iPad therefore I am

OK, so I said I probably wasn’t going to get an iPad. On Friday I bought one. I admit it: I’m pathetic.

Dave and his iPad box

My thing with the iPad before I got it was that I wasn’t sure where it really fitted in my life – what would I use it for?

A lot, it turns out.

I went for the cheapest option: a 16gb model without 3g mobile internet access – I have to rely on getting a wifi connection. That’s ok though, because I’m not planning on taking the iPad out of the house much.

The iPad is a simply wonderful device for consuming content. The web browsing experience is superb – quick, beautiful to look at, and the screen size makes it easy and comfortable to browse. It’s also great for watching video content, whether purchased and downloaded through iTunes or watched on YouTube through the dedicated app.

It’s also great for reading other stuff, like PDFs and other documents. They’re presented really nicely and it’s much better to flick through on the iPad rather than either stare at a bigger screen or print stuff out.

The form factor is excellent, pretty light and comfy to hold. I tend to keep mine in landscape mode and find myself sat on the couch with my legs crossed and with the iPad wedged into my knee-pit. This is where I see it fitting in – not replacing my laptop or desktop, but being a comfy thing for checking email and reading stuff when I’m not at my desk. Whenever I’m watching TV these days I’ve invariably got a laptop balanced on the arm of the chair and the iPad will suit this casual use really well.

One thing that is missing is a decent RSS reader. There are problems with all the ones I have tried so far (see below). What I really want is a decent iPad interface to Google Reader – in other words, not an app but a website that renders nicely. For example, Google have created a wonderful interface for Gmail on the iPad, but Reader is stuck with the one that regular mobile devices use – which doesn’t transfer well to the larger screen.

I’ve installed a few apps so far. Here’s what I think of them:

  • Pages – Apple’s Mac word processor redesigned for the iPad. Lovely to look at, and ok to use, though I can’t see myself typing for long periods on the on-screen keyboard
  • MindNode – a great mind mapping app which I have on iPhone and my desktop and laptop Macs. You can share mindmaps across devices if they are connected to the same wireless network, which is neat
  • Kindle – despite having iBooks, the iPad will not replace my Kindle as my e-reader – the screen is just too bright, and it’s the wrong size. But for quickly accessing books for a quote or a reference, having access to my Kindle e-books on the iPad is great
  • Huddle – a really nicely done version of the Huddle iPhone app on the bigger screen. Sweeping and swooshing round projects is good fun
  • Bulletin – an RSS reader. Syncs with Google Reader and allows for sharing of items on Reader, as well as via Delicious etc. It’s ok but not the best looking or the most user friendly
  • Articles – a Wikipedia client. Looks lovely and is quick and easy to use
  • iBooks – Apple’s free app for e-books. Comes with Winne the Pooh for free, and is beautiful. See Kindle above for why I won’t use it much though
  • Dropbox – brilliantly done – excellent for accessing and reading documents. Only downside is getting stuff onto Dropbox from the iPad – easy enough with photos, but what about documents created in Pages? Haven’t figured this out yet
  • Twitterific – the best Twitter client I have found so far
  • GoToMeeting – not used this yet, but Learning Pool have recently switched to GoToMeeting for their webinars and online meetings – apparently the iPad experience is really good
  • WordPress – quick access to editing content on a WordPress site, does the job adequately
  • Evernote – enables me to access my Evernote notebooks and add new notes. Read about what Evernote does here
  • NetNewsWire – another RSS reader. Had high hopes for this, but the sharing options just aren’t nearly comprehensive enough
  • TweetDeck – the columns view is very nice, but I couldn’t access individuals’ profiles or Twitter streams. Very weird.
  • Instapaper – a site for saving items to read later. Never really used it a great deal, but the option’s there if I need it!

I think overall, it’s just a different way of looking at an internet-enabled device. It isn’t a computer, and a lot of the criticisms of it – around the control of the app store and a certain lack of openness around the iPad – is missing the point. Your average person can’t programme it, but so what? If you want to programme your device, get a laptop or netbook.

The iPad is a great living room device. It’s not a piece of office equipment.