Well, I've had an iPad for a couple of weeks now, so I think I've got a bit of a handle on how it works and how I'm going to be using it. First off - a couple of 'not' things. It's not heavy! I don't understand why people say that it is, because it's perfectly easy to hold in one hand and type/touch with the other. It's no worse than a heavy paperback or light hardback, and I've wandered around the house holding it without any difficulty at all. Secondly, while you can't multi-task with it (and I'll return to this point later), you can listen to music at the same time as doing other things. Once you've got some tunes on it by syncing it to your computer they play quite happily in the background without any problem. So if you want to listen to music at the same time as reading a book - not a problem. It's also not a replacement for anything else either - this is something that is again causing lots of people grief and I'm not exactly sure why. It is what it is, and it sits quite nicely in the spectrum of desktop, phone, [iPad], netbook and laptop I'm already using it for entirely different things.
So, if that's a couple of things that it isn't, what is it? I got the 64GB wifi version - I already pay O2 good money for my iPhone, and I'm not about to give them any more. What I'd really like to do is simply give O2 money every month and let them keep a check on what I'm spending. In the long run I suspect that they'd make more out of me, but perhaps I'm just being too linear about this. The only disadvantage of the wifi version is that if I'm going anywhere I need to remember to copy anything that I'm likely to use onto it before I go via the connection at home, and that isn't exactly a hardship. If I want to get access to emails and so forth my iPhone does all of that for me - it's just not an issue.
It's a great entertainment centre. I've copied films onto it, tv shows, books, comics, music, and I can take it wherever I want. In the old days I'd make sure I took a book with me, and now I make sure that I still take a book with me, just that it's now on the iPad. I don't have to worry about having an iPod with me, but to be honest, that's so tiny it doesn't matter anyway. The screen is really good - and watching the BBC iPlayer on it is like having a 42" HD tv - but sitting in your hands. I left it with my dad the other day while I went out, and he was very happy watching programmes on it - in fact happier, since his eyesight isn't great (neither is his hearing), and the iPad was perfect for him. This is a guy who is well into his 80s now, and not exactly up to scratch with his computer skills - which is fine, because the iPad isn't a computer - it's something else. Why the journalists attempting to rip it to bits can't understand this is beyond me. I've sat on the sofa, sat up in bed, sat out in the garden and used it to keep me entertained - it is excellent at doing this.
Since the screen is so clear, I'm much happier to read from it - reading from the iPhone was ok, but it wasn't great, due to the size. I couldn't easily read books on my laptop because the size got in the way, ditto with the netbook, though that was easier. The iPad - it's just not an issue. It does what it is supposed to - which is display text clearly and easily enough for me to read without any issues. I can now start (finally!) to move away from buying books in a hardcopy form, which I'm looking forward to.
Another of the reasons that it's excellent is that it's on. You turn it on, and it's on. None of this boot up nonsense - functionality is available at once. I've already found myself using it instead of the laptop or iPhone to check my mail, simply because it's faster. This is also why, for me, multitasking isn't too much of an issue. I want to check my mail, so I check my mail. I then go and poke around on Facebook, close that app down, move into Twitter and so on. Sure, it's a bit more of a nuisance than just tab clicking but y'know - it's not that much of a problem. So I can't use flash - to be honest, this isn't that much of a problem either, and I've actually found very few times where this has been an annoyance. I do need to think slightly different about the way I use stuff - on the laptop or desktop I'd see something that interests me, open a new tab and start blogging it, but to be fair, it's not going to happen on the iPad. And you know what - it doesn't matter. I've yet to find a device that does everything for me, and the reason for that is that there isn't one. I've yet to see any of the tech eliet journos whining on about how crappy a desktop machine is because you can't pick it up and take it with you!
Something else which gives me pause for thought - had to take my dad to the hospital for a procedure yesterday, and he wasn't looking forward to it. Prior to the iPad, there's not much I could have done about that - but we spent the time waiting playing Airhockey, Bejeweled and Crib on it. It simply would not have been possible to do that with a laptop, netbook or iPhone. This is the gap that the iPad is filling for me - won't necessarily be what floats your boat with it, but that's a personal choice of course.
I'm still playing around with the apps that are available - if you're into RSS feeds I'd recommend Newsrack - it syncs with Google Reader and I paid my measily 2.99 for it without thinking. I have a slight preference for the iBook reader over the Kindle app, but not a great issue. The comics apps are all quite splendid; people are again complaining that you need to have different apps for different comic brands, but again - why is that an issue? The apps are generally free, or as cheap to be free, and you just move from one to another as necessary. We don't have an issue switching from application to application for other things, and I think most of us are intelligent enough to work out that one app works one way, and another app works another? I'm using the Brizzly app for reading Twitter, and I'm happy with the way that works. However, I'll write more about apps in another post.
So - should you get one? Don't ask me - I have no idea. If you're looking for a computer, I'd suggest that it's not what you want. While the onscreen keyboard is ok I wouldn't want to write a book on it, so anything that requires heavy writing wouldn't be a good idea. If you want something you can slip in a (admittedly large) bag and take with you - absolutely. I was unsure about using it with a laptop, but the extra weight isn't going to be a problem. I can see that I'd use the iPad on the train and then switch to the laptop for work.
Unless you're really keen though, you may want to wait for the next version. I think a camera on board would be really fun, because you could take a photograph, play with it for a while in situ, retake the photograph, add in anything that was needed, use the real life scene to get the picture doing what you wanted and so on. That's going to be exciting. It'll be good when you can video with it as well - do a video, edit it on scene and send to wherever it's got to go. These are the sorts of things that are going to make the iPad into a huge success over the next few years - and I think my mantra is going to be 'it's all about the applications, stupid!'. Ignore the tech journos who can't see beyond the specs, ignore the people who can't get it into their heads that it's a different device and see if you can play with one for a bit. You'll soon see if there's value in it for you - there certainly is for me!