The excellent iPad is a sleek media player and a highly functional tablet computer, but there's room for improvement
So you've probably heard about the iPad. Apple is once again making headlines with the release of a consumer-focused computing device, and the level of hysteria surrounding the iPad is fascinating from an anthropological point of view. But is the iPad really worthy of this craziness? Yes and no.
There are two ways to view the iPad: as a raw piece of technology and as a media consumption device. It's certainly not a traditional form of either. With the plethora of content options now available to iPad owners, I wouldn't be surprised to see a shift in content digestion habits for those who plunk down their money for an iPad.
[ Now that the iPad is here, what can developers create with the iPhone OS 3.2 SDK? Find out in InfoWorld's analysis "Inside the iPad SDK: Bigger screens, continued frustrations." | Take InfoWorld's tour of alternative iPhone app SDKs. ]
Even if most of those buyers are seeking a next-gen media player, they will be surprised at just how usable and useful this single-tasking touchscreen tablet computer can be. There are certainly things to dislike about the iPad, but there are far more things to like about it -- and with the number of iPad apps growing every day, there's sure to be more to like around the corner.
Touchy-feely: The iPad's aesthetics
The first impression of the iPad is that it's smaller than you'd think. With a 9.7-inch touchscreen display surrounded by a 1-inch bezel, it really does resemble an overgrown iPod Touch. The second impression is that it's amazingly glossy -- so glossy it might as well be a mirror. In fact, this glossiness causes significant viewing problems in sunlight and even in some artificial lighting conditions.
The third impression is that the iPad really is an amazing example of modern computing. Regardless of whether the iPad is a commercial success or not, the concepts and form factor of the device are going to change the way we interact with computers, much like the iPhone revolutionized the smartphone industry. From that point of view, it has already made an impact.
Like all things Apple, the aesthetics of the device are impressive. The only physical controls are the home button, a volume rocker switch, a small lock button on top, and an orientation lock switch. Everything else is handled by the multitouch screen, which is one area where the iPad excels. The multitouch interface is so well implemented as to be seamless, and that includes the keyboard. I wrote this entire review on the iPad using the Pages word processor, and the on-screen keyboard kept up with me no matter how fast I typed -- and with virtually no adjustment necessary. The lack of tactile feedback is somewhat odd, and the keyboard is slightly more difficult to use in Portrait mode, but touch typists should feel quite at home.
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