Thursday, April 8, 2010

Grand Hu$tle?!? - The iPad.

Like many of you, I too, was once a hater of all things Apple. I make my living writing code that runs on Windows, Unix, and Mainframes, and always found the fanboy nature of Apple devotees a bit disturbing. I didn't even break down and buy my first iPod (the video one) until a couple of years ago, and even then, only after having protest-purchased dozens (yeah, I mean dozens) of inferior knockoff MP3 players. However, once I finally joined The Evil Empire, I realized why folks stan for Apple so hard. I've since gone on to purchase an iPod Nano for my wife and for myself an iPod Touch, which I personally believe is the single greatest piece of technology since the BetaMax. I mean, seriously, if you've got a WiFi connection and $200, there is no better gadget for the money. None. Period.

That said, even I was a wee bit skeptical when the iPad was introduced a few months ago. On the surface, this didn't appear to be anything more than an oversized iTouch. There was no "killer app" to speak of, and although the entry-level price point of $500 seemed reasonable, there wasn't any compelling reason for me to shell out more money for something I could already do with a much cheaper device.

On a somewhat related note: I am married.

So anyways, our pre-ordered iPad made it to the house last weekend. Honestly, I don't get why anyone would camp out and stand in line for days outside a brick and mortar store when the thing could have been purchased via the web weeks earlier and delivered the same day it hit retailers. But hey, this comes from a guy who once camped out to buy Wizards season tickets, sooo...

Anyways, is the iPad a must-have technological breakthrough or just another Steve Jobs' Grand Hu$tle for your disposable income? Here's the skinny.

The Look - Man, I gotta hand it to Apple. The touch screen on the iPad has to be one of the crispest, most colorful displays I've ever seen on any sort of computer. The accelerometer works just as if does on any Apple product, making portrait or landscape views equally useful. I don't know if this display is considered high definition or not, but video is casket sharp, and websites virtually pop out when you're viewing them. In short, using this thing is like a visual orgy. There, I said. Yeah, it's that good looking.

The Feel - If you're familiar with the iPhone or iTouch, working the iPad will be second nature. A large power/home button is the only thing immediately visible, but the standard off/lock and volume controls are tucked along the margins. Apple says the battery life is about 10 hours, but we've managed to go even longer without recharging. The device clocks in at a mere 1 1/2 lbs, but somehow feels heavier. The overall size, when tucked inside the overpriced carrying case that Apple sells, feels like one of those black composition books you had in middle school. All in all, it's pretty easy to carry around the house, and solidly built, but I don't see myself taking this on a plane anytime soon.

The Usefulness - Well, here's where we fall off the tracks a bit. I know it's early, but I'm pretty disappointed with the lack of new iPad specific apps in the AppStore to date. Much of what's there is news-related, there aren't many games available yet. Even worse, there aren't many free versions of apps available, which is what made the iPhone/Touch so great. And yes, while the older pre-iPad apps can indeed be installed, they run in a tiny section in the middle of the screen, and look pixelated and fuzzy when resized. Honestly, there's little point in installing your old favorite apps at this point. Just wait for newer versions of them to be released, and pray they're either free, or not too costly (most iPad apps are pricey, landing in the $5-$15 range, another drawback). Nope, you still can't run multiple apps at once. And oh yeah, still no Flash compatibility, which means most video sites aren't going to render. That's like Harold Melvin without The BlueNotes. You know the rest.[1]

The Value - Lets face it, at this point the iPad is really, and truly just a supersized iTouch. Period. There are no real killer apps or functional must-haves right now. And sure, I know some in the media are saying this thing could save the world of news, magazines, and books. But those folks are idiots. Newspapers and magazines are still free on the web, paying a subscription for a fancier iPad version of the NYTimes isn't gonna happen. And if you're using this thing to read eBooks when regular ole' books are also very free at the library, well, I have some beachfront property in Topeka you might be interested in.

The Skinny - All that said, if you have a few hundred dollars, and don't own a netbook, you should probably go ahead and buy one of these. I mean, seriously, the display is freakin' ridiculous all by itself, and it's already much more useful than the HP Netbook that we also own. For the size and portability alone, it's worth the money. Over time, as the App Store fills out, and the price inevitably drops, the value proposition of buying such a device will increase.

The Verdict - Assuming you've got a spare $500 just layin' around, buy it. The iPad might qualify as a Grand Hu$tle to some who don't see the point, but I'm not one of those people. It's well worth the money, despite its limitations. Steve Jobs, FTW.

Question: Did you buy an iPad? What are your impressions? Is anyone who buys the first iteration of any technological advance a complete sucker?

[1] You DO, know the rest, don't you?!?

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