What am I supposed to use my iPad for again?

by Rocco Tarasi

What am I going to do with my iPad again?I wanted to use my iPad for at least a few weeks before writing about my experience, first with the setup and then with my usage, and what I think the future holds for the device.

Wi-Fi reliability. During the first few days after the iPad’s release, the most common media topic was the iPad’s poor Wi-Fi reception. I was so concerned about it that I actually logged onto Apple to cancel my order, figuring I would wait to see what ultimately came of the issue. Even though my unit hadn’t shipped yet, Apple didn’t let me cancel my order! I found that pretty strange. But in the end I received my unit, connected it to my wireless network, and haven’t had a single problem. I have a 5-year old Linksys B/G router, in my basement no less, and I can get a fine signal all the way to the second floor of my house.

Packaging. Apple’s simplistic approach to their packaging is really amazing. Inside the box were the iPad, charger, and one 6-inch card that showed, using a grand total of 11 words, what the iPad buttons do. On the back of the card only 3 setup steps were listed: Download iTunes to your computer, connect with the USB port, and then follow onscreen instructions.

Syncing. When I first went to sync iTunes said that another iPad was already setup. Huh? Maybe it was confused with my iPhone. It didn’t seem to stop the setup though, but it was still surprising to see. What really bothers me though is that on the main Apps sync pages it doesn’t differentiate which apps are iPad apps and which aren’t. And that is REALLY annoying. I downloaded a few apps that I already had on my iPhone that I expected to work full screen on the iPad (like Google), and they only run on the iPad in the small iPhone-size window. Blah.

Feel. The unit feels solid, with quality construction you would expect. It is plenty fast when navigating the web, playing games, etc.

All the missing features. I remember watching the live updates from the Apple release event and being disappointed in all the features that were speculated about but didn’t end up on the device. No camera. No multi-tasking (though we now know it is coming). No stylus (and, no Mr. Jobs, the designers wouldn’t have “blown it” if they included a stylus). No flash. You know what? The only one of those that I really miss is the stylus. I thought the lack of Flash would be a big deal, but it hasn’t been (especially since Netflix released their streaming App). The multi-tasking will be nice, but it doesn’t change my experience to date.

Use to read e-books. No way. The iPad is way too heavy, and the screen too non-papery, to use as an e-reader. Kindle has this beat in that department, period. Which is really disappointing because I love the idea of just having one device that can do everything. My wife thinks the iPad is even too heavy to watch videos on if you have to hold it up.

A family device. Now this is where the iPad shines. My 5 year old and 2 year old really like it. They understand and can use the touch interface. We play checkers on it, and have some other games and educational programs too. When I took my son to get his haircut we brought the iPad with us for entertainment. However, it would be nice if you could create user profiles and organize apps and usage history into those profiles, so that when my son grabs the device he doesn’t have to sort through all of my apps to find his.

Traditional media’s “savior”. I don’t think so. I think the USA Today’s application is awesome, but when the free trial ends soon I’m not going to buy it, or Time, or the WSJ, or the New York Times, or probably any other magazine or newspaper. I subscribe to probably 15 offline magazines today, and while I could see some people replacing their offline subscriptions with the online versions, personally I don’t have any interest in doing that, and I certainly don’t have any interest in subscribing to something that I don’t already subscribe to. That might change over time depending on how they enhance the experience of reading magazines online (with for example embedded videos), but the iPad does not change the fact that the world has changed when it comes to sourcing your information.

Conclusion

I’m an early adopter of technology – I love cool gadgets. I will certainly use the iPad, but only under specific circumstances. It doesn’t replace my laptop because it doesn’t do a number of things as well as my laptop does. I’m typing this post on my laptop, and wouldn’t consider trying to type something this long on the iPad unless it was absolutely necessary. I prefer the RSS reader experience on my laptop – it is easier to scan through hundreds of articles, read a few, and copy them into Evernote. And my multiple email accounts are setup on my iPhone, so I’m not going to use the iPad for that either.

I need my iPhone, and I need my laptop. I don’t need my iPad. If I only have access to my laptop and my iPad, I’m much more likely to use my laptop. If I only have access to my iPhone and my iPad, the decision is a little bit closer, but I still suspect I will use my iPhone more. It is clearly third on my list of 3 devices, and how many people have the budget to buy a third device? I don’t know a single person right now that is planning to buy one – that says something.

So when will I use the iPad? When I don’t have access to a computer; to play games with the kids; as a portable entertainment device when traveling (i.e. to watch a movie on the airplane); and sometimes when I need to do a quick Internet search.

I read all the glowing reviews from the tech publications, writers that I really respect. But I have to wonder if subconsciously (or not) they are biased in wanting too much for the device to succeed. The “idea” of the iPad seems much more compelling than the reality. I think that Apple did a great job with it, as you would expect; I just think the market is smaller than everyone else thinks, unless their target market is under the age of 10.

(BTW, the image is courtesy of my IPHONE!)

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Rocco TarasiRocco Tarasi was an accountant, investment banker, and CFO before becoming a technology entrepreneur.

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