A Month With My iPad: A Memoir
Now that the iPad WiFi+3G is released, I think it will be useful to take a look back at what using the iPad for the past month has been like. You can read my initial impressions here. I was actually thinking of writing a log about my iPad usage and experiences, but Shawn Blanc has a great diary on his blog. I've essentially come to the same conclusions, but I'll run through the high points here for you.
Finding the sweet spot
The biggest question about the iPad I had when I bought it was: "how is this device going to fit into my life? I already have an iPhone, which is great for mobile web and communications, and a MacBook Pro, which is great at my desk or at school. Where does something in between those two fit in?"
The answer is that it literally fits in between my iPhone and 13-inch MacBook Pro (or the computer of your choice). The biggest challenge I had the past few weeks with the iPad wasn't related to needing Flash on the web (open web standards are the future), or that I can't get into the innards and tinker away like an Apple II (that's what computers are for). No, the biggest challenge was figuring out that I couldn't use the iPad for everything I use my computer for. And in realizing this, using the iPad started to make a lot of sense.
Here's how a typical day goes for me. I wake up and head to the kitchen to make breakfast. I bring the iPad with me and set it on the island. I'll make tea while casually checking email, the weather, and reading the Statesman and New York Times. Once breakfast is made I've already cleared the non-essential email from my inbox and have a good sense of the news - all at my leisure.
I sit down at the dining table and eat breakfast while catching up on more news stories and blogs. I go through items in my RSS reader and Twitter stream. This may sound mundane, but I haven't eaten breakfast at the dining table in years. And it's refreshing. I'm away from the Big Computer so I'm not distracted with work or the million other things I could be doing. Instead, I'm focused solely on reading the news and getting ready for the day.
During the day I'm on the MacBook Pro doing research, writing blogs, running computer models, etc. Big Computer stuff. I'll check the news on my Twitter feed every now and then. But here's the thing: Instead of sitting around my computer reading about the latest ethical blunder and getting distracted, I send the article to Instapaper where I'll read it later on the iPad. When I take a break from work I'll physically get up from the MacBook Pro and catch up on some saved articles on the iPad.
What the iPad allows me to do is separate work from play. I've found that I enjoy having this separation in my life. The iPad is successful for me because I don't expect it to replace my MacBook Pro. I've let it find a sweet spot in my life where it works for me. It may or may not work for you, and that's fine.
What the iPad represents is a new interface, a new way of interacting with content and data and this has exposed some challenges. For example, file sharing is cumbersome right now. Having to plug the iPad into iTunes every now and then to sync applications seems outdated. But you have to remember we're at the beginning of a new class of computing. We'll experience some growing pains as we all learn how we want information systems of the future to function. And part of these growing pains is that we're used to thinking our computers should work one way and now we're presented with a completely new way. Change can be hard.
However, whether or not you like the iPad or will even buy an iPad is beside the big point: amazing innovation in computer science and technology is happening in the mobile space. The desktop computer isn't going away, but the future is in mobile computing.
That childlike wonder
I remember growing up with the Apple II, Macintosh, various Performas, and Power Macs. I've always been excited by technology because of what it allows us to do. The iPad is one more entry into this constantly evolving narrative of how create and consume information and content. It blows my mind that a 13 year old kid can develop an application and sell it to the world and compete with big name software houses. It blows my mind that I can hold my favorite TV shows and movies in my hand as I fall asleep. Hell, it blows my mind that I can touch a screen and have it respond.
We're only four weeks in to having iPads. Imagine what the next thirty years will bring us.