Thoughts on the iPad

A month passed since Apple released the iPad, its new tablet computing device. The iPad is a strange device because it does not replace mobile phones (it’s too big to carry around) and it does not replace laptops (it doesn’t run desktop applications, no Flash, no CD reader, etc). The iPad runs the iPhone OS, which is a powerful mobile operating system, but one which is also extremely restrictive and does not allow its users to install any applications except those approved by Apple. Yet with all these restrictions, Apple managed to sell one million iPads within just one month – much more than what the iPhone sold in its first month!
The iPad is a new tablet device category that is primarily used to consuming media. Browsing the internet on the iPad is nice because you have to physically touch the links with your finger to open them and then scroll up or down with a gesture with your fingers. Videos appear beautifully on the crisp high-resolution iPad screen and even though it is not in proper widescreen aspect ratio, it is still comfortable to use.

The iPad is going to expand further the market for ebooks. The fact that it does not use e-ink, unlike the Amazon’s Kindle and other readers, will not be a big barrier for in this market, especially as the richness at which electronic magazines and other publications can be delivered cannot be replicated on any other devices currently in the market.

The iPad is also an excellent gaming device because of its screen size, processing power, its unique multi-touch and accelerometer controls, and its connectivity features via 3G, wifi, and Bluetooth. The combinations of all these features create new opportunities for gaming which attracted many mainstream game developers to the iPad which will help the device can easily compete with other traditional game consoles.

The iPad does not come without its flaws though. When it comes to browsing the internet, it is hard to ignore the fact that it does not support Flash and is unlikely ever to get it because of Apple’s new direction. I also found the screen of the device a bit too reflective for my liking and difficult to use in bright situations. Reading eBooks on it is also only comfortable when the file is formatted for iPad display and not any other PDF file created for printing on A4 size paper. For those of us who also like to write in Arabic, the iPad will also prove incomplete at this stage as it does not support Arabic text input (even though it reads Arabic text perfectly).

After having the iPad for a week, I still find it hard to recommend this device to everyone. It is surely is a nice gadget to have around the house to consume all sorts of media from the coach or from bed, and casually browsing the internet on it is fun, but I still do not think that it will solve a problem in many people’s lives. I do love my iPad now, and if you have the spare money to buy a new sexy gadget for browsing the internet from your coach then you will love it, but just remember that this device is for consumption of media and not really doing any serious work on it.

This post was originally published as a column on Muscat Daily.