Archive for the ‘iPad’ Category

The iPad in Japan

May 28th, 2010 Comments off

The iPad may be getting an official release in Japan today, but it has been available for some time–for a premium. I went to Akihabara yesterday and saw the iPad at several stores–usually priced at 77,000 yen ($845), I presume for the 16GB WiFi version, though it wasn’t specified. Ouch. I saw at least 5 or 6 of the things there, and now I suppose the shops will have to eat whatever premium they paid themselves for people to buy them and ship them to Japan (probably with customs charges added) on what stock they have left. Unless, of course, official supplies are even sparser here than in the U.S. and there are people who won’t be able to wait…

In the meantime, even more stores were carrying iPad goods–mostly cases. This was a typical display:


At Labi, they had a good selection of iPad screen protector films. At other stores, such as the one pictured above, only one film was available (the “LCD Protector” seen at lower right)–and it was an oversized sheet you had to cut to shape yourself. So I picked up what looked like a good screen film at Labi, took it home and got set to apply it–and the damn thing is blue. Not just a slight tint of blue, but blue. I held it over my screen and it made the colors a horrible hue. I have no idea what the hell they were thinking. The cover image on the product shows a clear film, no color, and there is no mention of color on the exterior of the product. Bizarre. I just hope I can return it at any Labi, and don’t have to make a special trip to Akihabara for it.

Categories: Focus on Japan 2010, iPad Tags:

Here We Go Again

May 27th, 2010 9 comments

You’d think people would learn. But no. Here’s yet another article about how another new Apple product, already a hit elsewhere, will fail in Japan. After spending several paragraphs noting the iPhone’s success, the prognostication begins for the iPad, sounding ever so familiar:

However, Japan poses unique challenges that the cool thin slab of 21st Century computing may struggle to overcome.

With popular credit card and train ticket functions unavailable on the iPhone — not to mention connections to pet-feeding machines — many users also carry a Japanese phone made by the likes of overall leader Sharp or Toshiba.

This means they may not contemplate juggling a third, larger device on crammed subway trains, analysts say.

Again with the complete misunderstandings. First, the error of confusing frivolous bells & whistles with ground-breaking hardware and software features. “Pet-feeding machines”? Really?

Second, the idea that people carry iPhones and other cell phones with special features. Not everybody is Steve Wozniak, guys. I have never heard of someone carrying two phones just to cover a wider variety of features like that. And if they did, what would that have to do at all with the iPad, which would be carried in a completely different place? It’s not like people will say, “Oh, my pockets are full, I don’t want to put an extra thing in my bag.”

Third, they appear not to realize what a boon the iPad is for the commute, nor how it will replace even bulkier items. People don’t mind carrying things the size and weight of the iPad on the train–many would (and some do) use laptops, except they are too unwieldily for that venue. The iPad is thinner and lighter than many comic books or magazines that people carry, for crying out loud, and will provide so much more to occupy people’s time. The form is easy to carry and fine for sitting or standing in confined spaces, yet allows for reading, browsing, working, or enjoying music, video, or games, and then some.

Once again, people are just completely missing the whole point, and spouting off about points they clearly know nothing about–all so they can revive the most treasured of all chestnuts, the old “[new Apple product] will probably fail in tech-jaded Japan” canard.

So far, I have seen nothing but vividly enthusiastic interest from people seeing the iPad, even more so than there was before the iPhone came out.

Categories: Focus on Japan 2010, iPad Tags:

iPad Review, Part III: Third Party Apps (Games)

May 22nd, 2010 Comments off

When you first get your hands on an iPad, you check out the look & feel of the device. How much does it weigh? How do I hold it? Is the screen really that reflective and smudgy? Where are the buttons and how do I use them? You turn it on, and immediately, of course, swipe forward and back to whatever screens there are. You try opening an app or two. You just get the feel of the device. I see this all the time when I hand over my iPad to people so they can check it out.

If it’s your iPad, the next thing you do is check out the apps that come with the device. How are iCal and Contacts different? How do Safari and Maps compare with the versions on my iPhone? Does Mail still suck just as much? What do videos look like on this thing? Can I access the stores, and what do they look like? You’ll spend a little time setting up things the way you like them in Settings. The apps Apple gives you are handy, but not all that engrossing. You can probably play with Maps for a while, do some browsing on Safari, and set up your email accounts, but soon you run out of stuff you want to do, and are hungry for more.

That’s when the third-party apps come in, and that’s where the iPad really begins to shine. You start getting the same range and versatility that you expect from a computer, and you start seeing more of what the iPad can do.

The problem with writing a review on third party apps is that everyone’s apps will be different. The number, variety, and choices of apps are perhaps so unique as to be equivalent to fingerprints. Nobody will agree completely on what apps are good, or even worth a free download and a space on the iPad’s real estate. You may prefer more games, whereas I might focus on utilities; you may be willing to spend a lot on a good app, where I might prefer to do with less for cheap; I might love this note-taking app, whereas you might hate it. So the following should be taken as more of a sharing of apps I enjoy and think you might have a chance of liking as well.


Pinball Hd IconOne game that almost everybody agrees is a good one is Pinball HD. For $3, you get three pinball tables–but much more significant is the quality of the graphics. If for nothing else, this game is good for showing off what the iPad can do. But you’ll probably enjoy the pinball games even better, like I do. The tables are very realistic, as are the physics and playing. You really feel like it’s a pinball game. There are two viewing modes–full-screen and fly-over. Fly-over gives a much closer look and appreciation for detail, but it’s hard to get used to, and the zoom often deprives you of certain information, like what lights are lit for you to aim at. I much prefer the full-screen view, and with the latest version, you can get full-screen view in portrait mode, which even provides a cool tilting effect when you move the iPad around. The controls are simple–just tap almost anywhere on the left and right sides to use the flippers.

The game does have a few bugs. At first, I experienced a time lag with the flippers (also reported by other users), which ruined the game play–but that disappeared and has not recurred since. Sometimes a flipper will go when you don’t want it to, or stick in the up position at a critical time, which can be annoying as hell. The ball plunger needs adjustment–it’s often difficult to “grab,” and will sometimes only work if you touch it off to a side. There’s no reason the plunger’s “grab” area shouldn’t be a lot bigger. The score boards are not a big hassle, but it would be nice to be able to turn them off–and I have noticed that most of my scores are not staying over time. Finally, while the games you can play are good, I find myself wanting the ability to adjust the parameters. For example, changing the gravity or power of the bumpers, or being able to increase the frequency or number of balls for multi-ball play (“The Deep” board, for example, does not go multi-ball often, and then only with 2 balls, unless you can trigger a subsequent multi-ball).

You can even play the game in 3-D (go to the Settings app to change it)–but it didn’t work well at all for me, at least not with the cheap cardboard 3-D glasses I had on hand. The separate colors appeared too far apart, and all I got was disoriented. Much more fun just plain.

Click on screengrabs for full-sized versions.

Pinball 01 300   Pinball 02 300

Solitaire IconFrom these reviews, you’ll quickly see that I’m not a big RPG player, or a big game player at all. The next app is a simple Solitaire game. Despite the sheer number of solitaire games on the app store, it’s surprising how hard it is to find a good one. Solitaire City Lite, for example, looks really good–but is ad-laden and only offers double Klondike, not the standard game–you have to shell out six bucks for the full version. A free game called “The Solitaire” is passable, but is not the best. My favorite is actually a paid app, but only a dollar: Plain Old Solitaire HD, made by the same people who make an excellent free Klondike game for the iPhone. POS HD (unfortunate initials) has good graphics and gameplay. Although a few things are not as I like them (you can’t move Aces once placed, for example), generally they get the game more right than any other developer, for a reasonable price.

Poshd 300

Blackjack IconWhile we’re on card games, why not whine a little about blackjack games. It should be simpler than solitaire to create, but it’s as if this game gives deveopers the impression that it has to be charged for if it’s halfway decent. Not that I can really complain–a free app is a gift (a gift with ads), not a right–but you’ll find most other simple games free more often than blackjack or poker. The best blackjack game I could find for free was Blackjack Lite for iPad. The graphics are almost too simple, the animations are poorly timed, it lacks an indicator to show the count of your cards–but it works, is free, and the ads are not intrusive. A different app, Blackjack Free HD (see lower image below), had such an annoyingly intrusive ad–one that covered a large portion of the card table, while the actual cards looked tiny–that everyone gave it low ratings for that despite the relatively good gameplay, so much so that the developer quickly switched to banner ads (I haven’t tried the updated version yet, though).


How not to do ads:


10 Pin IconNeither of those card games are ones I play all the time though. Instead, I found an unexpected game to be too much fun to pass up: 10 Pin Shuffle HD Lite. A strange combination of shuffleboard, bowling, and poker–but it works. You play on a shuffleboard table and shoot off pucks toward a set of bowling pins. If you get a spare, you are dealt a single card; if you get a strike, two cards. If you have five cards when scoring, then you can choose one or two to throw out and replace with new cards (or you can hold what you’ve got). By the end of the game, your poker hand is used to score your effort. The graphics are very good, though the physics are a bit exaggerated and often wonky, but that’s not a big deal. You can set the game to “easy” (the puck goes more or less straight) or “hard” (it easily strays off target). You can change perspective, though I have yet to figure out how to do that and not get an unintended gutter-puck. If you have four cards and get a strike, you get only one card. But mostly it is enjoyable. There is a banner ad which is easy to ignore during game play, and each game you must navigate four menus filled with prompts to buy and must shift hand position to avoid hitting the purchase link. Still, it’s a worthwhile free app. I’d get the full version, except that it has way too much that I don’t really want, for $4.


Shanghai Hd IconI also like Shanghai games, and again, there are many, but most don’t get it right. I haven’t found the perfect one yet, but there’s one that comes pretty close: Shanghai Mahjong. The tiles are nice and you can download different skins. I tried the free version and liked it enough to pay the obligatory dollar for the full game.

The graphics are well done, and the tiles look nice–though I prefer more of a color differentiation to help identify pairs. The animations are subtle enough not to distract. Overall a very nice game for a dollar.



Lux IconAs an example, let me show you an iPhone game which looks decent on the iPad. Many don’t, but Lux Touch, a variation of Risk, looks good enough–and even performs better, with more space to tap, which the game requires a lot of. If you like Risk, then you’ll probably want to get this one–it’s free, and entertaining enough. If you love Risk a lot, then the paid version–more customizable and with lots of different maps–will set you back $5, is also an iPhone-sized app, and I don’t know what it looks like on the iPad. Note, BTW, how the icon for iPhone-Lux is slightly lower-res than the other, iPad-native icons.


For comparison, this is what the app looks like at iPhone size on the iPad:


Of course, I am not going into any of the really heavily graphic-dependent games here, but they are around. I’m just not that big a game player. But one example of what you can get is the free lite version of Star Pagga, a game where you use the iPad’s accelerometer to steer the ship. Looks very nice.

Star Pagga-300

Pocket Pond IconFinally, there’s a simple “game” for the iPhone which many people like, called Koi Pond. That’s not available for the iPad, but there’s a clone called Pocket Pond. It’s scaled for the iPad and has most of the same features, though is really a lite version and so lacks some settings that Koi Pond has–but Pocket Pond is free, which makes up for that.

In Pocket Pond, you have the pond, the nice carp, the ability to splash and scare the fish. It’s easy to miss the button for lily pads and dragonflies, as it is a semi-transparent “+” sign, and you may overlook it after you fine the “i” sign (which mostly is an ad for the paid version). But you can add any of three different lily pads. The dragonflies will literally fly off the side menu when you tap them, and buzz around until you tap them dead–whereupon they float on top of the water and act as fish food. A cute little app.


A close-up of a living dragonfly, before swatted; sometimes they can buzz quite “high” and appear large to you.


Total cost for the apps shown in boldface: $4.95.

Next part of the review: networking apps.

Categories: iPad Tags:

Apple Online Stores and National Borders

May 20th, 2010 2 comments

Apple has been a bit weird about their online stores and international locations. The U.S. iPhone App Store was at first completely accessible from Japan, so long as you had an account there. But then, last June, with iPhone OS 3, they changed and shut that down. Now, with the iPhone, you can only purchase apps from the store in the country you are in. Which means that if I am using my iPhone to purchase apps, I have to pay yen (usually a 50% higher price than with dollars) and get only apps made available in that store–and not all apps are available.

So, my U.S. account is no good, right? Well, not so fast: you can still get on your laptop or desktop computer, go to the App Store using iTunes, and buy apps from the U.S. store there. In what is a bizarre inconsistency, computer purchases for the iPhone from the U.S. store while in Japan is OK. Just transfer them to your iPhone next time you sync. Similarly, apps bought in the U.S. won’t accept updates overseas, but you can get the updates via iTunes. Like I said, weird.

When the iPad came out, I tried using the U.S. app store. At first, it worked–but then the iPad figured out it was in Japan, and shut down that avenue. Similarly, the Apple iBook store also worked for a few hours, and also shut down after seeing it was overseas. It stayed that way for a few weeks. Then, yesterday, I suddenly found I could access both again! But only for about 20 minutes; the first time I actually tried to “purchase” a free item, it stopped working, and neither would let me in again. Drats.

Well, today, the international iPad app store went online. I tried the App Store, and indeed, it was just like the iPhone: you could buy apps from the Japanese store, but not from the U.S. store, not on the device itself.

Weird thing: the iBooks store is online, and you can buy stuff. At least for now. Whether that’s an intentional thing or they just kinda goofed is a different question; we’ll have to see if it persists. In the meantime, I downloaded a whole bunch of free stuff for my iBooks app. Will look at the non-free stuff if the store stays up.

Categories: iPad Tags:

iPad Review, Part II: Apple’s Apps

May 17th, 2010 1 comment

As I have often said before, the real secret of the iPad lies in its applications. The multitouch OS is of course vital, but it is, in true OS style, a support mechanism, and is only a means to an end. The true secret is what you can do with the device, and even more importantly, where you can do it. I could never feel comfortable pulling out my laptop on a bus or train, and while I could use the laptop in bed or walking around the house, it was less than comfortable. The iPad lets you go virtually anywhere you want with a near-full-fledged computer experience at your fingertips.

There are limitations, of course; you can’t readily whip out the iPad and use it for your shopping list in the supermarket, or easily pull it out of your bag to check the train schedule. While walking, the iPhone or other handheld device will still win out. But the iPad fills in the gaps between the laptop and handheld–and then some–removing from your experience all those awkward moments where neither device will work well.

As I mentioned in the first part of this review, however, you’ll have to realize that the apps for this device, at least for now, are not full-featured. They are cheap, easy to use, and in great quantity, but they are also somewhat limited. However, in a mobile device, that’s not necessarily a bad thing: you don’t always need a full-featured app. This device is for more casual computing. So let’s see what we can do.

Ipad-Std-01The Basics

The iPad comes with a smaller set of built-in apps than the iPhone, interestingly. As you can see from Apple’s sales image at right, You get Calendar, Contacts, Notes, Maps, Movies, YouTube, Safari, Mail, Photos, and iPod, along with the App Store, iTunes, iBooks (not pictured, but a free download), and the system’s Settings app.

Calendar is nicely presented and works well (syncing smoothly if you use Mobile Me), but it has one major drawback: it doesn’t let you create new events with tap-and-dragging. instead, you have to spend the extra time carefully adjusting the start and end time for each event, which is a bit of a pain. Aside from that, it’s a great app. Contacts is similarly beautifully-designed (right down to the faux string binding in the gutter between pages), and works just as you’d expect, without the one reservation I have with Calendar. In Contacts, the web site and physical addresses act as links to the browser and map apps, respectively. Notes is as annoyingly limited as its iPhone counterpart (seriously, Apple, nobody likes the Marker Felt font, let people choose whatever they want), but it will do in a pinch–though you will likely replace it quickly with a better third-party app, like Simplenote or Paperdesk Lite. Calendar, Contacts, and Notes act as you might expect, but none really show off what the iPad can do.



Note, by the way, the attention to detail with the little touches here and there–torn page stubs, textures, subtle shadows, and such.



With Maps, you start to see the real benefits of the iPad. If you’ve used Maps for the iPhone, then the iPad’s version will surprise you. It’s strikingly fast, much faster than the iPhone app, even faster than Google Maps on the web, or so it feels. New map drawings and even satellite pictures seem to just rush on to the screen. When I saw the first iPad commercials and they showed somebody zooming up on the Eiffel Tower with a reverse-pinch gesture, I thought it was an exaggeration they cooked up for the commercial–but no, it really works like that. In some cases, it helps if you’ve viewed an area before before and are using the cache to re-view it, but even when looking at a place for the first time, the Maps app is just darn speedy.

I put it to good use a few nights ago, actually; a coworker had forgotten something at work, and since his neighborhood was on my path home, I volunteered to take it to him. We had to arrange a place to meet–time for the iPad! I opened up Maps, and as quickly as we could speak, I zoomed in and saw the best area to meet. The app opened at my location (the non-GPS location finder on the iPad is surprisingly accurate, by the way), and I was able to speedily zoom out, see both our locations, note the route I’d take, and zoom into the area where we would meet. As I zoomed in even more, I saw a McDonald’s and a KFC next to each other and was about to say that we should meet there, when the coworker, who had lived there for a long time, suggested just that. Maps is a spiffy app, better even on the iPad.


Movies and the iPod app work pretty much as you would expect. Not much to report there, except for the usual gains from screen real estate. Same goes for YouTube. Similar comments on iTunes and the App Store, though I have only had fleeting experience with both due to being locked out because the iPad stores for Japan haven’t opened yet.

Safari and Mail both work agreeably well. Safari works just like the iPhone version, except that the screen size makes a huge difference; what was a rather unenjoyable and slow task on the iPhone is now a much more comfortable and likable experience on the iPad. While I still prefer my laptop or desktop for browsing, it is something I do not mind at all on the iPad.

Mail is also better–and will be more so when OS 4 comes out and we get unified inboxes–mostly gaining from the larger screen size and the use of panes and pop-overs to show both the mailbox listings and the email windows at the same time. In that sense, landscape view works better, as the pop-overs require an extra tap to become visible and get in the way of viewing the message. One improvement: batch-marking emails a “read.” No, the feature has not been added, but the device’s speed has made up for it. Especially in landscape mode, you just tap-tap-tap-tap, and all the mails get marked as read. But seriously, Apple, get around to making a decent email client someday, OK?


An event group of photos being pinch-spread apart; fingers not pictured, so it looks a bit odd here.

Photos is another crowd-pleaser which shows off the multitouch interface. It’s just a charm to use. When opened, you choose between “Photos” (which shows you all photos in a single, extended thumbnail sheet), “Albums” (all images grouped by albums you set up, with the addition of screenshots taken by the iPad), “Events” (individual groups of downloaded or otherwise grouped photos), or “Places” (geotagged images–for me, it only shows pins in London, as the iPhone snaps taken there on our honeymoon are the only loaded images I have with GPS data).

Usually “Events” has the most groups of images, and that’s the most fun: reverse-pinch on a group and they spread out to show you thumbs of the photos in the group; complete the gesture to “open” the group. (You can quickly understand why this was often used in demos for the iPad.) A similar gesture will open a photo, though a tap will do the same thing. Zooming in and out works like a charm, of course, and pinching will close the photo, and the group. While looking at an individual image which is part of a larger set, a slider appears at the bottom with tiny thumbnails of the set, easily allowing you to navigate the whole group. Otherwise, the usual left- or right-swipes will allow you to browse as normal.


While looking at a group of images as thumbnails, you can tap on the action button (the square with the arrow coming out of it) and choose to either copy or email any images that you select by tapping on them. Each tap tags an image with a checkmark, and activates the “email” and “copy” buttons. Email is limited to five photos. Copy works between apps–for example, you can copy images in Photos, quit, open Pages, and then paste them there.


More Apps

That pretty much covers the basic apps that come with your iPad. It is, of course, impossible to cover other apps extensively, because everyone has different ones. But let’s stay in the Apple playground and start with a popular group of choices, namely Apple’s iWork suite.

Pages-Portv-01   Pages-Landv-01

Pages is a very good, basic app for what it is supposed to do, and perhaps the most satisfying app of the suite. You want to write, and Pages lets you do so. With the latest update, the ruler and title/toolbar now appear in both landscape and portrait views, with the option of dismissing them in exchange for more screen space. You get most of the formatting tools: styles, bold-italic-underline-strikethrough, font size, color, and type, bullet lists and indents, as well as columns, line spacing, and text alignment. You can insert images, tables, charts, and shapes (including text boxes). You can also set the margins, and create headers and footers. There is spell-checking, though you can’t add new words to the dictionary, at least not now.

A nice point about the iPad is the fact that documents are saved on the fly, so you don’t have to worry much about saving or recovery. Every time I shut down Pages to go to another app, I hesitate out of habit, wanting to save my work, before remembering that it’s not needed. Once, after an hour of typing, Pages crashed on me (when I went to Document Setup), and I got a scare when I reopened to Pages and saw a thumbnail for the doc which represented an earlier version lacking most of my work. When opened, however, the doc was up to date. Apple should fix that. Another possible bug: once inserted, I see no way to delete an image aside from “undo,” which will not work if the image was added previously. While Pages may not be the best app for finishing a document, it works very well for creating them; I can see myself using this app a lot–in fact, I already do.



Keynote is also a neat app, making it easy to make presentations. The formatting controls are nearly identical to Pages, with predictable exceptions (no headers and footers, for example). You also have the ability to add animations and transitions. Unlike Pages, however, you quickly begin to notice what is missing from the iPad version. The number of choices for themes, animations, and transitions are fewer. There is no sound, so forget background music or sound effects, much less movies. Only one size of presentation is allowed. Special fonts you may have used elsewhere, like on your laptop, are not available and don’t translate. You can open PowerPoint docs, but can’t save in that format. There are a few multitouch tricks on the iPad version that are not found on the main app, but for the most part, Pages stands out as an underpowered application when you stray into areas where it lags behind. I would still recommend it as a purchase for your iPad, unless you never make presentations, but it is a fairly close call in some respects. One hopes that Apple will shore up this otherwise good program in future versions. A possible cheap alternate: PDF Presenter, a $2 third-party app which only shows PDF slideshows. It’s much more limited in some ways, but also has some features which might even be better. (More on that in the next part of this review.)

I haven’t used Numbers much at all yet, but I am as unimpressed with it so far as I am its desktop counterpart. You can do spreadsheet stuff, the functions are there, there are some nice features, but many features I use a lot–such as the sort feature–are not there yet. Scrolling is inexcusably weak, with no apparent way to jump quickly down a long column. I just kind of gave up on this after a short time and went back to Excel on my MacBook Pro. Unless you have specific mobile spreadsheet needs, this is les of a priority. This may just be my own bias, however; I have simply never liked Numbers in the past.

As with all iPad apps, their documents are sandboxed, meaning that each app only sees the documents it has imported or created. You can send documents to each app separately using iTunes on your desktop or laptop, but as far as Apple’s setup is concerned, that’s just about it. Some third party apps can send a document to specific apps, but unlike the Mac OS, the iPhone OS does not auto-detect the whole list of apps that can open that type of document, nor can you choose from a list. So until more solutions become apparent, each app is pretty much on its own. One can only presume that you won’t save too many documents per app, because when you want to open a saved app, they appear as very large thumbnails, viewed one at a time; more than 15 or 20 and you’ll be spending all day flipping through them to find the one you want. One would presume that Apple will remedy this with either folders, smaller thumbnails, or a new file access system.

Something I should have mentioned in part 1, by the way: the apps open very quickly. A few may take a bit of time to load, but most will just open up and be ready, just as the iPad itself tends to boot up faster than the iPhone (or at least the 3G). In fact, with docs always being saved and copy and paste working between apps, I don’t think I’ll notice much difference with multitasking when it comes in OS 4.

Part I of the Review: The iPad Itself

I’ll go over third-party apps in part 3 of this review.

Categories: iPad Tags:

The iPad Review, Part 1

May 15th, 2010 4 comments

Ipad-1I have been using the iPad for two weeks now. As an accident of timing, I did not acquire it at the best time for enjoyment; we were in the middle of a move to a new apartment, giving me little time to focus. Too bad, in a way–the best way to enjoy a new toy is when you have time to play with it. Get it when you’re busy, and there is time enough to wear out the novelty, but not enough to get the best of a really good thing. In a way, however, this is good for a review: you don’t see it through the subjectivity of enjoyment, not as much, anyway.

One of the things you have to get used to is that it’s not a full-fledged computer, even an underpowered one. Sadly, it could be, if the software were written for it and a few changes made. A few times, I have had need of a full-powered spreadsheet app, or a real word processor, and realized that the iWork suite that you can purchase don’t fully fit the bill. For example, in the spreadsheet app, I wanted to be able to sort rows, but Numbers does not allow this. All of the iWork apps are like this–even more limited than their OS X counterparts. Don’t expect the full functionality of Office apps, nor the ability to move files around.

As I have written before, the true success of the pad lays in the potential, what the apps can do; the iPad is a vehicle for these apps. And while there are many very good apps, the potential is not even close to having been met. That’s the good news, too: the future will hold a great deal more for this device. The little tablet will just keep getting better and better.

The iPad Itself

Let me focus first on what Apple created in the hardware using the basic OS, and then later take a look at what the software can do.


Hardware. The iPad is a clear study in Apple’s design philosophy. Minimalist. Simple and elegant. When turned off, only the logo on the back and the home button on the front are most evident (though in low light, it’s easy to miss the home button). You have to look to see the speaker and dock port on the bottom, the power button, headphone jack and mic on the top, and the orientation lock and volume control on the side. I mean that–many times I have had to look to figure out which end has the power button. With the ability to change orientation, you can lose track, and the buttons stick out so little that you often won’t notice them. A few times I have accidentally turned the iPad off by setting it down on the floor, propped up against a wall, but upside-down so that the power button is depressed by contact with the floor.

The iPad weighs a bit more than you might expect; at one and a half pounds, it is not heavy, but it’s also not the lightweight tray you might imagine it to be. Some have commented on how it is hard to hold up while reading. (Strangely, half the people I hand it to who have never held one before–which is to say, everyone, as this is Japan–comment on how light it is. I guess it’s a matter of expectations.) Despite having used it to read rather heavily in the past ten days, I have never had a problem with the weight. You will likely always find some orientation that is comfortable for you. The weight ends up being less of an issue than the reflectivity, as you have to sometimes position it so screen glare isn’t a problem.

Picking it up can be an issue sometimes; you want to avoid touching the screen too much and so you get used to handling only the black margins (they looked huge at first, but now almost seem too thin!), finding that with so little purchase, and that much weight, the machine can be a bit slippery. It’s not a terrible thing, but takes getting used to.

The screen is very nice: hard, solid, but not too uncomfortable. It’s glossy as hell, just like MacBook Pro screens, and makes a suitable mirror when turned off. Many have noted that it picks up finger smears like crazy. This is true, but what struck me was how easy it is to clean. Just get a microfiber cloth (a tissue won’t do the trick), any cloth intended to clean eyeglasses should be OK, and carry it around with you. I picked up several at the local 100 yen (dollar) shop, and have spares stashed away all over so there’s always one nearby. No matter how smeared the screen is, just a few wipes, maybe 5 seconds tops, and the screen looks great again. This opposed to my MacBook Pro screen, which is a bear to clean. It seems that the oleophobic coating is not to keep oils from transferring to the screen, but instead keeps them from sticking so badly that you need to work to get them off.

Ipad Smudge

I actually tried pretty hard to make these sample smudges, but they come easily enough on their own.

The buttons work as you would expect: smoothly. The orientation lock is the most trouble, sometimes hard to toggle, especially when using Apple’s case. The volume control is much easier (once you locate it), and has the feature of muting when held down–you don’t have to press it ten times or hold it down for a while to get to zero. Hold it down long enough so that two or three sound bars disappear, and then it jumps to “off.”

Ipad Buttons

This shot demonstrating the unobstrusive buttons is actually angled toward the edge to show them better.

Ipad BattOne last note: the battery. I have not tested it for a full 10-12 hours, but it seems to drain faster than that for me. Perhaps I got a weak one, I’ll have to test it at some point. Also, it doesn’t charge too quickly; while the iPhone just juices up in a jiffy, the iPad takes its time. So if you want to make sure it’s charged, you can’t neglect to plug it in when you go to sleep. Make a habit of that, and you should never run out of juice unless you use it all day long without a break.

The OS. If you’ve used the iPhone or iPod Touch, then you know about this already. The iPad’s OS is virtually identical, with a few differences here and there. Unlike the current iPhones, you get a background (“home screen”) wallpaper image, which should be 1024 x 1024 pixels; though the screen is 1024 x 768, the background will re-orient when the machine is turned, so will need to be full-length in both landscape and portrait dimensions. A background image the exact size of the scene will rotate, but will zoom when turned the wrong way, presenting a lower-resolution image with the longer ends cropped out.

A sample wallpaper at 1024 x 768; note how the portrait has the ends chopped off

To set a home page or lock screen wallpaper, you can open the photos app (images in email or from web pages can be easily saved to there); once selected, the image can be set to either be the lock screen or the home screen. You can also change either wallpaper in the Settings.


Go into Photos, view the picture you want, then tap the action button at top right.



Otherwise, the OS is about as simple as the iPhone OS gets. You see apps on the screen, swipe left or right to see other screens, tap an app to open it, press the home button to quit.


Getting into the Settings brings up a lot more options. WiFi seems to work well, though I found the range more limited than with my other devices. As reported, it does sometimes disconnect and then reconnect, but not often for me and it never seems to mess things up–just a short wait period is all. You can set notifications for apps as well; I tried the MacDailyNews app and it was constantly throwing notifications at me; this would be where you turn them off.

Brightness and wallpaper have their own panel. You can set the brightness and it will “stick” from then on; adjusting the brightness in an app, like iBooks, will only be in effect for that session. Wallpapers can be set for the lock and home screen separately, as noted below.

The General settings are numerous. “About” gives you all the info you need, like the serial number and MAC addresses. You can pair Bluetooth devices, as I did with my Motorola s305’s. You can set a password to keep out snoops, and set parental restrictions in various apps. One thing that I figured was not included was caps lock, but then I discovered that they had simply made it an option which is turned off by default; you can switch it back on under “Keyboard.” Accessibility allows you to zoom in and out, but I found the gesture (a three-fingered double-tap) to be too easy to accidentally trigger when using some apps.

Under the Mail settings, you can set up your accounts just like with the iPhone, but be very careful to check the “Load Remote Images” setting and make sure it’s turned off as soon as possible–spammers use remote images to spy on you.

There are a lot more, but those are the highlights.

Typing. If you’re a touch typist, then you will probably have trouble with the touchscreen keyboard, as touch typists are in the habit of resting their fingers on the keyboard. I type by hunt-and-peck, so it’s not a problem for me–in fact, I can type at near-normal speed. For extended typing, especially when the iPad is in my lap (as it is as I type this blog post), I find the landscape keyboard works best. In fact, typing this post, I got so used to using the landscape keyboard that going back to the portrait mode was awkward–and going back to iPhone typing was almost painful, despite being OK before. Placement also matters in how they work, of course. For example, if I am leaning over the iPad as it rests on a table, then the portrait keyboard does OK, though I am less confident about it.


A few nits. First, what’s with excluding arrow keys? BIG oversight–I have found myself wanting to use them many, many times. (Citrix adds them for navigating on a remote connection, so they are possible, of course.) Second, why not allow a real full-sized keyboard, with numbers at top and shift keys for special characters, especially punctuation (as is done with the comma/exclamation-point and period/question-mark keys already)? I find it annoying to have to constantly switch back and forth between the alpha, numeric, and symbol keyboards like that. Either make the keys a tad smaller or the keyboard space a tad larger, or both, and give us some relief here.

And hey, what’s wrong with a few keyboard shortcuts? Not having a universal “undo” is a major hassle sometimes. Add a command key, please.

Finally, good and bad points about errors. Good: the auto spell correction. Really helps speed up typing. Bad: mistyped keys, in particular when you hit too high on the top row (and wind up changing the position of the cursor and typing a bunch in the wrong place) or too high for the space bar, getting a C, V, B, or N instead of a space. Takes practice, I guess. A few points with good and bad, like when you tap to place the cursor–you can only place the cursor between or at the end of words, never in the middle of a word unless you hold down and do the loupe thing.

Future OS. I will be glad to see multitasking, but will not be too glad because Apple has limited it–you won’t be able to have two things open side-by-side unless you get an app which specifically does that. Still, switching between apps should be better than now, and hopefully quicker.

As I stated above, the is new. The apps are not nearly as developed as they’ll get, and the OS is bound to improve quite a bit–but knowing Apple, never as much as you’ll want it to.

Reading. One of the iBook’s strengths can be as an ebook reader. This depends completely upon your preferences, of course. If you’re a die-hard e-ink fan, then the iPad may annoy you. But I have found it quite comfortable. You can set the light level and font size to whatever is best for you. The hardest thing to get used to is the orientation. If you lie on your back, it’s not so bad–just prop it up on your stomach, or if you’re sitting up, perhaps lay it in your lap with your knees up. But if you lay on your side, then you’ll have some trouble. While the iPhone or iPod touch may rest comfortably below your eyes, the iPad is too big for that; to place it comfortably flat on the bed, it’ll be far enough away from you that the angle will be wrong. I use my Apple iPad case to prop it up, and often stick something under the left side to angle it toward my face more. It works, but it’s wonky. But it’s worth it, and enjoyable. I find myself using it every night; it even gets me to bed earlier.

Strangely, there is a relative dearth of ebook readers. Apple’s iBooks is so far the best, with Kindle close behind. Kindle falls to second place easily, though, as you can’t seem to import non-Amazon books into your Kindle app (at least not without a lot of nonsense to deal with), whereas you can put any book into iBooks, so long as it’s in the ePub format. And if you have Stanza and/or Calibre (both desktop apps available for Mac and Windows, Calibre for Linux as well), it’s not hard at all to save any ebook into an ePub. There are other readers–Kobo, for instance–but they also seem to lack the ability to easily import your own books. ReadMe is another, and apparently can import stuff, but I haven’t decided to spend the two bucks for it yet. Free Books is great for Public Domain books, by the way, and is free for the iPad.

By now, I would have expected a lot of people to have designed a variety of ebook reader apps–they apparently are not prohibited by Apple–to suit everyone’s tastes, but so far, not so much. Even Stanza is not iPad-ready yet. Maybe not enough people have non-DRM’ed ebooks.

Bugs. So far, I have not have many crashes at all–maybe one or two, but that’s it. And overall, the OS has worked perfectly. But just today I experienced a very strange bug. When turning on the iPad one time, a row of app icons from one page migrated to another page and mixed in a very strange manner. The off-set icons would not work, and when I held down on a normal app to enter edit mode, not only the off-set apps, but the who page they came from did not respond. The bug was easily fixable–I just turned off the iPad and rebooted–but it was weird to experience.


I’ll focus on apps in the next part of this review.

Categories: iPad Tags:

Softbank’s iPad

May 9th, 2010 2 comments

With the iPad international release date finally set (May 28), Softbank has beat even Apple to the punch, and is now advertising the iPad for sale–from ¥48,960 ($535 by today’s exchange rate) for the 16GB WiFi model. That price was pretty much expected, but Softbank’s 3G data plans were the real question mark.

Softbank is doing it two ways: you can get a monthly data package, or sign up for a two-year contract. If you go by the month, it’ll cost ¥4410 ($48) for 1 GB of data per month; you go past 1 GB or if the month runs out, then the deal ends. The other way is unlimited data for ¥2910 ($32) a month–and while the details are a bit fuzzy to me (I can’t read the Japanese well enough and the English reports seem unclear), I think it breaks down to the fact that you have to buy a 2-year contract along with a 3G iPad in order to get that pricing.

Clearly, this is very inferior to the plan offered in the US, where $30–no contract, just a monthly payment–gets you unlimited data for the month. Softbank is charging twice that much for a limited amount.

Glad I don’t have to deal with that. Our data plans for the iPhone are already way too pricey.

Categories: iPad Tags:

This Thing Is Heavier Than I Expected

May 1st, 2010 6 comments


I got it! Finally! Thanks to the efforts of a generous coworker, who not only got me the gear on their vacation back in the U.S., but brought it even with a broken wrist (there’s a friend for you), I’ve got my iPad–a month earlier than the Japan release, a month after the U.S. release, and about two years after I started wanting one <snark>.

First impression: damn, this thing is heavy. Second impression: OK, maybe not so heavy. Third impression: damn, this screen can get bright.

Well, there are just too many impressions to number them like that, but those really were the first things that ran through my head, at least after I got it set up.

Getting it set up was not very hard, especially if you don’t need to sync much, but there were a few small quirks. First off, if you own an iPhone, get ready to sort through all your apps. And I mean all of them–they are all added to the sync list automatically, every last one of them. You have to sort through to guess which ones you’ll want to have, and in the end, it probably won’t be too many–what they say about the pixelization when you double-size them is true. That said, there are at least a few where I don’t mind–more on that later. Another small thing is that adding photos takes a long time, as each one has to be optimized (I presume resized) for the iPad.

Once you get going, though, it’s just as sweet a machine as everyone says it is. Find the right apps, and you’ll be happy as a clam. (By the way, why exactly are clams happy? That never made sense to me.)

First item on the Wish list: arrow keys. It’d be nice not to have to place the cursor with the loupe every time I want to place the cursor inside a word (tapping will always place the cursor at the end of the word you tapped on). The original Mac back in 1984 didn’t have them either, but that was eventually fixed; hopefully, it’ll get fixed in the iPad as well.

Anyway, it’s late, we’re moving the day after tomorrow, and it’s bedtime. More later. LOTS more, you betcha.

Categories: iPad Tags:

HP Buys Palm

April 29th, 2010 2 comments

They actually seem to get it: that if you want a successful touch-based tablet device, you can’t succeed with a mouse-based PC operating system. That’s one of the reasons tablets failed before the iPad: they were PCs trying to act like tablets. Apple was the first successful company to realize that tablets were waiting for multitouch, and multitouch was waiting for tablets, and they couldn’t succeed without each other, at least not at first. So HP woke up and said, “crap, we’ve gotta get an OS that doesn’t suck on a tablet!” And so they bought Palm, probably because it’s the next most-used touch-based OS after iPhone and Android, neither of which they could buy and control. Whether it’s a good enough OS and will work for HP, or if HP can make it work, is another question.

Categories: Computers and the Internet, iPad Tags:

Top iPad Misconceptions

April 28th, 2010 6 comments

The iPad is still new, so many people still haven’t wrapped their heads around it yet. David Letterman touched on this with his Top Ten presentation just before the release, lamenting that he couldn’t figure out what the iPad was. Here are a few common misconceptions I still see fairly often, in no particular order:

1. It’s a Computer. Well, technically, it is, but the iPad itself is not supposed to act as a stand-alone computer. If you’re buying one instead of a laptop, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise, just as many people who bought netbooks were unhappy. The iPad, at least for now, will not do all the things that a laptop or desktop will do. There are several reasons for this. One is the infancy of the OS and available software; the OS will gain features as time goes on, and developers will produce more powerful apps, but for the time being, things are still in the exploration phase. A second reason is the hardware; it’s not yet powerful enough to handle what some users might expect. But the third and most likely reason is design: Apple almost certainly does not want you to see the iPad as a laptop replacement. They want you to buy a laptop, phone, and and iPad. Some of the limitations are built-in, so as to keep the iPad from cannibalizing too much of the products on either side. Apple saw a gap and wants to fill it, but not at the cost of their biggest money-makers.

2. It’s an Oversized iPod Touch. No it’s not. The iPod Touch is an undersized iPad. The iPhone and iPod Touch were perfect for what they were, but the iPad is what a multitouch device should have been in the first place. The iPad is not an evolution, it’s the main event following a multi-year preview.

3. It’s Nothing New. This is an offshoot of the “oversized iPod Touch” misconception, and even the “it’s a computer” misconception: people are trying to shove the iPad into existing categories of what they are familiar with. Yes, it resembles an iPod Touch in some ways. Yes, tablet PCs and touch screens have been around for years. But the iPad is completely new because it’s the first correct expression of what a fully-fledged touch-screen tablet should be. Previous tablets were standard GUI PCs trying to act like tablets. The iPhone and iPod Touch were too small to really be fully-fledged tablet devices. The iPad is the first multitouch tablet which is actually what a tablet should be, and that’s its secret.

4. The iPad Is Its Own Killer App. This was one of the first misconceptions, based upon the initial introduction of the device. People who are disappointed in the iPad generally often are because they look at the iPad all by itself and assume that it’s the end-all be-all of itself. However, the iPad is just a platform, as close to a blank slate as Apple could make it. It’s simply a very cool blank slate, with incredible potential. But the real killer apps will be the literal killer apps, software made for the device. Apple gave an initial push with the iWork suite, which will attract many. But maybe the killer apps for some will be iBooks and Kindle; or maybe it’ll be Netflix and the ABC video apps, or perhaps NPR and the newsreader apps. I know a guy who will buy one mostly for the MLB app so he can watch baseball games. There will not be any single killer app; instead, all good apps for the device may be killer apps. The iPad is not about being impressive all by itself, it’s about delivering things in a new and impressive way. Just like the original Macintosh back in 1984 was great, it would have sucked had it been just MacWrite and MacPaint forever; it was great because it ushered in the age of the GUI, just like the iPad is ushering in the age of Multitouch.

5. The Closed Ecosystem Is a Bad Thing. This depends on who you are: if you’re a power user or tinkerer who likes to control everything on your computer, then yeah, the closed ecosystem is bad. These voices tend to get disproportionate play time on the Internet, as people like that tend to be the authors on the web, just as art critics who write most art reviews tend to be specialists with very specific tastes instead of everyday consumers. But most people don’t have the same high-end requirements, and for them, the closed ecosystem comes across very differently. Yes, there is the disadvantage of being locked in–but let’s face it, that happens to a certain degree with all computer devices. You buy a Windows PC, you’re locked in to the OS and the apps there as well, so in that sense, the iPad is little different. And yes, Apple can dictate terms and types of apps that get through–but again, this is something that affects the techie crowd more than the average consumers, who almost never notice how this affects them in an adverse way, and many benefit in other ways.

The advantages, however, outweigh the disadvantages. A protected system without the fear of viral infection. A dead-simple way to find any app in one central location. A huge variety of apps for very low prices. A common interface and style which makes the system easier to use. What it boils down to is that all systems have good points and bad points; the closed ecosystem of the iPhone OS simply has a different set than what most people are used to, but for the majority of people, it’s a better overall trade-off.

One thing which is not a misconception is that the device is a hit. In my office, for example, out of about a dozen people whose intentions I am aware, four have made a decision to buy the device at some point, more than a month before it gets released here. Nor is this due to my evangelizing; all came out of the blue. I expect more minds will be changed after the device is seen and handled. And that’s where the misconceptions, both good and bad, will clear up.

Categories: iPad Tags:

Fox News Recommends NPR over Fox News

April 27th, 2010 1 comment

And yet, the writer who did so seems to still have a job. This article on Fox’s web site recommends the “5 Best Apple iPad Apps,” which, interestingly, includes the NPR app but not the Fox News app. Although, if you read the review, it actually does still have a Fox spin to it: it lauds the NPR add for achieving the “impossible” task of “turning sometimes boring content into an addictive experience.” I guess that’s how the writer kept his job. As for the list itself, it’s pretty tame and limited for what it is; you get the feeling that the writer has downloaded maybe a few dozen apps and simply made a quick list of their own faves. I was going to say, “seriously, they could do better than this,” but then I remembered.

Categories: iPad Tags:

My iPad Is Purchased

April 21st, 2010 7 comments

After hearing that the iPad would be sold a month later in Japan than the U.S., I figured that it would not be worth it to ask anyone to buy one for me and ship it to me. Not only would it be a pain in the neck for them, but it would also cost a lot extra–about $45 to ship it with insurance, and who knows what customs would add to that. An extra three weeks wasn’t too long to wait.

But then Apple pushed back the international release by at least a month. I was then seriously tempted to ask family to buy and send one–they were willing–but fortunately other avenues became available. An official from my college’s home campus in Sheboygan, WI came to visit, and I thought that maybe I could have one ordered and delivered to him before he left.

That’s when I discovered how short supply really is. The online Apple Store listed a shipping delay of “5 to 7 business days,” and that did not include the actual time for shipping, meaning it could take up to two weeks; too late for this arrangement. There are two Apple stores in Milwaukee; neither had iPads in stock. You could have an iPad set aside, but only by coming in to the store. You could pay for one by credit card, but you would have to fax copies of your credit card. A family member of the college official, a former student of mine, volunteered to go to the store to get one. None of that worked out.

Two professors working at my school are going overseas and very kindly volunteered to buy one for me. One is going to Hawaii, and will be back by the end of April; her son also volunteered to pick one up while he was there. I called the Apple stores in Honolulu, and found that they too were out of stock–in fact, the person on the phone claimed that nationwide, units were not being offered for sale as “in stock,” but were instead all sold out via reservation. But Hawaii has a special case: tourists make reservations but then leave before they can pick them up, putting them up for grabs. So my colleague’s son was able to pick one up, along with an Apple case and a VGA adapter, just today.

So, in a little more than a week (a day before we move, in fact) I’ll have my mitts on one–as much as a month before they go on sale here.

I decided to go with the 16 GB unit, primarily because I have found various apps which allow for either audio/video streaming, or else wireless network access of files which, I understand, can sometimes be shared between apps. Apps which I am ready to install–I have already stocked up 42 iPad-only apps, several of them paid apps, and about 20 universal apps. I’ve built up a wish list of about 10 more paid apps which I’ll consider buying when I have the machine in hand. The App Shopper site does an excellent job of keeping track of all iPhone OS apps; you can view apps by platform, popularity, paid/free, or Updates/New/Price Change, or any combination of these. Want to know what iPad apps have recently been priced down or made free? The site is kept up-to-date and is very nicely laid out, which links to the iTunes Store for each app.

And yes, I know, I am too much in to this. Hey, it’s a hobby! (And with yesterday’s earnings report, a profitable one–Apple stock is up $15, or 6%, on Apple’s stellar performance–even before the iPad came out.)

Categories: iPad Tags:

iPad Visitors

April 17th, 2010 Comments off

Chitika Labs is claiming that Apple is already nearing the million-iPad mark. The Chikita numbers have always been on the high side, though–they claimed Apple had sold 560,000 at a time when Jobs reported the number to be 450,000, so the actual number as of now is probably closer to 750,000 units.

More interesting is Chikita’s breakdown of users: they’re not all iPhone owners. In fact, very few are. In fact, about half are Windows users. 63% are Mac users, showing some overlap. Only 8.5% have iPhones.

Curious, I checked my Google Analytics stats to see who was visiting and got a nice surprise: close to 8% of the hits the blog has received since the iPad’s release have come from iPads. Yes, iPad visitors may be more inclined to visit this blog, but then so are Mac users, and their numbers are about 2.5 ~ 3x more than market share; one could take that and apply it to the iPad numbers. Whatever the case, 8% of visitors using an iPad just two weeks after its release is pretty startling–I would not have guessed the numbers would be that high, so soon.

Screen Shot 2010-04-17 At 11.06.13 Am

Even more interesting: when I compare the stats from the past two weeks against those for the preceding 2 months (no iPad hits, natch), I find that the share of Mac OS visitors to be unchanged–same for Linux and iPhone users. The iPad took almost al of its share directly from the Windows cut of the pie. Just to be sure, I checked several earlier times as well, and the results were almost identical: before the iPad, 71% of visitors came from Windows, 22% from Macs, about 2.8% from Linux, and just over 2% from the iPhone. After the iPad, Windows visitors dropped to 64%, and other OS’s remained steady.

Again, this could be bias due to the readership of this blog–but how? Maybe my Windows-based visitors are more Mac-friendly? I dunno… but I would love to see stats from other sites and see what the iPad is doing there as well.

Postscript: Taking a more detailed look at the stats, there was a peak shortly after the iPad was released, which has waned in the past few days. It is possible that the iPad numbers were mostly people checking out the browser the first day they got the device. It’ll be interesting to come back in a few months and see how things level out.

Categories: iPad Tags:

Those Rat Bastards

April 15th, 2010 1 comment

Screen Shot 2010-04-15 At 1.00.44 AmApple is delaying the International release of the iPad by at least a whole month. This due to demand “far higher than we predicted.” Frankly, I don’t buy that for a second; they could not have thought sales would be so low that the difference would have made a dent in the world-wide release, for crying out loud. Whether we’re looking at a production snafu or parts shortage or what, I don’t know. But as for U.S. sales being so strong as to drain the worldwide supply–I wish. They should have known two weeks ago, when they announced that they sold 300,000 units on the first day.

Had they been up front about this possibility from the start I might have had my family ship one for me–they are available on the shelf this moment. Instead, I will either have to finagle a last-minute pickup from someone I know who is visiting the U.S., or else wait yet another month on this thing.

I know, I know, it’s a silly, petty thing. But when you look forward to something a lot and have been waiting “forever” already, it is very, very frustrating. Argh…

Ironically, the news sent Apple’s stock up so that my shares increased in value enough to buy one of the things. I am rather torn over how to feel about that.

Categories: iPad Tags:

Maybe It’s Because He’s a Fox News Reader

April 11th, 2010 8 comments

It’s funny seeing some of the comments about the iPad. When a Fox reviewer wrote that his iPad had more or less replaced his laptop for him, one commenter complained:

This is a ridiculous article. There is no way that thing can replace a notebook for serious use. It has no multi-tasking. It has no peripherals. I’ve never heard of being able to plug in an external monitor. I can use my Dell notebook to print to my Brother printer. I can use a real mouse and a real keyboard with it. I can plug in cameras, external drives, burners, etc.

It kind of shows up the problem many people have with understanding exactly what the iPad is. As this writer points out, this device is not for the 5% who are serious techies and want full control over a wide range of processes–it’s for the other 95% of people who use their computers for relatively simple stuff. Remember, that’s what netbooks were supposed to be for–people who just wanted to browse, do email, and maybe get some light office suite chores done. The iPad does a lot more than that, of course; a big addition is playing games, something that a lot of people also want to do on mobile devices.

The commenter was clueless in a few other ways as well. Partly he just wasn’t paying attention. He said there was no multitasking a day after the big news was that the iPad will soon have multitasking. He seems to be oblivious to the external monitor adaptor, or the adaptors that allow you to connect digital cameras (though ideally, these will not be necessary once wireless connectivity improves, hopefully via apps or OS upgrades). He’s also not in touch, or else he would know that there are apps for printer sharing, and that Bluetooth keyboards can be synced with the iPad. He also doesn’t get the fact that the iPad is a mobile device, and it’s not intended to always be hooked up to cables; just get the right apps and you can wirelessly connect to remote disks. Or stream documents, even video files incompatible with the iPad, directly to the iPad screen.

But what really shows up the fact that he doesn’t get the device is his complaint that it can’t use a mouse. That’s like complaining that there’s no clutch pedal on your automatic transmission. It’s a touchscreen device, a mouse is what it is designed to replace.

Mostly, this guy just doesn’t understand what a mobile device is supposed to be. He’s thinking of his laptop as something that needs to have five or six cables hanging off of it, which, sadly, a lot of laptops now have. But the whole idea of mobile devices is to have something you can carry around with you and not be encumbered by cables or peripherals. In that regard, the laptop is not used as a truly mobile device, but rather as a desktop computer that can be easily relocated.

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The iPad as Black Ship

April 11th, 2010 2 comments

Here’s an interesting article in Business Week about how Japanese publishers are apprehensive about Apple’s iPad, and how it might jeopardize their lock on the market. Currently, what amounts to a cartel sets and rigidly controls pricing of books, pricing which retailers are forbidden to vary from. And it profits the publishers very well: 700 out of every 1000 yen goes to the author & publisher, 70 yen going to the author and 630 to the publisher (natch). They do not want to give up their fat profits by letting competition get involved.

They saw what happened to the American music industry and, like most other industries which leech off of the creative energies and needs of others (i.e., “publishing”), fear that consumers will get a taste of what fairer pricing is like, and will demand more of the same. Kind of like every other industry since the music industry. Most publishing seems the same that way–more or less a solid front of publishers fixing prices to assure large profits.

Frankly, I think they worry too much. It’s not like their ranks will break, or that a smattering of independent authors will tear down their monolithic front. Japanese music labels forced Apple, after long delays, to accept both higher and tiered prices (songs go for $1.60 and $2.15, albums for as high as $21.50). Which was stupid, because Japan allows CD rentals, and most young people–who might otherwise pay for cheaper music–instead rip the rental CDs cheaply. I can’t imagine the publishing industry being any different. God forbid they should allow the customer to buy an e-book with the identical profit for the publisher, with printing and distribution costs waived–we can’t have that. Especially in an economy like we have right now.

Good thing the iPad is not just an ebook reader–it would fail in Japan if it were, if only because the greed of the publishing industry will make it difficult if not impossible to make ebooks thrive.

Categories: Focus on Japan 2010, iPad Tags:

Cracks in the iPad Facade

April 10th, 2010 2 comments

Some reports coming out about unhappy details concerning iPad behavior. One is Keynote: Apple apparently did a terrible job with compatibility. If you open a Keynote presentation–not PowerPoint, mind you, but a Keynote document–using Keynote on the iPad, it changes the document, destructively to some degree. It literally strips out presenter notes and custom slide masters, changes all the fonts to ones resident in its system, and reformats the slide to match iPad dimensions, changing the arrangement of objects. Send the document back to a Mac, and you’ll find that information simply gone–which seems stupid as Apple could have easily preserved it, if only as a version or layers of a document (iPad elements vs. Mac elements). These issues will likely be less severe with Pages and Numbers, as those documents rely less on monitor-specific layouts, but you will still probably lose any special fonts used.

Furthermore, despite what was implied by Jobs using his iPad projected on the big screen, the iPad you get will not be able to project everything on an external monitor. Keynote will show, as well as movies, but Safari will not, nor will the home screen. Apparently only apps outfitted with the right API will show up on an external monitor. So much for giving on-screen demos of the iPad.

Categories: iPad Tags:

iPhone OS 4: See? Multitasking.

April 9th, 2010 8 comments

A lot of people have pointed to the lack of multitasking on the iPad as a major reason they don’t like it. Frankly, now that multitasking has been announced, I don’t think most of those people will suddenly like the iPad. That complaint, along with “no Flash” and others, strike me all too often as justifications for a dislike based either on a knee-jerk aversion for Apple products, a lack of interest in the iPad for no discernible reason, or simply a desire for checklist-fulfilling feature sets without a real need for the features. While I think multitasking will be a very useful and cool feature, I really never saw it as a deal-breaker. It’s one of those things that you hear about and say, “yeah, that’s really important” without fully thinking through how things would work without it. Take Flash; how often would you really need it? On the iPhone, for instance, I never notice it’s even missing. If you’re hard-core into Flash gaming or depend heavily on Flash-based web sites, then OK. But I think the multitasking and Flash arguments are used mostly by people who really don’t need them.

That said… Multitasking! Apple’s implementation looks pretty danged good. Jobs said that Apple wouldn’t be the first with the feature, but they will be the best. Not having seen any other solutions, I can’t judge the accuracy of that, but having seen a demo video of the feature in action, I have to say it looks like Apple nailed it. It works pretty much invisibly–you open and close apps as normal. But instead of closing, they just go to the background; and app you opened previously can be called back by double-clicking the Home button, at which time the screen is shifted upward and an app switcher rolls in with a rubber-texture background. If there are more apps than can be displayed, you can scroll left or right.

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Wallpapers, by the way, are a missing feature Apple should have instituted long ago.

Memory and CPU issues are dealt with by not having 100% “true” multitasking–not all apps will be going full-power in the background. Many features will be allowed to continue unabated–audio streams, VoIP, Push and local notifications–and tasks in progress, like downloads or saves, will be allowed to complete. Otherwise, the app’s state will simply be stored in memory and will not run in any sense while it is in the “background.” Apps in multitasking mode can be “shut down” by calling up the app switcher and holding down on the app, which will acquire a “minus” badge and can then be closed.

Another cool feature, and one that many will clearly use, is the “folder” feature. Alas, it is not a file management tool which allows for cross-app document sharing (although photos and videos will now have that ability), but rather a way to consolidate icons which are otherwise crowding your screens. Drop one app’s icon into another, and both will combine into a “folder” icon, which acquires its own app-switcher-like rubber-backgrounded strip which will display all the apps within. If you have half a dozen unit-conversion apps, or several photo-related apps, or seven of your favorite games, but are tired of swiping through several screens to access some of them, just create folder icons which consolidate them. The folders are automatically named, but you can edit the name.


One more often-asked-for feature is a unified InBox in Mail. Got it. Nice. Now, Apple, how about giving is the frickin’ ability to frickin’ batch-mark frickin’ emails as frickin’ “read”? That feature was not mentioned, is likely not included, but is so maddeningly needed, so obviously needed, and so clearly easy to implement, it is frustrating as hell that Apple continues to ignore it. But for some reason, Apple always has to leave its various implementations of its Mail app woefully incomplete in some way or another. I hope I’m wrong and the batch-mark-as-read feature is there, but I don’t expect it to be.

Other features begin to dwindle in relevance. A Game Center. Whee. iBooks for iPhone. Whee. More Enterprise features. Great, but not for the average user. And then iAds. I guess I’ll have to see what this looks like, but I fear that it will only increase the frequency and number of ads you encounter, which as far as I am concerned, is not a great thing; hopefully, most developers will make the ads unobtrusive as possible (Jobs mentioned being interrupted every three minutes as somehow reasonable), or else offer alternate paid versions of the apps.

So as far as I am concerned, Multitasking and Folders are the big two developments. Wallpapers and iBooks for iPhone are nice additions. And Multitasking won’t play on my iPhone 3G, giving me impetus to upgrade–though I am still going to wait it out until SoftBank (or whomever) comes up with a deal where I can get the new iPhone for cheap or free with a new contract.

Categories: iPad, iPhone Tags:

iPhone OS 4 Preview: Sooner Than Expected

April 6th, 2010 3 comments

Apple is not waiting: they will give everyone a sneak peek at the iPhone / iPad OS 4.0 this coming Thursday, just 3 days away.


This is earlier than most people expected; I think many expected that Apple would wait until the WWDC in June, and then release the OS with the next iteration of the iPhone, which usually comes around August. For Apple to suddenly announce this out of the blue could be related to the iPad, but might also signal an early release of the next version of the iPhone. And what most people expect to be the major feature of the OS is multitasking.

Should be interesting.

Categories: iPad, iPhone Tags:

iPad Greed

April 3rd, 2010 7 comments

TIME Magazine is offering their periodical on the iPad for the low, low price of just $4.99 an issue! What a deal!

I am, of course, being ironic. Often sold at newsstands for $2.95 (though the cover price is $4.95), Time is selling first-year print subscriptions for $20 (not counting the free issues up front). In contrast, the iPad version will cost roughly $260 for the same one year. They’re not even trying to lure people in with a first-year, first-month, or even first-issue discount.

I’m guessing that they don’t think much of the discriminating skills of their readership. Seeing the prices many app makers are charging, I get even more an impression of opening-day greed similar to what we saw on the iPhone; many seem to think that just because the iPad is a hit, people will spend gobs of money on stuff they can get cheaper or free elsewhere. It’s pretty astonishing, when you think about it–charging 13 times more for the iPad edition than for a mailed subscription? Wow. Even with added content and nice moving doodads, that’s still astonishing. Two years of Time on the iPad would cost more than the iPad itself. People who are buying the iPad may be willing to spend more than they would on a netbook, but it is still pretty solidly in the discount category of computing devices–iPad owners will not be paying premium prices for much.

By the time I get my iPad here in Japan, I expect prices will already be dropping on a lot of stuff.

Categories: iPad Tags: