Road test: putting the iPad to work
Can the Apple tablet hack it as a laptop substitute? Only one way to find out...
Can the iPad ever replace the netbook or notebook? There seemed only one way to find out: take the Apple tablet to Intel Developer Forum and leave the laptop at home.
That's what I did, and after four days spent checking email, browsing the web, posting on Twitter, taking notes and writing up stories, I can say the iPad comes darn close.
But not close enough.
It's easy to say that conclusion was the obvious one, and I knew that some tasks might be impossible to perform on the iPad. But I figure you have to try these things rather than rely on assumptions. And, in fact, most of the tasks I put the iPad to were not impossible, just a little harder to achieve than they would be on a laptop or netbook.
Device vs device
So, with the exception of photo editing, there's nothing I could not do using the iPad. To make matters easier, I took along Apple's iPad Camera Connection kit and its Bluetooth keyboard. The latter was clearly a better text-entry device than the iPad's virtual keyboard, but I have to say that I found taking notes, writing email and producing copy in the iPad's keyboard more straightforward than I expected. Get your muscle memory right so you can type quickly, and you're fine.
An important benefit of the keyboard: cursor keys. The iPad's virtual keyboard lacks them, but for quickly selecting areas of text for cutting and pasting they are essential. Apple's Pages app makes a fairly decent word processor, though for the work I do the iPad's bundled Notes app would have sufficed.
Selecting and moving text is something computer users do without thinking, and it's a shame it's not well implemented on the iPad. It could have been - it's a software limitation, not a hardware fault. Apple, please take note.
Next page: Hardware 1, Software 0
Surpised and impressed..
At the quality of the write-up, rather than the gadget. Genuinely fair and balanced- where there were problems, they were explained coolly, with sufficient context. It actually answers some niggling questions that I had, which I assumed I could only solve by buying one to see. The photo editing is particularly interesting to me, for various reasons- nice to see that you've not only had that problem, but hit the real world "no time to arse around with that" response.
So hats off, Tony. This is dangerously close to journalism. had Cade Metz or Andrew Orlowski delivered this article, it would have just been a partial, whiny exercise in breast beating. Cheers!
Lack of cursor keys
Spot on with that observation; it's amazing how useful cursor keys are and how annoying it is to use the point and magnify facility for typing. Doubly so if you're using a RDP emulator to connect to a server/whatever.
The lack of an an 'apostrophe' where God intended it to be by the return key is also annoying.
But, it has to be said that it's (yet another hit of the return key where the apostrophe should be) a great device for when you are travelling really light. I took mine on holiday just to do lightweight emailing & browsing; terrific for that.
I actually find typing - with the exception of the aforesaid apostrophe - really quite a good experience.
I reckon we need a keyboard application so we can customise the layouts or have special keyboards with four rows for editing.
Will be so much better with the forthcoming OS upgrade.
From where I'm standing, I am happy to give the tablet form a try, but:
1. Lack of proper and full usb host support, including for pen drives, 3g dongles, gps receivers, and any other adapters is an absolute deal breaker. I know some of this is already integrated - but I also need sometimes to test devices - I absolutely need this.
2. I didn't spot anything about printing support. Does the iPad support USB printing? If it doesn't - again, although I do less printing nowadays, I can't imagine working on a device/machine without straight forward access to printing.
3. Battery life - some netbooks (from Acer, Samsung and HP, or even MSI with 9 cell battery) already claim battery life in the region of 10-13 hours - so it seems close enough to me to not make much of a difference.
4. Operating system - at least for what I do - I need something that runs Linux. OpenVPN, Asterisk, ssh, ffmpeg, Navit, Thunderbird, OpenOffice. All the tools I know, love and use daily run on Linux. Some of them would run on OSX as well - but I believe far fewer will ever run on the iPad. I am not making a statement regarding the quality of OSX (or whatever the iPad is running) - merely stating the fact that Linux is a necessary environment for my work.
Yeah, so a Linux tablet, with full usb support, long battery life and decently low weight might just be an interesting option.
Do you even have an iPad?
1. In the last two weeks of using an iPad I've not noticed any heat from it.
2. "Apple not practical for day to day?" What are you on? We all want some! Magsafe on the MacBook power connectors, decent battery life on their laptops, Apple keyboards have been a joy to use since the 80s (remember the Extended ADB anyone?), and doesn't Apple hold the patent for touchpads on laptops?
Seriously, get real.
3. "cut and paste"??? Apple were doing cut and paste whilst PC users were staring at black DOS screens ffs.
What about price?
An interesting review - One thing I didn't see was the mention of price.
What's the cost of the iPad + accessories compared to the cost of your netbook/notebook?