First thoughts on the iPad

I’ve had my Apple iPad for 48 hours now, and here are a few observations on what’s happened so far.

It’s extremely covetable. The only person outside of the family who’s seen it took about ten seconds to decide she wanted one. And she’s a completely IT-illiterate (but smart) mother of two, who wouldn’t know what the term “fanboi” meant even if you tried to explain it.

The bloggers who said “everyone in the family will want one” were right. Mrs R wants one of her own, seriously, as soon as possible. It’s exactly what she wants: a lightweight, portable device which will allow her to look things up online and service her emails. And before you say “she can do that on much cheaper devices”, she knows. But nothing else has ever appealed to her before as much as this. When it comes down to it, she doesn’t like computers, and never has, but everything else she’s ever accessed the net on (including, strangely, the iPhone) has seemed too much like a computer to her. For some reason the iPad doesn’t have that tech-awkwardness.

It’s missing some curiously basic functions. I needed to work out a sum too hard for my inbuilt mental arithmetic processor, the iPad was on the side, and instinctively grabbed it to use as an expensive calculator. Except it didn’t have one. When I investigated, there were several other functions which come as standard on an iPhone which don’t exist on the iPad, including share-price monitoring and a weather service. But it was the absence of a calculator which is the real oddity. Fortunately there are loads on the App Store, including free ones.

It’s great at just being what you want it to be. This is the hardest thing to get across to people, and it’s why it doesn’t matter that the iPad isn’t “multitasking”. You just pick it up, touch the icon representing what you want it to be, and that’s what the device then is. So far it’s been a (much used) games machine. A bedside telly. A digital photo frame. A web browser. An email terminal. A big Twitter display on the coffee table giving an alternative take on something we were watching on the telly. And obviously there’s a bunch more things it can (and will) be. In every case, it’s a joy to use, and does it as well as (or in many cases better than) a laptop computer. I haven’t used it to listen to music, read books or browse newspapers yet. It looks promising for all those too. For the money, it can be justified for just one or two of these functions, and it’s really not relevant if people buy it who’ll never use it for 90% of the main functions it offers. Imagine if a TV manufacturer offered an ultra-thin, portable telly with a crystal clear display which could seamlessly be switched between live TV, stored movies, iPlayer and YouTube. Would that be worth £500 on its own? You bet it would. I think it’s going to take a while, and perhaps the inevitable price reductions, for people to get this though. You don’t need to be embarrassed about all the things the iPad does which you won’t use.

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