Why I didn’t want an iPad, and why I think I want one now

Posted: April 12, 2010 in e-book, ebook, mobile devices, portable devices, technology
Tags: , ,

When I saw the iPad preview information, I was struck with a lot of the same impressions that others had: it’s a big iPod Touch. To a great extent, that’s still my opinion. However, several days ago I read a review that (somewhat) changed the way I think about the iPad.

David Pogue, writing in the New York Times, did a two-part review that looks at the iPad from both a techie perspective and an “everyone else” perspective. In his closing, Pogue wrote, “ . . . the iPad is not a laptop. It’s not nearly as good for creating stuff. On the other hand, it’s infinitely more convenient for consuming it — books, music, video, photos, Web, e-mail and so on.” Strangely enough, these few lines made the difference for me.

When I look at a product – computer, camera bag, kayak, whatever – I take a “be all that you can be” approach. I expect the item to have loads of functionality. In short, I expect it to be the be-all-end-all device. That’s unrealistic of course, but I still expect it! So whatever the device, I look at all potential uses to which I might put it, and then I evaluate it based on how well I think it will meet my expectations.

This was the test that the iPad failed when I initially considered it. In my mind the iPad was the PERFECT form factor for a true tablet PC. However, it lacked the one-two punch I consider essential for a tablet: a stylus and good handwriting recognition software. In spite of what Steve Jobs has to say, I can see the value of a stylus, and I wish the iPad had one. I have previously used Microsoft OneNote under Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. The handwriting recognition software was really very good for either print or cursive writing, and I saw a lot of possibilities there. Unfortunately, the PC itself was just too heavy. That’s why I thought the iPad would have been perfect, but alas, no stylus.

But David Pogue’s review made me rethink the iPad. Once I resigned myself to the fact that it’s not a great device for creating stuff, the idea became a lot more palatable. When I think of it as a device for consuming stuff, it makes a lot more sense. Since my first portable device, I’ve read a lot of e-books. The iPad should be fine for that. The browser and add-on apps should make it a good device for consuming lot of other content as well.

This seems to make all the difference to me. In trying to accept the iPad for what it is, I have (somewhat) rejected what I think it could be. And it truly looks like a great device for consuming content.

So . . . maybe I do need one after all.

  1. Librarienne says:

    I’ve also been going back and forth on whether I really want an iPad. For me it’s been more about the restrictions of the iPhone OS, which has it’s benefits, too.
    I find it really interesting that the stylus is so important to you. I’ve gone through a few smartphones without any stylus but I can see the appeal. Would the iPhone stylus options sold on Amazon work? I haven’t met anyone who has actually tried them. As for content creation — I think there are plenty of creation options, from music apps to paintbrush apps. (But why, oh why, is there no camera?) Were there other forms of content creation you had in mind?
    Thanks for the excellent post!

  2. surferblue says:

    Thanks for the comments. I’ve actually been asking myself why the stylus is such a sticking point. (I should clarify that my interest in a stylus is purely for writing – not as tool for launching or interacting with apps.)

    First, I’m used to having them, and I like them. My first and second handheld devices were Palm PDAs with styli and handwriting recognition software. My first smartphone (also a Palm) had a stylus, but no built-in handwriting recognition software, so I wound up buying a third-party app because I used it so often.

    Secondly, I think it’s just part of the way I like to work. I like putting pen to paper when I take notes. (The fact that I’m a lousy typist may play a part as well!) Even when I take notes on paper though, I usually type them up later for better searchabiility.

    The iPad is the perfect shape and size for taking notes, and a stylus would approximate that feel of pen and paper. Good handwriting recognition software would round it out nicely by converting my scrawls to nice, neat text that I could share easily. If that piece were there, I think I could almost forgo lugging a laptop to conferences.

    As for content creation, I’m interested in document-based things . . . meeting notes, blog posts, etc. I’m actually more interested in the iPad as a e-book/newspaper/magazine/blog reader. I really think I would use it most as a reading platform. It looks so much like tablet-PC devices I’ve seen though, that the stylus and software just seemed like logical additions.

    I haven’t tried an iPhone stylus, so I don’t have a good feel for how well it might work on an iPad. However, I finally got my hands on an iPad for the first time today, and I find myself wondering just how soon those 3G models will be out!

  3. Sara says:

    Ah, I see – the iPad would definitely be a nice writing tool if it had something like that. I’ve tried using handwriting apps like FastFinga and Use Your Handwriting on the iPhone, but getting any kind of text recognition meant sending the notes through Evernote. Felt like a clumsy system to me, although the apps and Evernote did their parts of the job fairly well.

  4. […] with the iPad Part 2: You Can’t Always Get What You Want In considering the iPad, one of my early concerns was the lack of a stylus and handwriting recognition software. I’ve used good versions of […]

  5. […] I finally convinced myself that I wanted an iPad, I vaguely expected that I would use it primarily as a larger form factor of my older, smaller […]

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