April 5, 2010

I have a laptop (MacBook Pro) and an iPhone, so what am I doing with an iPad?

Though I bought an iPad as soon as I could, 2 days ago, I'm not going to mindlessly boost the thing, and I'm not going to fool myself about whether it's useful to me. It needs to earn its place in between the fabulously useful laptop and iPhone. Obviously, it's medium size and medium weight. I'm more likely to carry it with me than the laptop, but unlike the iPhone, it's not always going to come along. I can't put it in a pocket or my smallest handbag. And I'm not going to pick it up from my bedside to check the time and a couple websites when I wake up. I'm not going to read it from a completely supine position, as I often do with the iPhone, when I'm in bed and not ready to sit up.



I might use it in bed if I am sitting up, because it turns on instantly and if I'm ready to read but not yet inclined to write. It's very nice for checking email because of the relatively big, bright screen and the way, in landscape mode, I can see the list of email to the left and display any given item on the right. I appreciate that I can lock it into landscape or portrait mode and read while lying on my side. That's something the iPhone won't do. Of course, the iPhone, unlike the iPad, is a phone, and that makes it the one thing I want to have near me all the time.

But most of the time, I'm on the laptop. If I have a table in front of me, I prefer the laptop. Even without a table, I prefer the laptop if I'm going to write. Even though it heats up, I'll have it on my lap while I'm sprawled, half-sitting, on the sofa or in bed. The hinge holding the screen upright and the solid keyboard make it far superior to the iPad for what I want to do.

Maybe I could replace the laptop with a desktop for home use. (I have a desktop in my office, but my home desktop died about a year ago.) The desktop would be better than the laptop for serious writing and working with photographs and video, and then maybe the iPad would insinuate its way into my life as I do things in places in the house away from the desk: at the dining table, in bed, near the TV, on the deck, etc. But I think not. If I'm going to write, and I always feel like I'm about to write, I prefer the laptop.

The iPad might be nice for the simple consumption of movies and books. Or looking through photographs, if you do that. This is especially important if you're away from home, since it's easy to carry and the screen is great. (Note: I was an early adopter of the Kindle, but I haven't used it much — and not at all in the past year. I just hate the way the screen looks, with its low-contrast gray-on-gray.) But I'm the restless type. I don't passively consume media for very long. I need to go back and forth between reading and writing, and though it's far easier to write on the iPad than on the iPhone, I'm not going to write on the iPad unless I'm out somewhere and I've left the laptop behind.

Now, I have a special use for the iPad that I'm going to test out today. I have notes for my classes that I keep on iDisk, so that they are saved in one place on line whether I work on them from my laptop or from my desktop. In the past, I have printed out the relevant pages for class. Occasionally, I've just worked from the laptop in class, which is a bit awkward. My primary motivation for buying the iPad was that I pictured myself displaying the relevant pages of notes on a screen that I could lay flat, next to my textbook, during class. I thought this would be extremely convenient.

There's an iDisk app that lets me get to my documents, but the screen image is terrible. It's readable, but not at all crisp. I paid $9.99 for Apple's word processing program Pages, but I can't find a way to work directly with a document saved to iDisk, the way I do on my laptop and desktop. [ADDED: Apple confirms that it can't be done.] I've cut and pasted to get text from one place to another, and I can see that the text would be displayed in high resolution. But that's an extra, annoying step, and it means that if I do any editing, it will not be saved to the iDisk document. Also, I lose important formatting, notably the extra space between paragraphs.

And why am I even using Pages? I prefer Microsoft Word, which I have used on a Mac since 1985. I had version 1.5 of Word, back in the day when you had the program and your documents on a single floppy disk. But Microsoft won't make a Word app for iPad. This is all very annoying. The #1 thing I wanted to do with iPad is not (yet) doable.

IN SHORT: It's a medium size, medium weight device that has some use, but it's a distant third in usefulness after the laptop and the iPhone.

64 comments:

Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
edutcher said...

As I've said, even if I had the money, I doubt I'd run out and buy something just to have the latest gadget when I didn't even know whether I'd have a use for it. Before The Blonde busted her hoof and was invalided and her walking around money developed a distinct limp, we used to go round and around about how she would go out to the store (any store) and just buy stuff. This strikes me as the same thing.

Or is it just that the fog of passion and romance have clouded the razor-sharp Althouse judgment?

traditionalguy said...

The I-Pad is sounding like it will become a garage sale item a few years from now.

lucid said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Opus One Media said...

my question exactly. if you have one hammer why do you need two?

lucid said...

I have the feeling that the iPad may turn out to be like the "male purse." Theoretically useful and presumptively hip, but incompatible with how we actually like to live and work.

I suggest that you try putting Kindle software on your laptop or netbook. That works beautifully for me. The laptop functions as a bookholder while reading, it already has a lovely keyboard, I can easily switch among activities, and I have everything in one place.

Glenn Howes said...

I think it will become my primary bedside device. It's much more convenient to deal with then the big "L" of a notebook, the screen is useable at a larger number of angles than your MacBook, and web browsing is superb. And I can nearly type at full speed now, although apostrophes are a pain.

I love the thing as a web browser, and while I'm sure other devices and tablets will follow suit I really like the beauty for beauty's sake themes that have shown up in such apps as the Weather HD app (with its gratuitous use of spinning windmills above fields of grain)

Bob Ellison said...

I love Apple hardware, but I dislike (1) the inadequacies of their various operating systems, (2) Apple's high prices, and (3) the often foolish zeal that Apple has managed to cultivate in its users. The Mac has something like 5% of the market for desktops and notebooks, yet because nearly all journalists use it, we've been hearing about the iPad far more than we should have...yet the Windows netbook, which has far more power and a similar size and sells for half as much, has gone mostly unnoticed. (And netbooks are selling like hotcakes and creating a usability revolution alraedy.)

Note: I'm typing this on a Mac. It ran OS X for a while before the stack of things Windows could do and OS X couldn't got too big for me to stand, so I installed Vista on it. Great hardware and lovely on my kitchen counter, but I wish I had saved a few hundred bucks and got an HP.

Shawn Levasseur said...

“ If I'm going to write, and I always feel like I'm about to write, I prefer the laptop.”

Have you gotten the keyboard dock? That may give the wold thing a bit more of a laptop like feel.

Shawn Levasseur said...

Wold = whole

Jim said...

Lightweight. Instant On. Highly functional word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software. Easier to type on than an iPhone. Runs iPhone apps. Apps don't take gigabytes of space. Doesn't give me backaches lugging it around all day. Great satellite to a desktop machine. Watch out for gen 2 and gen 3 iterations.

Pogo said...

"If you have one hammer why do you need two?"

Different hammers for different duties.

For me, such gadgets are fun, a distraction from damnable reality. Congress has yet to act on the 21% fee cut for Medicare (meaning it has gone into effect as of 4/1/10), although CMS delayed implementing it for two weeks to give them time to do so. So a 40 minute general physical drops from $130 to $103, which is even further below the overhead cost of seeing them, meaning I lose even more money every time I see them.
What could possibly go wrong?.

Will Congress act? Won't they?
Shit, who cares anymore?
It's going to be this kind of nickel and dime crap for me for the next 20 years now, unless I leave the US. But for where? All around the world, socialism prevails.

So the iPad's another hammer.
At least it's not a sickle.

John said...

I have said this since it was introduced. It is too much of a laptop to take the place of an I-phone. And it is too much of an I-phone to take the place of a laptop. I don't see how it fits a need. Since it won't multitask, you still need your phone and or MP3 player if you want to listen to music as you read. It doesn't have a keyboard so you still need a laptop to do serious work. Since everyone in its market already owns a laptop, mp3 player and cell phone, why would anyone have a need for it? It doesn't effectively replace any of those devices. It will be forgotten within a year.

Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Opus One Media
RE: More Than One

if you have one hammer why do you need two? -- Opus One Media

Try driving a wedge to split a slice of tree trunk with a tap hammer sometime. Or set a finishing nail with a 5-lb sledge hammer. Then you'll understand.

RE: My iPad

There are some items that I've alerted Apple to about this new tool. I'm confident they'll sort out the software driven ones in due time.

However, come tomorrow, the iPad w/wireless keyboard, is going to get a workout at a seminar.

They fit perfectly into my leather portfolio. And I'd much rather carry that around than the backpack with the MacBook Pro.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Celebrate 'diversity'!]

Scott said...

Do you pay off your credit cards every month?

wind.rider said...

A lot of the things you're describing are whay many people will come to consider it a toy rather than the versatile, useable device that Apple could have provided.

As an overgrown iTouch, it's, as you're noting, simply a larger causual media consumption device, which is going to be the biggest letdown for folks that were led to believe it could function adequately as a productivity tool. It's simply too limited in its present form (software/OS), with the inherent handicap of a form factor that's nice for causual consumption, but awkward for 'hard core' input. A 'kickstand' and a keyboard are needed for that - at least until either voice recognition or handwriting/stylus input methods are refined enough to be reliable and useful.

I think that Apple has squandered a lot of credibility by performing essentially a 'bait and switch' just adroitly enough to frustratingly claim 'we never told you it would do THAT' when the overall annoyances begin to become obvious and the previously expectant crowd begins to turn surly. . .

tw: a recaph of things observed previously. . .

Scott said...

If I carry a computer with me at all, it's a Samsung NC-10 netbook. Batteries last 6 hours, it's really small, and it has a real keyboard that I can comfortably touch-type on.

wv:chrotchy

David WL said...

Ann:

for more detail on how to get files back and forth to the iPad, check out Macintouch's extensive FAQ, just updated this morning, specifically the section on the iWork:

http://www.macintouch.com/reviews/ipad/faq.html#iwork

I am also a college teacher, and preordered a 3G version. But once the limitations of Keynote became clear (one cannot see the slideshow on the iPad that is being projected--see the above FAQ for more detail), I canceled.

There are 2 other apps that, if and when updated for the iPad, might give me reason to buy. But I'll probably wait until these limitations are fixed--hopefully with iPhone OS 4, or at least by v. 2.

For now, I just bought a long VGA cord, and will use it with my new (refurb) MBP 13".

Ben (The Tiger in Exile) said...

Much easier to haul the iPad around than a laptop and chill mat and all that stuff.

I'm switching to this and a PC desktop.

But the real market isn't us -- it's the broader population, and they will adopt it, or similar devices.

Albert said...

I hate to snarkily compare Ann's purchase of an iPad with her vote for Obama, but there I just did.

Jeff said...

I don't personally have a use case for the iPad. My wife has several, the most important of which is having educational and reference material available anywhere. (We homeschool our children.) Another reason she wants one is easy recipe access in the kitchen, for which the laptop is too large and the iPhone too small.

As a result, I've been considering where it would be useful to build custom brackets to hold the thing (such as in the kitchen, on the counter fronts near the stove), because I know she's going to buy one.

Michael Hasenstab said...

So the answers to the big questions are: iHaveOne and iDon'tKnow.

For a lot of people the bigger question may be: iSpentMoneyOnThis?

k*thy said...

Woe, the burden of the early adopter...

It's good to have high class problems.

Hucbald said...

Problem 1] You got the WiFi only model (The 3G isn't available yet).

Problem 2] You're a stick-in-the-mud who doesn't travel enough.

If you've ever wanted to talk on your iPhone and look at a Google Map at the same time, you'll know why people will have a need for the iPad when traveling. Many people carry both an iPhone and an iPod touch or even two iPhones for this very reason. The iPad 3G will allow one to talk on the phone and look at maps simultaneously. The WiFi only model you got doesn't even have GPS location abilities.

Then, when you get to your destination, the iPad will have all of your slick presentations in it, and you'll be able to wow everybody by plugging it into the projector and smashing the hip-factor meter to smithereens.

Steve jobs may think the iPad is a media consumption device - and it very well may be for the majority of people - but where it will really earn its keep is in the hands of traveling professionals (Or even stupid musicians... like me).

I too have a 17" MacBook Pro (1920x1200 HighRes even), and I think long and hard before packing it for a trip - it's huge and weighs a ton. A 3G iPad would quickly become indispensable for me, as an adjunct to my iPhone. It will even fit in the pouch of my guitar's gig bag!

Doug Wright-OG said...

Ah yes, we're now in the post-rational age! Something new is produced and now available, so buy it and then figure out how to use it! Well, what's the best, and highest, use? How should it be used? What do I, the buyer, want from this new and most wonderful product, the one that "everyone" is hyping, that all the techno-geeks are swooning over?

Maybe this new age is God's way of saying that we're headed back to the stone ages really, really quickly.

Cheers, and enjoy the new toy!

Martha said...

My tech savvy 22 year old college son sold my iTouch, my Asus netbook, and my Kindle 1 on Amazon after convincing me that the iPad 3G version would more than adequately replace all three of those rarely used devices. The iPad most definitely cannot replace a laptop (or desktop). I liked the iTouch but found the lack of 3G connectivity limiting. The iPhone monthly fees are higher than the AT&T flexible fee for the iPad. Typing on the tiny iPhone keypad was frustrating for me. The iPad is light enough to carry in a large handbag and the 3G connection is invaluable. I think--I hope---the iPad will be perfect for me.

SteveR said...

Will Appple come out with an iDriver, so that when folks are talking on the iPhone, looking at maps on the iPad, listening to their iPod, someone can pay attention to the damn road.

Bryan C said...

"Something new is produced and now available, so buy it and then figure out how to use it!"

That pretty much describes the early-adopter history of every new technology, so I wouldn't be too critical about that.

I'd love an iPad, but it just doesn't seem to fit my needs. I want Flash, for one thing, and Steve Jobs' highhanded insistence that I don't really need it is really getting on my nerves. I'll probably wait and see what Apple's competitors come up with.

al said...

For a lot of people the bigger question may be: iSpentMoneyOnThis?

Apple is happy about this. From the numbers given on the news this morning regarding iPad sales it was probably close to a billion dollar weekend.

I've never understood the cult like obsession some people have with Apple products. The one Mac user in the house just bought a new computer and it was a Windows 7 system. Less than half the price of any comparable Mac.

Gaijin42 said...

The incase leather casenfor the pas solves the hinge problem vet well. You can prop the screen at various angles very easily just like a hinged laoptop

Larry J said...

I'm considering buying a tablet computer sometime this year but I have specific needs. I want to use it to run aviation software (navigation, approach plates, checklist, etc). It needs to be daylight readable and I want a mount to attach it to the control yoke of my plane. The iPad is a good looking piece of hardware but at the moment, there doesn't appear to be very much aviation software written for it. I suspect that will change. If not, I'll consider one of the PC based tablets. All of the other features and capabilities of the iPad are nice but if it doesn't run the software I need, I won't buy one.

Lem said...

Of course, the iPhone, unlike the iPad, is a phone, and that makes it the one thing I want to have near me all the time.

They cant beat that app. never!!

haha hahah hahah

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks for the link to the Apple FAQ on iPad, where I read:

"What about iDisk?05 Apr. No (confirmed), despite the obvious value it would add to Apple's MobileMe service. The iDisk app can view iWork documents, but not open them for editing, or save them."

I was misinformed at the Apple store when I asked this particular question. I not only bought the iPad relying on this function, but I also bought Pages.

MobileMe does, however, sync the calendar, address book, and browser bookmarks, but iDisk is really important for someone who's using a mobile device to work on documents. This lack of functionality increases my perception that the device is mainly for recreation — for people who don't write for recreation.

holdfast said...

Jim:

Though the iPhone lacks true multi-tasking in that you cannot run two or more randomly selected Apps at the same time, you can have music or phone in the background while doing other things. I imagine the iPad is the same w/r/t the ipod music function.

Russian Criminal Tattoo said...

in runet(internet in russian)a lot of talk about iPad like here. i think iPhone is better than iPad, because iPhone little and iPad big. Iphone with photo and video camera and iPad without it.

i agree with people who think that iPad for games, not for work.

Random Numbers said...

The Macheads have kept me from purchasing anything by Apple for a decade. I just am not very comfortable with the Mac OS as I am too much the tinkerer.
I just recently broke down and bought an IPod Nano and love it. It plays my Audible books just fine and has great sound for my music, so I'll give Apple props for a great product there. If it weren't for the gut-level revulsion Macheads drove into me a decade ago, I probably would have gotten one sooner.
I will probably go for a tablet PC over the Ipad, though. As I said, I'm a tinkerer and dislike the lack of ownership one has with Apple's computer offerings. I at least want to be able to change the battery or hard drive on my own friggin' machine without having to take it to a store and pay an "expert" (read: someone Apple approves of and deigns to allow to open the box) to do it.

rhhardin said...

Armstrong and Getty:

Get your iPad ..wherever extra large phones or extra small computers are sold.

J Lee said...

(Note: I was an early adopter of the Kindle, but I haven't used it much — and not at all in the past year. I just hate the way the screen looks, with its low-contrast gray-on-gray.)

I found it interesting over the weekend that Amazon sent out a notification that apps were now available to download and read Kindle books on PCs, Macs and cellphones (I'm going to test out the Kindle app for Blackberry sometime this week). Depending on how Apple handles its e-book coding and proprietary file usage, Jeff Bezos seems to have opted to try and play the Bill Gates role circa 1984 here, and open up the company's e-books to be read on any type of electronic device, not just the one they sell, while if Steve Jobs remains true form, books bought to be read on the iPad will, at best, only cross platform to the iPhone and whatever comes after Snow Leopard in the OS X world (Lynx? Ocelot? Pushme-Pullyu?).

Amazon's new option isn't going to make your Kindle's type any less gray, Ann. But it does give you the option to read the books you bought for the Kindle on more viewer-friendly screens.

Brian said...

I am going to run right out to Best Buy for an 64 GB iPad with 3G....as soon as the price drops to $299.

KLDAVIS said...

Althouse said, "Now, now, you boys. Moms may not care about fiddling with the inner workings of technological devices, but that doesn't mean we're not mentally sharp....We just want tools to get to and engage in the things we're interested in."

So, you didn't care until you noticed the device couldn't do several things you wanted it to — thought it could — do. What Doctorow was trying to warn you about is exactly the feeling you're having right now. You purchased a locked platform that is designed to feed the masses whatever the corporation decides they want you to see. And you will receive whatever functionality they decide they want you to be able to have.

I think you just got served, Professor.

wv: teledos...oh, the iPad would be much better if it ran teleDOS.

New said...

Ann, this was your best essay! I hope it is linked and linked from everywhere.

Now, # 1 thing I want to do via my iPad is save PDFs when I visit webdsites and transfer PDFs. (PS: # 2 thing is write notes (and then transfer to laptop.)

I cannot do # 1 at all. There is no good app for that. I would pay Apple $9.99 if they had an app for that.

Jim Hu said...

I went and got one on saturday after your post. Don't worry, it was not cause and effect.

Regarding the pages issue, I think you can share via iWork.com, but it's a bit nonintuitive how to set it up. I'll blog it when/if I get it working.

George said...

I'm a confirmed heterotech (comfortable and satisfied with both SONY/VAIO laptop and iPhone, plus now an iPad), so I don't buy gadgets due to Apple-obsessive-compulsive disorder. With just two days of exploration time, I can definitively say that the iPad will be a long-term useful device, in spite of several well-documented and accurate deficiencies.

For frequent business travelers like me, having an iPad is a blessing. I can now leave my heavy laptop home or in the office completely. I love the easy-toting iPad (I got the leather folding portfolio case). Less than 2 pounds with the case. Looks professional and unobtrusive in executive meetings. Fabulous 10-hour battery (no dorky power cords and bricks to plug in). Full email capability, synced with my organization's Microsoft Exchange server. Synced important MS Office files, and total edit capability using Documents To Go Premium.

Free at last, free at last...thank God almighty, I am free at last...

Nichevo said...

KLDAVIS said...

Althouse said, "Now, now, you boys. Moms may not care about fiddling with the inner workings of technological devices, but that doesn't mean we're not mentally sharp....We just want tools to get to and engage in the things we're interested in."

So, you didn't care until you noticed the device couldn't do several things you wanted it to — thought it could — do. What Doctorow was trying to warn you about is exactly the feeling you're having right now. You purchased a locked platform that is designed to feed the masses whatever the corporation decides they want you to see. And you will receive whatever functionality they decide they want you to be able to have.

I think you just got served, Professor.

...IOW,

Oh no he won't come in me, it feels so good, oh don't stop, I'm so close, oh wait did you just...

Michael Hasenstab said...

A computer is just an appliance. It may help you work better, communicate better, etc. but in the end, it's just an appliance.

Apple has mastered clever industrial design. And Apple is especially good at marketing schemes that allow it to create a demand for its products that can satisfied by charging a higher price than can Apples competitors.

Think about how foolish you'd look lined up at Sears on a Saturday morning, panting with excitement at getting the new iKenmore clothes dryer. It's pretty much the same thing as lining up to buy an overpriced iPad, found 24 hours later to be not really necessary.

Randall Gremillion said...

Don't hold your breath for Word on the iPad - the processor is not powerful enough to handle full-function apps like that - which is why I don't see it catching on

Beth said...

Althouse, I don't know if it's a good substitute, but a review linked to an app called SugarSync, for cloud computing on the iPad. I hope Dropbox comes out with an iPad app soon.

I believe MS Office is coming out with a cloud version, and you might also try working with your documents in Google Docs and viewing/editing them there via Safari on the iPad.

But what do I know? I haven't touched an iPad yet.

d-day said...

The most important iPad question, answered:

Will it Blend?

The Opinionated Bastard said...

Disclaimer: I ordered a 3G iPad.

My #1 usage for my iPad will be reading all the PDFs and documents I have to read for my job. For that, I bought GoodReader Tablet edition ($.99). It integrates with iDisk, Google Docs, DropBox, etc.

As a technical professional, there are a huge number of reference books I have to keep on my bookshelf.

I have a kindle, and I use it, but as you say, its gray on gray text, but realistically, reading PDF files on it just sucks.

So I'm very much looking forward to being able to carry my technical library around with me and to be able to search through it. I'm also looking forward to being able to read something besides black and gray text.

The reason I ordered a 3G is because I've found that the combination of GPS plus Google Maps rocks on my iPhone.

Meanwhile, here's another suggestion:

Epicurious/BigOven

Cooking from a recipe off my iPhone? No way! Too small. Cooking off my iPad screen? Very possible!

The Opinionated Bastard said...

memeo connect (Free) also links with Google DOcs.

Rich said...

Personally, I will use a 2lb netbook running all the windows apps I have used for years on a screen that I can actually read without having to get new glasses.

Doug Wright-OG said...

TOB: So, will we see an iPad appearing on Dinners, Drive-ins, and Dives? Sounds like recipe for a winner!

Moose said...

"I have a laptop (MacBook Pro) and an iPhone, so what am I doing with an iPad?"

I dunno. Maybe having an epiphany?

Jim Hu said...

Sharing Pages with iWorks, as promised earlier.

Bottom line: kind of works, not magical, IMO.

Regarding some other comments: memeo does google docs as read-only, can't edit.

I also got it mostly for pdfs. Papers is great for scientific papers.

Iapetus said...

"Papers is great for scientific papers."

By that, do you mean you have some flavor of LaTeX running on it? That might interest me, if true.

tvern23 said...

I also have a macbook pro and an iphone and im fighting the urge to get the ipad. If I didnt have one or the other the ipad would seem much more appealing but theres nothing it can offer me that the other two don't already offer.

Sam Livingston-Gray said...

tl;dr: "I purchased this new device, and I don't know why."

As my partner would often say to me when I bought some gadget she thought was ridiculous: "just give *me* the money!"

Kanji said...

I would recommend getting past your MS Word fixation. There are a lot of alternatives, and they ALL to the job. :)

iPhone App Reviews said...

I am just going to buy its straight way...Its really cool....!!!!!!!!!!!

Guy said...

I'll take you unwanted iPad off your hands, and I'll even pay shipping. Thanks, Ann.

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David Thomson said...

Everyone that touches my iPad mini falls in love with it. Even people that had no interest in the gadgets I purchase were instantly allured by its tiny aluminum body. There’s something about this device that just makes you want to hold it and I’ve had to pry it out of people’s hands to get it back.

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Brandon Hudson said...

I like your style of writing. You break it down nicely. Very informative post. Keep up the good work.

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