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After one month, I do like the iPad

Written by on June 18, 2010

I have been using the iPad for about a month, thanks to the great help of Joshua Hayes, who helped me import it. While people in the US and parts of Europe have been able to buy it for a while, Apple continues to treat us Vikings here in Scandinavia as second class citizens. Not only isn't it available, but Apple has as yet not even confirmed a release date.

The question is, do I feel like a kid in a candy store? ...or do I feel like a kid told to eat my plate of broccoli, before getting any dessert? And the answer is a bit of both.

It is a well-known fact that the first generation of Apple's products suck. They are very impressive to look at, easy to use, and far beyond the competition - but they also lack essential features. I'm not talking about USB ports or other technicalities. I'm talking about work related features.

Back in January, when the iPad rumors where in full swing, I adviced several of my friends to not buy new netbooks or laptops, and instead wait for the iPad. I said, it got email, Office (in a way), photos, calendar, contacts, notes, tons of games, and a very active 3rd party app developer community.

It can probably do more for the average person, than netbooks. And it is incredibly simple to work with.

It would be the perfect thing for everyone who doesn't have special needs like being able to professionally edit videos, work in illustrator, or spend time developing application or web apps.

But I was wrong, or more precisely, Apple is wrong. The iPad is all that, and more, but Apple has decided to cripple it. To actively restrict its potential.

The Internet

First of, when you unbox it, you are asked to sync it to iTunes with a cable?!! I already knew this before I bought it, but seeing it didn't actually make it better.

By forcing this form of activation, Apple is essentially positioning the iPad as a secondary device to your computer. There is no way you can replace it with a netbook, because you need the computer to activate the iPad. #fail

Apple, we have this thing now called Wi-Fi, 3G, and the Internet. You already know this. You named it the iPad WI-FI + 3G. Maybe this would also be a good time for you to actually use it?

Apple is living in 1997 when it comes to being connected. If you want to move files, your only option is to find a cable, put one end into your computer, put the other end into your iPad, and press sync. And for Apple, sharing is equally backward. The only way to share anything is to do so via email.

They are not taking advantage of anything that has happened in the past 10 years with Wi-Fi and the Internet. They are still seeing the world, where each device is a closed, and where communicating with other devices means copying the files via a computer.

This is an even bigger problem with Apple iWork and the iBook store. You have to manually add documents to iTunes, and sync. Come on Apple!

When you compare this to the Android and even Microsoft Phone 7, the iPad feels like something that is completely out-of-date.

I of course knew this before I got it, but I was shocked how non-connected it really is.

The only reason why it isn't a failure is because of the many 3rd party apps that do understand the power of the internet. Apps like Evernote that allows you to write notes and articles, and have them instantly synchronized to the cloud.

Or like when I am using AirVideo to watch all my recorded TV shows, directly from my media center over Wi-Fi - instead of first having to sync each show manually, and keep synching to make sure I always have the latest show available.

It's not like the iPad cannot do it, the problem is that Apple doesn't get it. They still live in a world of cables. They still live in a world where files and workflows are based on destinations.

One example. I started writing this article 3 weeks ago, and since then I have added and updated it continually via five different devices - the iPad, the iPhone, my MacBook, my Mac Mini, and via the browser from a coworkers computer - all via Evernote.

This "don't sync - just work" style of working wouldn't be possible if I were to do it with the tools supplied by Apple. If I had been using Pages, I would have spent more time synching files, than actually writing and editing this article.

Apple really needs to embrace the cloud. They need to understand that we now live in a multi-device world, where synching isn't an option anymore.

BTW: The coming iOS for iPad helps a bit, especially with multi-tasking. But it's far from enough.

iPhone mindset

The other big issue is that most developers are used to making apps for the iPhone. That certainly provides a fresh perspective, but there are also a huge difference between iPhone and iPad apps.

On the iPhone we have a limitation in terms of screen sizes, and because of that, apps need to be highly focused on doing one thing very efficiently. And because of the small screen, we do not actually work on an iPhone - we snack with it. You cannot really write an article on an iPhone, you cannot analyze a business strategy, because all that requires a multi-input workflow.

The iPad is different, because you can do all that on its 10" screen. Or you could, if the developers stopped thinking single-input workflows. A good example is the difference between TweetDeck and Twitterrific. Both apps are designed for the iPad, but Twitterrific is stuck in a single-input workflow, whereas TweetDeck is taking advantage of the bigger screen and allows you to actually work with it.

Again, Apple's own products, like the iPad version of Pages, aren't helping much. Pages is an incredibly nice looking application, but is also entirely focused on a single-input workflow. This causes that even simple tasks, as creating a bulleted list, to require 2-4 additional steps.

It's not efficient.

This is the not a fault of the iPad itself. You can make really efficient multi-input workflows. But iPad developers really need to stop thinking of it as a bigger iPhone, because that is what almost all the iPad apps feels like.

Stop thinking of the iPad as consumption.

The other problem with an iPhone centric platform, is that many app developers leave out essential features that we need to work efficiently.

  • In iPhoto on the Mac, you can edit your photos, but on the iPad you can only view them.
  • In iPhoto you can upload you photos to flickr and Facebook, but on the iPad you can't.
  • In Evernote for the Mac you work with rich-text, on the iPad you can only work with plain text.
  • In Things, you can create areas of responsibility, on the iPad you cannot.

You have the feeling that the developers primarily see the iPad as a viewer, a secondary device that you can bring with you to your couch or bed, and just use to catch up on things.

But as a viewer, the iPad is not worth the cost. The real power of the iPad comes when you are not forced into a specific mode, and you can simply use it as an extension to do whatever it is you want to do.

Apple and 3rd party developers needs to understand this. The power of the iPad is not as a secondary device. The power of the iPad is to allow you to do things without a computer. Which means that it has to be better than a computer, more natural, more mobile, and better connected.

Problem for us Vikings

There are also a number of problems for people like me, who lives in a country where the iPad is not yet released. The iPad doesn't come with a Danish keyboard. It is technically in there, as it is constantly trying to correct misspelled Danish words, but Apple has mysteriously removed it as an option in the settings (and I do not understand why - other than to be really annoying).

This is a really big problem, because it means that I can only use it for English projects. Two weeks ago I was working on a big rapport, in Danish, and I could not use the iPad at all. That was a whole week where I had iPad withdrawal symptoms.

The App store was unavailable for a long time, but is now open. Although many apps are US only. I can understand that when it comes to apps that involve buying something that has to be shipped, but I simply do not understand why normal apps aren't released worldwide.

Another big problem is that none of the Danish telecom companies support the micro-sim. I have the 3G iPad, but I still cannot use it as such. I have been thinking about cutting my own Micro-sim card, have not decided to risk it yet.

What I really want is a MiFi. I don't want to pay for multiple data plans, but we cannot get that here in Denmark either. Or, I want to be able to tether the iPad to the iPhone, but Apple is refusing to allow that (probably because of AT&T - although we have no such restrictions in Europe. Tethering the iPhone to my MacBook works just fine.)

But the iPad is also Amazing!

The iPad is also amazing. I still mainly use my MacBook for work, but I find that the iPad is becoming an integrated part of my workflow. When I go out, either to a meeting or anywhere else, I only use the iPad. I have not once needed to bring my MacBook. Not once!

It's amazing. It's much easier to take notes on. I can quickly sketch out ideas, I can show presentations... it is just brilliant.

I am also writing more and more articles directly on the iPad. It feels a little weird to not have tactile feedback, but to my surprise I can actually write faster on the iPad, than on my MacBook.

I still have a huge problem with publishing the articles itself, because my backend system doesn't work on the iPad (it uses "contenteditable," which Safari for the iPad doesn't support). Nor can I use the iPad to create the graphics because there are as yet no apps powerful or complex enough.

The iPad is also great as an extension of my ego. When I walk into a room full of people using Lenovo Thinkpads, and start showing slides on an iPad, the effect is an immediate "wow!" factor. The screen, the quality, the form factor - it just blows away those "thinkpadders". It's really funny.

The battery life is just staggering. I depleted the battery rather quickly on the first day, but since then I no longer think of it. I can bring it to the office, use it all day, go home, use it some more, read a book on it in bed, get to sleep, get up the next morning, check email, and it still keeps running. I watched a full length movie on it, and it only used 8% of the battery while doing so. That is amazing.

At home, I use it a lot for pretty much everything. It's my TV when I am cooking dinner; it is my book when I'm go to bed. It's my comic book reader (and it is amazing at such), it's my email reader, and my "let me check something" device etc.

One example. A few weeks ago I was doing some work and needed to check something online. Without even thinking, I reached out for my iPad and looked it up. I was working on my MacBook, but still naturally reached out for the iPad to check something. That's how amazing it is. It just becomes the most natural thing to do. It is much easier than a computer.

And speaking of easy. I was home visiting the family, and my father picked up the iPad to have look... and it was remarkable to see. He started using it, had no trouble at all, was using as it was something he had been using all his life. And after 15 minutes he said, "it's amazing how easy everything is."

... I just smiled.

The iPad is the future

After using the iPad for a month, I do believe that this is the future. I'm not entirely sure that the iPad itself is the future, because of the restrictions and 1997 style synching. Apple seriously need to embrace the cloud, otherwise, they will be smashed to bits by Google's Android.

The Android still lacks the finesse, and attention to detail that Apple excels at. And the Android is still way too geeky - it's too much about technology and features. But Google is way ahead in allowing people to work across devices because of their cloud based way of thinking.

Apple is surviving because people do not want technology, they want neatness. But, if Apple fall too far behind, they reach a point where neatness cannot make up for a device that isn't truly connected.

Let's face it. The future is not about destinations. The future is about a world where multiple devices can and will work together fluidly. The world moves too fast for any of us to allow us to get stuck on a single device.

Some 3rd party app developers, like Seesmic, Amazon, Evernote, Google apps etc. already understand it, but Apple needs to understand it too.

I was surprised that the new iOS didn't include more internet based workflows, and are still stuck in the old world of synching. It's like Steve Jobs is refusing to give up his old vision of the computer being the hub for everything else. If you don't know what I am talking about, take a look at this interview of what Steve's vision was back in 2003 (which is quite interesting in itself)

Am I glad that I bought the iPad? Absolutely. I really need it, and it's making my life much easier. It's a wonderful device. But it is also quite clearly "version one."

--

On a final note - see what you can do with an iPad and Velcro :)

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.

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