I set out Saturday morning intent on keeping busy. I knew that nothing would happen after it arrived and there were chores to be done. If i was going to spend my day caressing my new shiny toy, the least I could do was keep out of spousal hot water.
I went out of my way to drive by the local Apple shrine to see if there was a line outside akin to the previous two iPhone lines in which I was perfectly happy to wait in years past. This year I chose to forego the nerdery and allow the iPad to come to me. Perhaps I am older and wiser these days, or perhaps I simply couldn’t chance not receiving the latest addition to my toy box on Day 1. There were indeed several dozen believers queued up at 9:00, though not so many that the line wrapped around the building as happened for similar Apple launches.
Errands complete, I raced home. What if UPS showed up early? What if the wife didn’t hear the door on a sleepy Saturday morning? What if the house was surrounded by rabid hounds? Needless to say, I would not leave something so important up to chance.
As luck would have it, I was home fewer than 10 minutes before the doorbell chimed. Our brown-socked hero had arrived unscathed by the lupine hordes surely circling below, offering up that which I absolutely wanted, but likely didn’t need: the iPad, this Mac dork’s new best friend, sure to accompany me at every opportunity. Should such a constant companion deserve a name? Up until now I have only ever named my conventional computers, resisting any urge to name my iPhones. Would this iPad turn the tide? Perhaps time will tell… as would, more likely, getting it out of the box.
As any Apple initiate would expect in the last decade, the iPad’s packaging is handsome in its simplicity and the object of desire itself lies easily within reach. Lifting the box cover revealed that nothing stood between the iPad and me but the clear protective wrapper, and even that had a single pull tab releasing the machine from its final binding.
And then it was mine. There is simply no way to put into words what it feels like to hold. It is completely rigid, much like the original iPhone, with just enough heft to feel like a quality piece of high technology. If you didn’t know better you could assume that it was carved of a solid hunk of sorcery, as there are few apparent inlets of any kind, nor any easily conceivable manner in which to peek at its inner steamworks.
Holding it immediately made me feel as though I had finally laid my grubs on a Starfleet PADD, but with an interface that actually appeared to function with some manner of logic. On the off chance that random and frantic multi-finger input truly could truly produce some technobabble direct from Majel Barrett herself I gave it a shot, but to no avail (maybe there will be an app for that?). What I did find was an interface that felt very much like that of its smaller and older sibling, but with plenty of enhancements that made the machine very much a unique experience.
My first task was typing. This device simply would not succeed if the input were not sound. To my delight it wasn’t bad. As with any new style of input device it takes some getting used to. I prefer to feel the keys below me just enough so I know where my hands are in a the keyboard at all times. Parking my hands where I prefer elicits a bunch of garbled crap, and even as I type this entire article with the onscreen keyboard I am forced to be far more mindful of where and how I place my fingers. It is not unlike what I have been told to expect of the first several dozen piano lessons. Still, as an iPhone user I have learned to trust the software keyboard to understand me and my mistakes, and I am already well on my way to getting along well with this new manner of typing.
The larger screen meant that Apple’s UI team could finally stretch its legs and flex some muscle. With semi-modal panes and dialogs, orientation-aware customized window layouts and an extremely responsive interface, this was already not a giant iPhone. I will admit that I was in that camp shortly after the announcement early this year, disappointed for a reason I couldn’t quite explain. But as these few months have passed I have come to realize that for some the iPad could very well be all they need in a portable computer, and for others, like myself, it will fill a gap in my computing life that I slowly recognized these last few years.
I prefer laptops overall, with my main workstation at home and work being one and the same. But for that reason I have a handsome but hefty 15-inch Macbook Pro, so that I can have enough power to do just about anything I require at work or play. But as convenient as it might be for carrying around an extremely capable workstation, more and more I felt as though I am frequently driving a moving van to the grocer. Sure a netbook would have fit the bill for many tasks, but I have gone well out of my way over the years to keep Windows at a distance, choosing to increase my blood pressure in more fruitful pursuits like stabbing myself or antagonizing feral dogs. Sure, they can run Linux quite well, but all the platform’s worthwhile GUIs go out of their way to perform just like Windows. I have also lusted after a Kindle for some time, but couldn’t bring myself to afford that kind of cash for an empty book. Furthermore, Alton Brown would never forgive me for purchasing a single-tasker, nor would the shoulder that bears the burden of my already corpulent satchel.
I chose instead to stick it out a bit longer. Just as I still wait for Apple to release a home server product as elegant as Windows Home Server (take heed, I complimented a Windows product!), so did I wait for the day that they would somehow magically shrink the Macbook in some as yet undefined metaphysical vortex to allow me to stop hefting the battery-devouring laptop to the first 90 minutes of my four hours of Tuesday meetings. I am hopeful that such a day has arrived.
I’ve only had my iPad for a short time, but I am already quite impressed. The prospect of having something that can quite effectively accomplish the roles of agile laptop, book reader, music player, movie player, portfolio and more is more than a little compelling. I love new toys and new opportunities to shake up and enhance my process, and what better way than at the cutting edge.
Sure, version 2 will be better, faster, stronger, better in bed. So will version 7, but I am not going to sit idly by and watch everyone else have all the fun as I grumble sour grapes. I am delighted to be at the front of the line, potentially making mistakes and wasting money in the name of progress and whimsy. But despite what others may think, I am confident that this is the beginning of an exciting time for computing, and I, for one, am glad to be in the thick of it.
Greg Lincoln is the Production Director for Themis Media and resident Mac user, and neither plays games on his workstation nor attempts to edit text documents on his Xbox 360.