My iPad Impression: Not Impressed

I waited around until the middle of the afternoon today to wander into the Bridge Street Apple Store in Huntsville to check out the iPad.  I knew I wouldn’t have much time to look at it after the store opened, the store had pretty much cleared out of the geek contingent and was mostly full of curious teenagers by the time I came in.  Since there wasn’t that much of a crowd, I had a lot of time to play around with it without someone creepily leering over my shoulder.  Before making sure to get everyone else to it for their turn, I had roughly a half hour to play around with an iPad and try out all of the features I was curious about.

I decided to wait until I played with the thing to give it a fair shake.  The joke that it’s just a big iPod Touch seemed true enough to me, but I wanted to actually play around with the thing before really coming to any conclusions about it.  To be fair, what follows isn’t a review at all, it’s just an impression of the iPad.

That said, I have two confessions to make.  First, I fully disclose that I am a long standing Apple Fanboy.  Second, I don’t really like the iPad at all.

First off, it failed to really show me that it is capable of doing anything that better than what my iPod Touch already does.  It is noticeably a bit faster, and obviously has a nicer screen.  But those are the only two pluses it has going for it, and it doesn’t particularly use either to that much advantage.  Of course, with more real estate you are able to accommodate better UI features and spiffy OS effects.  However, neither did much in the way of really showing me anything revolutionary or new.

Also, it’s both disappointing and limiting that the iPad only utilizes a very slightly modified version of the iPhone OS.  While that is certainly a tested and loved OS for a mobile device, it doesn’t feel as if it is ideal for this type of device.  With it, you do not have the luxury of having a user accessible file system.  Files you send to the device are used only in the way that Apple or developers allow you to do so, you don’t have a documents folder that you can directly access and edit.  Additionally, that OS requires that you sync the iPad with a computer and iTunes.  Which effectively kills the idea that the iPad is a standalone device.  It also means that you’re limited to the increasingly problematic App Store when installing new programs.

One other big problem is that it particularly fails at moving over existing iPhone apps.  They look laughably pixelated when scaled up, and there seems to be no promise that they’ll be properly formatted in a larger scale as is the case with a vector based image.  With such an amazing and extensive library of existing apps, it’s a major disappointment that they are going to be apparently underutilized.

There is a lot that I do like about the device.  The on screen keyboard is actually really functional, I was surprised that I was able to type on it just as effectively as a physical keyboard.  I also really liked the iBooks app, which is very readable and has a lot of great functionality.  I’d still prefer a Kindle, but it was much better than I expected.  But what was also both great and frustrating was the quality of third party apps.  Stuff like MLB at Bat and other new and reworked apps look fantastic on the iPad.  The frustrating thing is that you get the feeling the app developers have just gotten lazy with the iPhone apps and have been holding back.  The extra real estate shouldn’t be the sole factor in letting the floodgates open with this type of quality.

But here’s the real problem that I have with the iPad, it’s a perfect embodiment of everything that’s wrong with the Apple of the past few years.  It’s a closed file system, it doesn’t support flash, and you’re simply forced to use it the way you’re told to use  it.  Apple makes the best OS on the market today in OS X, and it’s an operating system that’s open to modification and extensibility.

If I didn’t have an iPod Touch and a Macbook, this would be a piece of tech I would own today.  But its functionality is apparently purposefully limited by questionable calls made by the Apple software team.  The iPhone OS works great on the device it’s named after, but it shackles the iPad. Because of it, and because of the bizzare limitations that Apple imposes upon it because they seem to just know what’s best for you, it’s just not a worthwile device.

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