What the iPad did to personal computing

The iPad. Hate it, love it, addicted to it?… reactions are all over the web, the only thing you can’t do is ignore the new “magical” device from Apple. Steve Jobs finally reached the target he and Wozniak had when they initially started working together: the iPad is the first computer for people that don’t really need a computer. Housekeepers, wives (or the rare non-tech husbands), children, grandmas and grandpas… all of them just fall in love with Apple’s tablet device.

The iPad is not a gadget for geeks, and that’s part of the reason why some people (geeks?) are disappointed by the lack of I/O such as USB, HDMI or a front-facing camera… but the point is the average iPad user doesn’t really care to know what these acronyms stand for, and today they do not expect a device to be able to make video conferencing. Retaining features deliberately to be added to next revisions is a standard strategy at Apple. It has been with the iPhone and it is today with the iPad. These “average iPad users” will welcome features like video conferencing when and if these become available and might change their iPad to the next generation device because they want some new feature, and that is exactly what Apple counts on.

The hardware is slick, feels solid and is rather heavy, actually a lot heavier than I expected and in my opinion a bit too much. The orientation lock is very much needed (I’m glad they thought of it) and the mute work around (keep the volume down button pressed) is just so intuitive to use I bet many people didn’t even notice it’s a different behavior from the iPhone.

Apple promised an amazing battery life and after a few weeks of use I can confirm that it really is pretty amazing. 2 hours of SD video playback used only 10% of battery charge (with WiFi turned on). Playing games or surfing the web also don’t kill the battery like on the iPhone. The device can survive several days of use without being recharged, but since I have the habit of charging all my mobile devices overnight, the iPad rarely goes below 50% of battery charge.

The audio playback is a lot better on the iPad than through the weak iPhone speaker, but I still miss stereo sound and it is still not top-class (my wife’s Nokia N95 sounds better). Also on a gaming perspective, it lacks vibration support, which instead would have been very cool in games such as Real Racing HD.

Apple said the iPad could run all iPhone apps unmodified. We trusted them but it wasn’t really true: most our apps needed emergency iPad compatibility fixes. However, if iPhone apps work on the iPad, they look good enough, especially games. Pixel doubled text may get a bit difficult to read but overall it’s an ok experience. Of corse, iPad specific apps are a whole different story. In some cases, apps don’t make sense anymore: the Facebook iPhone app doesn’t fit the new device, while using the website directly is a much better experience. The iPad doesn’t get you a “scaled down” version of the web… it’s the full web, only without flash.

There are still not so many iPad specific apps out there and most of them were developed without a real iPad to test them on. Therefore, we can expect a big surge of app releases in the next few months as all developers get accustomed to the new device.

In real life, the iPad effectively replaces a MacBook for all those times you use your MacBook on the couch, in your bed, at the bathroom, in the back porch, in the garden or in every other place that is not a desk or a table.

The iPad is a perfect fit for browsing the web, watching videos, social networking, checking e-mail occasionally, and is a surprisingly good gaming device. The device is ideal for content consumption and very occasional and limited content creation. It encourages social interaction over the big multitouch surface much more than an iPhone and it is indeed big enough to be used by 2 hands of different people at the same time (yes, I mean real social interaction, like with different people in the same room).

I can already see how iPhone OS 4 multitasking will fit perfectly in the iPad environment, unleashing additional productivity for that occasional content creation and empowering a new wave of apps that take advantage of background tasks such as IM, Skype, content downloaders — a way to multitask while retaining full focus on your task at hand.

The amazing thing that is reportedly happening is that people are purchasing more than one iPad per family and some are going all the way to purchase one iPad per family member… dogs excluded.
Wasn’t this supposed to be pricey starting at a $499?