"Wealth will increasingly be defined by our ability to go offline whenever we want." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Images
February 1, 2010

The iPad Thing

Not surprisingly Apple’s latest product offering, the iPad has attracted a lot of attention. Some harsh and critical, some dizzyingly hyperbolic and congratulatory. I’m caught somewhere in the middle. The iPad, in its current configuration, is not revolutionary. Much like the iMac, iPod and iPhone when they were released, the iPad is a beautifully formed […]

Not surprisingly Apple’s latest product offering, the iPad has attracted a lot of attention. Some harsh and critical, some dizzyingly hyperbolic and congratulatory. I’m caught somewhere in the middle.

The iPad, in its current configuration, is not revolutionary. Much like the iMac, iPod and iPhone when they were released, the iPad is a beautifully formed product that repackages existing technologies. That said I do believe the iPad will define the Tablet platform and I expect to buy one – eventually.

Obviously the iPad is an exciting device for consuming media. I love the kinds of games being developed for the iPhone/ITouch and the idea of playing those games on a bigger, but still portable screen is thrilling. Same goes for watching video podcasts, reading news websites and perhaps even TV/Film content. I blogged some time back about the potential of an iTunes-like format for distribution and organisation of journals and academic papers and the iPad seems perfectly suited for that.

However, what really excites me about the iPad is its potential not just for consuming content, but for creating it.

As a writer, my most productive period was when I lived in London. Although I owned a PowerBook G3 back then, my day to day writing tool was a Palm II with a folding keyboard – far less computing power than an iPad.

Although the PowerBook G3 was sleek for its day, it was heavy. By contrast, the Palm plus folding keyboard rig was super light – so light in fact that I never thought twice about packing into my shoulder bag, or messenger.

That experience has always stayed with me. The Palm II was basic; no colour screen, no cool finger swipe gestures, no multimedia. But, that extreme portability encouraged me to write, take notes and edit anywhere. And, not having to retype hand-written notes or worry about weight or battery life was liberating.

I see that kind of potential in the iPad. Right now, I’m writing this on a PowerBook G4 running Scrivener. This is my rig for writing prose, handling email, personal planning (with OmniFocus), Twitter and blogging. I can do all of that with an iPad, with longer battery life, less footprint, lighter weight and more connectivity (thanks to 3G).

The iPad won’t have the power to run Lightroom or the new version of Aperture (if Apple ever release one) anytime soon. But, maybe that doesn’t matter. There are some amazing photo apps already out there for the iPhone (check today’s pic from Chase Jarvis as an example). On the road the iPad could easily back up photos from my DSLR and do basic editing and proofing on the fly.

The explosion of music apps for the iPhone is equally exciting. There are already apps that allow you to use the iPhone as a controller for a DAW like Logic and I expect those to grow with the iPad. There are also apps that let you create beats, generate synth sounds and record basic songs. There is an enormous potential in the iPad for a portable sheet-music library and for music notation software.

What the iPad’s release does, for me, is knock out the ground between the tablet form and the MacBook Pro. If I want to seriously run image programmes like Lightroom and Photoshop, or music programmes like Logic then I need the MacBook Pro (and even then, I would want to wait for the next iteration with more RAM and processors).

But, the honest truth is that right now, I seldom need that power when I’m on the road. Most of what I do while away from my home studio, either in terms of music or photography really amounts to note-taking, sharing and very basic editing.

And, I can do that on an iPad!

Responses
Lindsay Cullen 13 years ago

There have been a few good articles comparing ‘computer as generalised computing machine’ to ‘computer as appliance which lets you do certain things you want’. That’s on the money for me. Because I’m a geek/content creator/tech specialist I’ll still want access to a generalised computer. But when I just want something to take in the field for email, entertainment, carrying publications, playing presentations, I’m hoping the iPad will be just the trick. It MAY mean that I trade in my MBP for a honking big 27″ iMac for the desk at work. But I can certainly see that for my mother or my in-laws, when their creaking old PC’s give up the ghost they can replace them with a nice neat iPad.

Toni 13 years ago

The general conclusions I’ve read so far have been that it’s designed almost entirely for consumption, and while capable of creation, will be inhibitive in the way an iPhone is inhibitive: you CAN create at a pinch, but you’d prefer to use an appropriate tool. In other words, it’s no net-book replacement.

I’m on the fence about it, but I certainly won’t be buying one: as much use to me as a chocolate fireguard.

Fernando Gros 13 years ago

Linz – Exactly. Assuming I continue to have a Mac Pro, or high end iMac on my desk, what do I need on the road.

Of course, there is also another angle – home servers and nodes for multiple users in a home/family situation, but that’s yet another discussion.

Fernando Gros 13 years ago

Toni – Of course, in an abstract sense, more power is always nice. That’s why I’m trying to figure out exactly what I need. Limitations don’t matter if they don’t actually effect our work.

That’s what makes me wonder about your phrase, appropriate tool. I used to cope a lot of gentle snark about writing with a Palm, but that was more productive for me than any other portable rig I’ve owned, simply because I lugged it everywhere and never had crashes, battery issues or hesitations due to boot up times.

Part of what I see in many negative reviews is legacy thinking. Do we need a programme that can run Office? Do I need all the power required to run Logic or Sibelius to jot down musical ideas. Do I need Lightroom to backup and email proofs. If I jettison that for a lighter mindset, I’m just not sure how the iPad, in principle at least, would limit me.

Toni 13 years ago

I understand from that POV. I used to make field notes on a palm around 2001/2, and while it wasn’t exactly a word processor, it was very portable and could hold quite a bit of text for later upload.

Guess we’ll have to wait and see what the text input capability is like. That’s what I meant really: that it’s apparently designed for entertainment output, rather than user input.

Marco 13 years ago

For sheet music there are also specialized apps like:
http://www.sheetmusicipad.net

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