order directly through her iTunes account on the second day it could be ordered. She said she bought it mostly for me because I was going into the hospital for major surgery. (I'm now home recovering.)

The iPad arrived directly from China a couple of days after its promised delivery date because, as anyone but Steve Jobs would know, UPS doesn't do residential delivery in many areas on Saturdays including that all-magical April 3rd. It is the non-3G version with the maximum RAM 64 GB.

I come from a different perspective than the average iPad early adopter.

I first began working on computers in 1970 when a computer (now known as a mainframe) filled a room, had 32 KB of RAM, and punchcards were still being used for input. In the early 198o's we started a computer consulting and services business using Tandy Model II's which a were marvel - an 8 bit computer with 64 KB of RAM that fit on a desk. In one sense we have grown from early middle-age to senior citizen status owning and depending upon personal computers as the field advanced.

But we've never owned an Apple product. We don't have an iPhone. In fact, to us, phones are for making phone calls and we don't like compromise devices for taking photos or videos. Nor do we like being "on call." We know we aren't that important to anyone that we must be available to them during most every minute of every day. We also know nobody else is that important and that kind of living is destructively intrusive and not conducive to making good choices in the real world. So we are not among those embracing the iPhone and its clones.

The iPad comes into our world not as a general purpose computer. We own a first generation Sony Reader carrying a few downloaded books. It was almost a very good product, almost. And even though we are regular Amazon customers, the initial Kindle just didn't quite seem to make it either. The larger screen Kindle DX looked promising but too expensive for what it is. And it still had that totally worthless Sprint 3G hardware built in which I refuse to pay for.

Then Steve Jobs and the iPad came into view. We learned that the base price without 3G was competitive with the Kindle DX. And it could do some things that a computer can do - not necessarily well, but "good enough" as a supplement to an ebook reader. When we learned that Amazon offers a free Kindle App giving full access to the Amazon Kindle Library, well let's just say we could see the perfect ebook reader.

Having used ours now for a few weeks, I can say with full confidence that it is the nearly perfect ebook reader. And when we have access to WiFi, I can take a break from reading and browse the web keeping up to date. It also has a more than adequate notepad to take notes using the adequate touch screen keyboard, a calculator app (which I downloaded), and a few other conveniences.

It also plays music (as an iPod although we use the Pandora App when wifi is available), handles photos and plays videos on an adequate sized screen. (I'm not a gamer, but they say it does some of those well.)

In other words, it is a handy ...well... it's a ideal-sized-screen ebook, and with a notepad, calculator, web access point (when wifi is available), background music player, etc.

It isn't a techie toy. It's specifically not a personal computer. I think that Steve Jobs has been trying to make it clear that it is not a next-generation or niche computer. It is not a phone, thank God. It is what it is.

It is an extension of your individuality.

To a satisfactory degree apps make what it is "customizable" for each person. Hence, for our home it might become "the cookbook" as it theoretically could replace hundreds of cookbooks. And in our home when the Slingbox folks finish the iPad App (they have an iPhone App), it might be a handy portable TV.

It is the first "touch screen" in our home and it works. It doesn't take long to get used to it. Yes, I have to clean it frequently because my hands are inherently above-average oily. But it cleans up nicely.

Which brings me to "the competition." For over 25 years we have been using computers Microsoft operating systems, and we've never owned another Apple product and don't see any other Apple product in our future. And all four computers active in our home (two desktops and two notebooks) are Hewlett Packard. So keep in mind we would normally be inclined to HP and Windows.

Apparently HP is coming out with something called the Slate using Windows 7 to compete and the tech/business community is excited. I don't know why. Who would want to prepare complex documents like spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations on a flat touchscreen? The notebook computer works just fine for that, when you can't get to your desktop. I don't want to fight the Windows operating system to read a book, open a cookbook, or some other simple task. And if I must buy and lug around a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse to make the stupid thing become a viable notebook computer, I might as well use a notebook computer.

In other words, I don't see the absence of teleconferencing features on the iPad a negative. It isn't intended to be another way your employer can control you 24/7. The iPad is about you as an independent person and if you are barely more than your job, don't get one. It is totally inconvenient for that environment.

The iPad is an individualistic extension of my life. And I like what that is - not about work, not about social networking, not about others - because it's not a computer or phone.

Oh, ...sigh... by the way - and I really hate to mention this - you can check your email if you choose to. And now that the ATT 3G version is out, you can keep up minute-to-minute with your 10,000 closest Facebook friends, if you must.