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I Love You, iPad, But I Don’t Really Need You.

Well, I almost held out an entire week.

Trying to play it cool, I assured myself (repeatedly), that I didn’t need an iPad.
There was really no pressing need to own it. At all.

Unless, of course, you count lust.

Like a drunk dying for a martini, there I was in the Apple store on Thursday. I timed it like a pro, the salesperson on the phone said: “Our daily ship arrives at noon.”

We breezed in at 12:45: two children, one 85-pound Bernese Mountain dog  (I swear, they insisted I bring her in, those perky little Apple helpers) and giddy me. We could have been shooting their friggin’ commercial. We all smiled a lot, the kids showed me how to use the damn thing, our credit card was swiped and the handy white tote bag was in my hand…all in about 30 seconds.

It’s hard to imagine a Medellin drug drop going down more smoothly than this.

So now. The truth.

It’s gorgeous.

For those who describe it as a really large iTouch, they’re fundamentally right. But they grossly underestimate the vibrancy that the big screen brings to simple things as email, calendar, video and pictures. It’s nearly mesmerizing it is so beautiful. On this point, I could argue that it is truly the most clever consumer device ever built.

In some respects, it feels superior to a laptop. I can assure you, the interface of my email has never ever been this good on my MacBook. The keyboard feels great. The application store is still thin, but no use betting against this. The bigger size apps (6 or so I have downloaded so far), are in-cred-ible. Marvel comics rocked my kids world.

But before I swoon from my Apple delirium, I will admit to you, I am kind of confused.

While I can’t dispute its superior engineering, I am now a 4-device Apple consumer. It’s excessive. Does this thing do something that my iPhone, laptop, or desktop can’t do? Not really. Except books. Which I is why I really bought it in the first place.

In simple terms, it is hard to see the iPad as more than a luxury item, a gadget fetish. You may recall when I saw the launch of the iPad months ago, I mentioned it was going to be a Kindle killer. Well, hmm, I am not so sure about that. They seem to serve different buyers.

You need to take my comments with a grain of salt because I don’t own the Kindle. But here’s the detail on the iBooks piece:

YAHOO!

1. Love that I can change fonts–both size and type to one that is more digestible for me. It’s less about readability and more about, hey–let us fit this to you.

2. Love the highlighting of key passages that get bookmarked and I can refer back to easily. Nice touch that I can change the highlight color and it really looks all uneven like a highlighter. I am feeling productive now!

3. Like the double tap of a word to look  it up, or go to Google and/or Wikipedia.

4. Like that buying books go on my visual shelf. Makes me happy every time I look at that damn thing. Thanks for the eye candy. I like to see the covers.

5. Like that turning a page is like turning a page. Thanks for letting me hold on to that.

6. Appreciate that buying books is so ‘frictionless’. They are going to sell me, unfortunately, a lot of books.

BOO!

1. You can’t hold it in your hand too long while reading, it gets heavy for me. I need to prop it against my knees or in the cross of my lap. This is not a cuddly item.

2. The book selection is down right stinky at this point. As a data point, if you look at 25 books covers on BookSnob right now, Apple has less than 50% of them in iBooks version. I tried to find the next 3 books I was interested in reading. Strike out. I know this will get better with time, but if iBooks is the key driver of your purchase, hold tight.

3. Let’s be clear–it is reading on a screen. I am only about 25 pages into my first iBook, so I can’t say for sure…but it could be a bit hard on the eyes.

It’s hard for me to see the book addicts loving this, and I can see why the Kindle may still be the object of their affection. But may be it is too soon to tell. Hopefully, the book inventory crisis will pass.

So the question is who really NEEDS an iPad?

1.  Me. That’s obvious. Thanks for helping me with my guilt.
(I can say “You” too, if it helps yours.)

2. Families. It’s not difficult to see this as a household device. The first time you step on that spring break flight and the device is loaded with movies, games, everyone’s books…this seems like a home run. I can see it docked in the kitchen when home with cookbook recipes, family calendar, photos etc. It seems like the device we use to see in our minds when talked about swiping the empty milk carton bar code to add to the grocery list (anyone else remember that?)

3. Laptop dropouts. I talked with a friend today who is in the process of replacing the laptop in her kitchen. She does lightweight work on it (she works for herself and is mostly in Word and email) and suddenly the option of swapping a $2000 laptop for a $500 iPad is incredibly attractive. Those blessed careers that don’t require Excel–I definitely think its worth exploring the use of Pages and Keynote on an iPad.

4. Students. Hard to dispute a vision of students on their iPads taking notes, doing research, and yes, checking Facebook pages during those lectures. It’s kind of hard to imagine anything but.

5. Medical Professionals. At a doctor last week, I signed off on paperwork and privacy statements on an assistant’s ThinkPad. Man, it looks like a dinosaur compared to the iPad. With custom applications, this thing is a medical professional’s dream.

But I suppose you could argue no one really NEEDED an iPod. We had different ways to listen to our music. Apple has always been masterful at anticipating the future need of how we work and play. And maybe they have done it, yet again, and I can’t even see it.

If Apple is right I’ll say: “oh yeah, totally. I bought one, like, the first week it was out…my dog can vouch for me.”


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7 Comments Post a comment
  1. ab #

    Hilarious.

    April 9, 2010
  2. Oh, I may not need it but the minute I get a few extra bucks that baby’s coming home with me! … if, that is, you can easily print from it.

    I have not been able to find the answer to that question anywhere so maybe you can help me, Katy. If I am on an airline site, say, can I print out a boarding pass? Does it plug into a printer via USB or do I need a WiFi printer or do I have to go through the convoluted process of the iPhone, where I email a link to my laptop and then print. Feedback most appreciated.

    April 9, 2010
    • As I said, I luvv it, so a few extra bucks and bring it on home. Consider it a design purchase for your business! The iPad does NOT have a USB port. That has been a big ding on it, especially in regards to uploading pictures. (some want to do it directly from the camera). So, it will nee to be a WiFi printer, I am afraid. I am curious if a future accessory may be a USB port to the little docking station they have for the iPad (the small keyboard). That would be a good addition in round two.

      April 9, 2010
  3. easyreader #

    Fun post, Katy. Thank you for answering my essential question: Is it worth it to buy an iPad for use as a reader? It sounds like the answer is no. Much as I’d love to not take a whole stack of books with me whenever I travel, for now I’ll stick with the real thing and continue to resist the Kindle and, now, the iPad. Many thanks for the first review I’ve seen that deals with this device as a reader. And just think of all the books I can buy with the money I won’t spend on an iPad! 😉

    April 9, 2010
    • Just as a post script, I added Kindle for iPad last night on a suggestion from another reader.Improved selection instantaneously–though the ‘standard’ iPad reader functions don’t apply (highlighting etc.).So there may be other ways to maximize the functionality….

      April 11, 2010
  4. Such a helpful post, Katy. Thanks for your thoughtful and entertaining review. I’m about to put my elderly laptop out to pasture and was thinking about replacing it with an iPad. Some of the “dings” you mention might be dealbreakers for me, though. (But I am always a late adopter of new technology and I currently own zero Apple products, unless you count the decommissioned mini iPod languishing in my drawer.)

    April 16, 2010
  5. Fred T #

    I read this post and wanted to share…I love my iPad… It’s been 2 months and I love the vibrant colored display and seeing multimedia play from web sites and magazines. I picked up the mail today and found a magazine I forgot to switch to digital edition. When I flipped the first few pages.. I realized I would not go back to reading a magazine on paper and dyes. I missed the colors, scrolling and interactivity. It took only 2 months to re-learn 20 yrs of schooling and reading on paper (iam almost 40) I am eager to see how this medium develops.

    June 28, 2010

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