iPad: The First 399 Days

March 1, 2011

A few weeks ago, I had the idea to write about my shifting thoughts of the iPad in the year since it was introduced. I looked it up, and discovered that the iPad was introduced on January 27, 2010, so I had missed the year mark. But I began writing anyway, and with a new generation of the iPad likely making it’s debut tomorrow, maybe this is a good time to reflect on the iPad after being introduced to, and then using, it over the last, um, 399 days.

Season 1: Speculation

When the iPad was introduced, my initial nagging feeling was that this was ultimately a great device for consuming content. I was concerned that the creative possibilities I felt when I pulled open my sorted history of Mac laptops would be lost on a device that was geared more for consumption than creation. I wasn’t alone in that, but I was hopeful that, in the hands of developers, the iPad would become a useful tool for all sorts of applications.

Season 2: Clingy

I got an iPad a few weeks after they were rolled out. I jumped into a week-long experiment to see if I could leave my laptop at home and only use an iPad when I was out and about. The conclusion was that I still needed the laptop, but that the iPad was handy for many different uses.

LinusThe iPad went almost everywhere with me, like Linus’ blanket (but without the thumb sucking.) I especially liked, and still like, how unobtrusive it was in meetings. It was all I brought to a weekend conference in June, and it was perfect for a short trip.
In those first six months, I carried both my iPad and my MacBook Pro when working. The first few hours of each morning usually found me working on the iPad with a bluetooth keyboard. I would use it for a morning run through email, twitter, and OmniFocus, and to read a chapter or two on the Kindle app. I would usually switch over to PlainText or SimpleNote to draft or further develop some ideas for various projects. I loved the focus it gave me to only have one app before me.

There were days where my laptop never made it out of the bag. I could begin a day with a meaningful morning of work on the iPad in a coffee shop before going home to connect my laptop the pixel sprawl of my 23” monitor for some design or coding. And most evenings when I was home, it was the iPad that was beside me on the couch as I did a final review of Twitter or the RSS from the day.

Season 3: All Purpose Goodness

Season 3 of my iPadography began when I got my 11” Air in early December. It’s been a time of hurt and confusion for my iPad as we don’t so much spend as much time together at the start of each day. I love the iPad, but it is still not the ideal device for one significant activity — it’s cumbersome to capture text. I don’t like to carry an extra keyboard, and I don’t want to type anything more than a few brief sentences on the screen. The Air is just as portable and has a keyboard that is finger clicking good.

Last week, I was with a friend who was asking about my iPad. He is sorting through his own interest and skepticism about getting an iPad, and mentioned an article that said the iPad doesn’t do any one thing better than some other device can. It’s not the best book reader, it’s not the best portable computer, etc. I don’t know that I’d argue that, but maybe that’s also why I can’t part with it.

After getting the Air, I wondered if I would still need the iPad, but what it comes down to is that it’s so ridiculously handy for so many things. It’s used by our family every day for book reading, couch browsing, project reviewing, twitter scanning, kid entertaining, learning, storytiming, map exploring, news skimming, reference librarying, idea catching, weather checking, wikipedia-ing, week planning, second monitoring, score following, angry birding…and quite a few other things to.

(And as a sidenote, one of the things I like is that it can’t as easily do all work related things I can do with a laptop. I’ve been plenty busy with work the last few months…busy enough to always feel the need to be getting something done. It’s good to have a device that I can step away from work with, but still do leisurely kinds of things.)

So after 399 days, it’s not a question of whether an iPad can replace a laptop. Maybe, in some instances, it can, but I don’t think that’s the point. What it comes down to is that it’s a versatile sidekick, mostly thanks to the ingenuity of app developers exploring all the possibilities. And this is only a start. I’m looking forward to seeing what iPad 2 (and 3 and 4) might be able to do as the platform develops.

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