I was tempted to write a post shortly after I got my iPad but thought better of it. I wanted to use the iPad everyday for several weeks before summarizing my experience. My overall conclusion is that the iPad truly represents a new paradigm in computing. It's a game changer. I've written on this blog for years that advances in operating systems that were touted by others as being significant, like Windows 7 and OSX Snow Leopard, were really tweaks on a decades old system. The iPad is a true departure from this operating system heritage. It's a resetting of the dial. It's what's called "clean-sheet" design in the industry - not worrying about backward compatibility and consistency with prior systems.
I believe that Apple had a vision for the iPad when they designed the iPod Touch and the iPhone. By the way, I don't think they planned the evolution of the non-touch iPods as carefully since the information architecture broke several times throughout that product family transition. It was different with the touch line of products. I think they were planned as a transition. Introducing a phone with touch capability was revolutionary but it also set the stage for the later introduction of the iPad so that everyone was already comfortable interacting with a touch device. You can use the iPad the moment you turn it on partly because you've experienced an iPhone or iPod Touch before (or any of the other manufacturer's products that have copied the interaction design). Interestingly, though, the iPad feels quite natural to those who haven't had experience with a touch device previously. The actions are generally so natural and obvious that it leads truly to a walk up and use experience.
Here are the things that I think are key to the new computing paradigm that the iPad is introducing.
- Instant On - while other computers need to boot up even if they're coming off a sleep state, the iPad comes on as fast as you can swipe your finger to unlock the screen. It's amazingly fast - essentially instant. This is a game changer because the iPad becomes the device of choice when you want to quickly check your e-mail, an app, or a website.
- Convenient Portability - while notebook computers and netbooks are portable in that you can carry them around, you still have to use them like a computer; similarly, smartphones are portable too but are too small to do any number of activities that require a larger screen and keyboard. The iPad has the ideal form factor to conveniently access and interact with information.
- Simplicity - while other operating systems make a user figure out a file system, the concept of an application that works with files in the file system, left and right mouse clicks, click and drag, and such esoteric things as drivers, settings, and the need to download, install, and configure applications, the iPad simply has apps which you can get by pressing a button called "Install App" and an interface that mostly works like you would expect it would if you were using an analogue version of the thing (flip the page in a book by placing your finger on the page and pushing it.)
The iPad at my house is used by anyone who needs quick access to content, for watching movies personally, and for using doing school projects. I should point out that since I got the iPad in Canada before it was available in Canada, my access to the App Store has been problematic. Initially, the App Store wouldn't load at all and it would after I created a US account but then I could only download free apps because I needed a US credit card in order to buy paid apps. I now know about the latest fix to even be able to buy apps in the US store but haven't gone through the laborious steps to do that. It has been frustrating working with the iPad given these conditions and it has also meant that I haven't been able to use higher-end productivity apps to further test the iPad experience.
There are some limitations that I've experienced. The glare of the screen is problematic in bright light conditions but I use mine indoors mostly so this isn't a problem very often. The lack of printing support may become a problem once I use higher-end apps. The lack of a camera is a problem in trying to use the iPad for Skype calls but a recent Camera for the iPad app appears to have partially solved the camera problem. I find the lack of multitasking a problem in only certain situations and I suspect the 4.0 version of the OS will address this issue. The major problem I've experienced thus far has actually been the inconsistency in the user interface design of the apps on the iPad. Apple appears to have approved some of these apps too quickly in order to fill out the App Store for the launch and I hope they'll review apps more carefully in the future.
I'll provide another review in time when I get direct access to my country's App Store and then use more sophisticated apps. All in all, my impression from a few weeks of using the iPad is that it represents the first in a new paradigm of computing.