Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Wonderful iPad

Tech Notes for May:

Since when was a computer ever elegant, even beautiful, and a joy to use?    Not to say slim, slick, sleek and slippery.   Well, since April 2, when Apple gave us the  iPad.

The Apple iPad is a media device the size of a pad of paper and simply the best computer yet to come.   Or maybe not a computer at all, but a successor to the computer of the past, not so much in size and shape as in HOW, how well, and how fast, it uses Internet.

I think the iPad is a a game changer, a leap ahead in technology.   So does Walt Mossberg, the dean of tech columnists.    The iPad is a device to access any media without fuss or bother or computer knowledge.  Books, journals, broadcasts, music, Email, college courses, phone, movies, personal event calendar, address list, recipes, and all the rest.   The new iPad is the model for the future.    It reads and works easily from an easy chair.

Speaking of leaps, the best prop for it in your lap is a medium-sized housecat, if you have one.

Full of unexpected benefits and a few shortcomings, this is a computer seniors should consider, housecat or not.   

First, the shortcomings:

The device is bigger than a standard book.    It might have been a bit smaller and lighter.    The screen is (tempered) glass and without a case potentially breakable if it is dropped. .      You need Apple's nice rubbery protective "dust jacket" case to make it less slippery to hold.   The case works also as a stand.  You will NEED wifi OR cell phone G3 service, or both.    The device needs to be set up initially, and very occasionally updated, and /or backed up, by someone nearby with a computer, using iTunes.    

This is not a replacement for your laptop or desktop to generate content such as webpages.  There is probably not enough functionality for an expert user.   The iPad does not run older tech (Adobe) video, though it runs most video, anyway, such as playing netflix movies.
The benefits:
T\he iPad is FAR better than a laptop or desktop at what it does to access content, plenty for a light user.   Lightning fast, it is super simple to use.    Just touch the screen---there is no mouse.   No computer know-how is needed for anyone who really wants to use some simple new and better ways of doing things.     It is more like a TV of the future than an old PC.   


The small touch keyboard is good, even for touch typists.   Yet the Apple "Pages" word processor cannot print.    WHAT were they thinking?  ( There are workarounds for that, and this will change.)

You can add a normal keyboard with optional add-ons.   Actually, my old foldup wireless keyboard worked fine, but I am typing this one-handed on the touch screen, and going fast on it.

For seniors, easy portability is especially useful.    Zooming to very  large text with finger motions is a big benefit.    Searching internet by voice is nice.    Such intuitive use, and the quick speed of response, is new, welcome, and overdue.

Here is the Mossberg review:

When you choose a computer it is always best, of course, to decide first what you want to do and then select the best match.  With 150,000 apps the iPad offers a lot of choices.   For heavy duty work you will still need an old fossil computer.  Actually, the precision of the old mouse arrow is sometimes welcome, too.        

Even with its limitations, I don't think many will be disappointed with the iPad just as it is now.   If you want a computer which will give you most of what you want with the least amount of trouble, this is plain and simply IT.     There a guided tour here:

One note: This is a proprietary device of a single company, and only just as open and adaptable as Apple sees fit to make it, for good or ill.    It does not work with everything.   It will be maybe as much as  a year or so before open systems catch up and give competition, though Google has already announced its such device.   There will also be much rapid development of applications for this and other new devices.