Apple iPad – Sneak Preview

May 3, 2010

We wanted to hate it, but the iPad turns out to be a fabulous device that sits in an entirely new category

The idea of hating the iPad was very attractive. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve become a devoted Mac fan, but sometimes Mac fans seem like members of a not-so-secret cult, and too ready to accept everything new the company dishes out, regardless of the kind of flaws that new products can manifest. Generally, with new technology, unless you’re a freak or a total geek, it’s best not to be an early adopter; better to wait until any problems have been ironed out.

We were able to get our hands on this most talked-about gadget of the year, and I was expecting to be able to not only confirm the downside of the iPad, but to faintly condemn it for its multitude of sins.

Turns out I was wrong. As in WRONG! How embarrassing.

Thirty minutes with an iPad and I’m sold. I tried to resist its charms, but this thing is hyper-cool. Some may say that it’s just a stretched iPhone without the phone bits, but it’s already selling better than the best hotcakes. So much so that the New Zealand release just got shoved back because the yanks are buying iPads like there’s no tomorrow… and they still won’t confirm a local release date, the bastards. (And of course, those bloody Aussies are getting it before us, again).

For portable entertainment, the iPad is peerless; that it functions as a computing tool is the sweet icing on a tasty cake. The screen looks fabulous, even for reading e-books, and the device is amazingly responsive (which kills my non-multitasking gripe), there’s very little delay when switching applications, movies and games load in moments and run smoothly. There’s almost nothing to complain about.  Okay, the tiny built-in speakers are horribly tinny but that’s it and anyway,  manufacturers do make premium earphones.

So much nauseating praise. What happened to the glitches that had me ready to consign iPad v1 to the scrap heap?

Glitch 1 – No Flash Support
The joy of the web is that it’s seamless. As long as you have a fast connection, every decently designed website on the planet should work properly. The iPad however, doesn’t support Flash, which is used all over the place, so browsing is likely to be a frustrating experience of broken links, unwatchable content and unplayable games. Even with a great screen and slick navigation, what use is a web device that doesn’t actually display the web properly?

The solution is that website owners will either develop specific apps for the iPad or optimise their sites to get around the Flash issue. With half a million of these things already on the streets after only a few weeks, site owners will be paying attention. There’s also so much content out there already that the lack of Flash support is less of a bugbear than I imagined. This glitch will get sorted soon enough and in the meantime, I’d be happy to live with more than 180,000 apps plus the videos, movies, social networking, music, books and games.

Glitch 2 – What Is This Thing?
While a few users may be okay with the iPad as a primary computer, it’s not a desktop or notebook replacement and it’s obviously not even pretending to be a phone. So you still need a phone as well as a computer, which makes the iPad an extra gadget that doesn’t replace a damned thing.

Turns out that this glitch is a non event. The iPad is so slim, lightweight and (dare I say it again) cool that I’d carry one around in preference to a Netbook or Notebook any day, unless I had photos to process or writing to do. I wish there was more Wi-Fi in NZ but that’s why there will be 3G models.

The reality is that this thing can’t fail, the hardware rocks and we’re going to see some cunning thoughts applied to the software, because there’s so much scope for creativity on this platform. I’m convinced, converted and ready to stand in a queue. A few minutes with an iPad and you’ll feel the same way. I kind of miss my high horse though. ASHLEY KRAMER

Pricing and release date yet to be confirmed.


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