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Observations on a month spent kind of holding the future

The iPad.

“ I held an iPad in my hands today and it was kind of like holding the future. The future is expensive and has a glass front. ”

As far as first impressions go, these (by Gavin Logan on Friday's Geekest Drink) are pretty much on the money. It might seem a little late in the day to be writing up thoughts on a new device — after a month here and several in the States, some would perhaps feel that the topic is a little stale. But as many initial observations of the device seem to be based on shininess or pricetag, I thought it would be a good idea to hold off until I'd seen how it works in the real world for a non-trivial period of time.

It should be noted up front that since day one (day two, perhaps) I have not been precious about this device at all — it's been thrown around, lived in the middle of pub tables or under chairs, and even served briefly as an impromptu drinks tray. It's been leant on occasions to two-year-olds and random drunken Welsh kickboxers. My pre-release thoughts were similar to those of Jeremy Keith — that this would be the perfect device for everyone else (mums were mentioned). Since it arrived, along with a slightly bemused UPS man ("what the hell are these and why are there so many?") I've been intrigued to see whether this is the case.

So, is it?

Anyone like myself, who grew up with the first few generations of microcomputers, will have constantly been told by books, films and old techies that computers used to take up whole rooms. But many of us have failed to notice that for years, this has still been the case — my parents have a 'computer room' in their house which is dedicated to a desktop PC, essentially used only for emails, web browsing, and the occasional Word document. Kathryn's folks have a similar setup. I don't think it'll be a huge newsflash that the iPad (and by iPad I mean iPad-like device — could easily be a non-Apple product) would fill this gap pretty nicely. Slightly more surprisingly is that even for someone as bound to a MacBook as myself, the iPad has taken over as the preferred device for these general tasks — email, web surfing, catching up with RSS, and Twitter. I find myself opening the MacBook only when I need to work, and in some cases, there's no reason that some of these functions shouldn't be possible (and more practical) on an iPad — basic photo screening, cropping, and resizing is a perfect example.

As a super-personal computer, the device is a great first step — since it arrived, my iPad has been a pretty much constant companion. And as Andy Clarke recently pointed out, if you carry one of these things around for a while, you're guaranteed plenty of opportunities to observe the way other people use it, whether you know them or not. Let's get one thing straight — although honestly observed, any points made here are firmly in the realm of anecdote rather than data.

Is it worth it?

Talking of geeks, this is the phrase that always comes up when discussing the iPad. It's a remarkably difficult question to answer, too — mine has instantly become the most used computer in our house (and typically whatever house I'm in at the time), it travels with me everywhere, and I love it to bits. On the other hand, there are more than a few things which would stop me from recommending it (see below). A lot of people tell me they're waiting for the second version, and looking at how Apple has released new versions of products in the past that's probably a very good idea — unless for some reason you're interested in working with cutting-edge devices that may shape our industry for years to come.

The obligatory blog-post bullet list

Because it wouldn't be a blog post without one. A final summary of mini-observations:

Wrapping this train wreck up

The iPad is a great device which has integrated neatly into just about every bit of my life. Do you need one? It's doubtful — you already have machines that do all the same things, and more besides. Would you like one? Probably — it does a lot of things, and it does them quicker, better, and more conveniently than those other devices. But it's not really about whether you want or need this specific device, or whether it's got an Apple logo on the back — hopefully other manufacturers will be releasing amazing alternatives very soon. The important thing is that this is the most personal computer I've ever owned, and I hope it'll be the first of many.

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