I was delighted when the FedEx guy knocked on the door a day early and I couldn't resist a chuckle to myself at the thought of people queuing up early at Apple stores today to get their hands on an iPad this morning. Hats off to Apple for fulfilling their pre-orders on time - even if we are months behind our US cousins already.
Apple have, in my opinion, produced another game changing device which I'm convinced will carve a niche for itself and go from strength to strength as ever more imaginative and creative Apps are developed and the OS4 update evolves to support multitasking.
I bought 2 iPads, one 32Gb and one 64Gb WiFi model - we don't have 3G where I live and I don't get out much. My thinking was the 64Gb iPad for the the family and the 32Gb iPad for me.
iPad Out Of The Box...
The iPad is smaller and more awkward to hold than I imagined but nevertheless a joy to use and great fun to mess around with.
I'd read reports of them working straight out of the box in the US and I hadn't realised they have to be set up and synced with iTunes on a computer, just like an iPhone. I believe this is an unnecessary step which will get in the way of opening these devices up to an entirely new audience.
My daughter has taken possession of the "family iPad" and she absolutely loves it. She says it's "the right size" comparing it with her iPhone which is packed with games, and we're both really impressed with the battery life - we've played with both devices on and off yesterday and both iPads still have over 50% battery life left so they look good for 2 days casual use.
My mum and sister visited yesterday evening and we let them both get their hands on the iPads. My sister is now desperate to get one, which surprised me "It has everything I have ever wanted in a computer in one place" she said - she loved the games, the email, Facebook and her only negative comment was "But it's an Apple isn't it?" knowing she's going to have a hard time getting her dyed-in-the-wool PC loving husband to spring for one - but even then she's prepared to take on that battle!.
My mum was always going to be the toughest sell but she sat dutifully through a photo slideshow and a movie clip or two and I think pretty much everyone would be impressed with those. Next up I handed her the Labyrinth Maze Game and sat back as she played happily until I took it away from her 20 minutes later.
Setting Up An iPad
As I mentioned earlier you have to set up an iPad using iTunes on a computer and I think that's crazy. Apple seem to have iTunes tunnel vision at the moment.
How did we get to the point where the ONLY way to setup and use an iPhone, iPod and iPad is via an overblown music application on a computer?
iPads and iPhones should be stand-alone devices that can be setup over any internet connection including WiFi, cable or mobile broadband and Apple really needs to do this if they want to take sales to the next level.
The "Family iPad" is now synced to my daughter's computer so that's now effectively hers and the rest of the family are locked into her vision of how the iPad should be setup - which is not what I intended.
If you connect an iPad to a computer which you already use to sync an iPhone with iTunes says "This iPad has previously been synced with this computer" (which is plainly nonsense) but on selecting the alternative option to "Set up a new iPad" you end up with all your iPhone Apps and choice of music, photos, podcasts and movies being synced to the device anyway which is a bit odd.
This means if you own a 64Gb iPhone you're not going to get all that content on a 16Gb iPad. I had enough space on my iPad so I didn't have to solve that particular potential hiccup.
Is The iPad A Laptop Alternative?
The short answer is not yet - at least not for most users. The iPad clearly isn't designed to replace a laptop but for many people, like my sister, it could easily become their preferred way to access the internet at home - in fact she doesn't use the internet at home at all simply because she can't cope with using a laptop. There's a huge opportunity for Apple as the iPad could become the perfect gateway device for people like her to leave lying around on the sofa or kitchen table.
As an online marketeer the iPad can do some of the everyday things I need to do but not enough to make my laptop redundant. The single biggest limitation is the browser. The Safari browser doesn't offer tabbed browsing - switching between windows in a multi-step operation at best. The single-tasking nature of the current iPad OS is a serious limitation to anyone used to working with multiple applications and windows so I'm hoping the planned OS4 release over-delivers otherwise iPads are effectively running a 30 year old OS model on a device of the future - I'm sure Apple will get there, I just don't want to wait 30 years!
To end on a high, I love the iPad and I am fascinated to see how my family, friends and Apple respond to the way people eventually end up using iPads to enhance their lives - it's going to be a fun ride, buy one - or one each.
[UPDATE] I've written a follow up iPad second thoughts post here...
4 weeks ago