iPad user's firsthand account: Some wow, some size problems

iPad will replace my laptop and smart phoneHaving lived with my Apple iPad for a day, and being in no way a tech expert, I thought I'd pass along the perceptions of the newest toy from an experienced computer user. I'm generally very pleased with the product, with a couple of reservations.

The reviews I've read fall into two categories; comparing it to the owner's workhorse laptop/desktop, or comparing it to a smart phone. I think both comparisons are unfair, like condemning a cow for being slower than a horse and faster than mold.

I judge my iPad based on these usages:

1. Television. The screen resting in your lap covers a similar proportion of your visual area as that of a 32" TV ten feet away. And the picture is crisp, without the jerky picture we've come to expect from streamed video. With headphones (not included), this is the perfect bedtime video viewer for one-half of a married couple.

It won't, I hasten to add, pick up TV signals, and thanks to Apple's stubborn refusal, it won't show video in Flash format (forget Hulu, therefore), but YouTube and iTunes video is a snap to access.

2. E-mail. I usually check my e-mail during the day with my Blackberry Storm, but the crappy touchscreen keyboard discourages me from making thoughtful replies; I'm lucky if half of the words of my reply are even spelled right. The iPad's touchscreen keyboard is much more generous and inviting for writing complete sentences.

On the downside, the device isn't nearly as portable as a smart phone. Even the most generous electronics pouch in the baggiest pair of shorts won't accommodate the iPad, and even the geekiest among us won't find a holster to wear it on our belt.

3. E-reader. As a former Kindle owner I'm interested in reading books on the iPad, and this platform is terrific for this purpose. While some are reluctant to read on a back-lit device, I find the type crisp and it doesn't bother my eyes.

Apple offers the iBooks app for buying and reading books from its library, while Amazon already has a Kindle app available. The real money question for me is if one of my apps will allow me to read the electronic library books which my library lends out.

For newspapers, this is more convenient that a laptop, with an area large enough to read stories without a great deal of scrolling.

4. Browsing. This is a lovely platform for wandering the Internet, except for the lack of Flash video. Apple's refusal to incorporate this Adobe program will leave blank holes in Web pages, even the WalletPop page. Will Apple be able to force a change in the way web pages are constructed by denying us the ability to read parts of them? Probably.

5. Tunes. Copying a couple of thousands songs from my PC went smoothly via iTunes, and, better, an app was available for my access to Rhapsody's streaming music. I'm not crazy about the prices charged by iTunes for music, though.

6. Writing. I need to access files from a PC version of Word with Apple's Pages program. I use Dropbox.com to keep copies of documents I'm working current on both of my PCs, but no iPad app for this program is available yet. The virtual keyboard isn't up to the heavy use I'd put it to, but I've ordered a real keyboard for it. I have hopes that will work better.

My overall take?

Pros -- Smooth operation, excellent access to entertainment, plenty of apps, excellent battery life, some wow factor.

Con -- One of its strengths is also a weakness; the odd size. Too big to carry in a pocket, small for a backpack, the 9 1/2" x 7 1/2" size won't replace the smart phone as a all-in-one pocket device. It will, however, replace the laptop for many people. It's also a bit easy to drop, and I'm ordering a carrying case today.

Is this the market changer? I think yes. While others have offered or are about to offer a slate-like device, Apple's reputation is going to result in huge sales, finally solidifying the niche for tablet computer that Bill Gates forecast years ago.

Now if I can just get it back from wife ...

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