Chris Alexander

On Engineering

Why I want an iPad

27th January, 2010

Judging by the look of my Google Reader “Technology” stream, Apple just announced something new.

True to form, Steve Jobs took to the stage in San Francisco and gave the world the iPad. Known for their secretive launches, tech blogs and journalists have been working overtime in recent weeks trying to find snippets of information on the fabled “Apple Tablet”.

A few months, one of my colleagues said to me that Avatar would never live up to its hype, and after we had watched it, we agreed that it most definitely did.

Apple fanboys and gadget geeks in general have been whipping up a frenzy, and by the looks of it most people seem let down. In fact, I tweeted that I may be tempted by the iPad, and instantly came under a flood of replies all with one perspective:

chris_alexander wtf why? - @emmaguy

chris_alexander …why? WHY? - @joshmcgregor

chris_alexander But you won’t be able to type as fast as you could on a macbook. I can’t see any advantage over a macbook. - @radiosilence

140 characters doesn’t really leave me the room to write what I wanted to about this, so here’s why I want an iPad.

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Portability

Yes, it is not as portable as a mobile phone. But none the less, it is still extremely thin and light, and offers considerably more power (and with the iPhone, probably battery life) for that.

Let me make this clear - I do not like the iPhone. I borrowed one from the very generous @nickhalstead for a few months and couldn’t get on with it at all.

However, the iPad offers more flexibility, considerably enhanced software, and many more possibilities than the iPhone and all other mobiles.

More Power

This is key - if I’m carrying around something larger, I want it to offer something more.

It is not a full version of OS X; to be honest, that is a very very good thing. OS X is in no way optimised for touch screens and at that size would be unusable - take the Macbook Air for an example; nowhere near enough power and real estate.

By building on the potential of the iPhone operating system, Apple have created something that is supremely simple and logical to use, while offering much more in the process.

I always thought that the iPhone could have been so much better by being less restrictive. In one way, its relatively diminutive size meant that it couldn’t be used to its full potential. Add the processing power from Apple’s A4 processor to the 9.7 inch screen, and you will get a much better experience.

Let’s not also forget the new iWork apps, which allow some super-cool possibilities for working on the go.

Immediacy

This is pretty much what I use my Macbook for these days; I need to look something up or use the internet. So I find the Macbook, boot it up, find what I need and close the lid and leave the battery to run flat ready for when I desperately need it next.

With the iPad, I can leave it on the side, reaching for it and being online in seconds wherever I am, with no fear of the battery being dead just because I left it on standby for a few hours (yes, that happens).

Boss just sent you a critical e-mail? Need to check the work site’s backend to make sure all is well? No more struggling on tiny and impractical screens or bulky computers, you can just reach for the iPad and you’re off - immediately. Hopefully the keyboard will be practical too.

Flexibility

I think there is some fantastic potential with the larger format and slightly more power inside for app developers to really stretch their legs.

This is going to sound weird, but backgrounding is something I would expect of the iPhone, but I would not expect it of the iPad.

For me, my phone is a portal to everything while I am on the go, and I expect it to do everything right there and then. However, with the iPad, I think it is very much a pick-up-and-use-once, “helpful slate to have laying around” device. Sure you can power-use it when you’re on the train, and I’m sure it would be equally useful in the office next to your main PC.

It’s just so damn cool

I actually want to be waving this around while I’m doing a presentation. End of.

Conclusions

I am not a Mac fanboy. I can’t stand the iPhone for being so limited. But for the reasons described above, I could see the iPad fitting in to my life right now very easily, and making a considerable difference - for the better - to the way I work.

For me it is not a replacement for a Macbook or Macbook Pro - they are brilliant for what they are designed for, namely powerful portable computing.

However, I can see this replacing my mobile phone (and definitely my iPhone) as a highly portable computing platform for performing simple tasks in a flexible and (mostly) unrestricted way.

Rage in the comments below please ;)