iPad – do I really need one?
iPods, iPod touch, iPhones, iMacs, MacBooks and now for the latest member of the Apple family, the iPad; available in the UK since the end of May. So what is it? Is the iPad just a new gadget?
Apple already has the monopoly on most of the media world, newsrooms are filled with Macs and filmmakers busily edit on Apple software. The company has been around since 1977 and has since then, steadily grown bigger and bigger, establishing itself for its quality and facilities in design production in the media world.
In a nutshell, an iPad is a small computer screen (touch screen of course), a little smaller than an A4 sheet of paper, with even more applications than the iPhone and only 0.5 inches thin (that’s 13.4mm thin for those of you, who like me, only do metric system)! Technically it’s amazing and a step forward into what the technological future can bring us.
Xeni Jardin, a boingboing.net writer, has written that: ‘It strikes you when you first touch an iPad. The form just feels good, not too lightweight or heavy, nor too thin or thick. It’s sensual. It’s tactile.’ For him, the ‘Typography is crisp, images gem-like, and the speed brisk thanks to Apple’s A4 chip and solid state storage. As I browse early release iPad apps, web pages, and flip through the iBook store and books, the thought hits that this is a greater leap into a new user experience than the sum of its parts suggests.’ (source: http://www.boingboing.net/2010/03/31/a-first-look-at-ipad.html) Jardin does seem to respond to the form rather than the functions of the iPad, but he also mentions one major attraction: the iBook store.
The Apple Book Store is possibly Apple’s biggest pull for the iPad. An app that offers access to thousands of books at the touch of a button, thousands of books that can be carried around on your slim, lightweight, iPad. The ‘store’ houses 20,000 books in the UK, all of which are outside copyright, Apple have yet to finalise a deal with publishers that will allow them to house books that are still in copyright. However, when they do so, their book store will be formidable. The bookstore itself is set out like a library, complete with shelves and passage-ways. Once you have chosen and downloaded a book it will appear on your bookshelf and you can read it at your leisure; the pages will turn at the tap of a button. It is a booklovers dream.
However, like many of Apple’s products recently, the iPad has brought some controversy on itself due to the fact that only software previously approved by Apple can be used on it. Cory Doctorow, also a boingboing.net writer, has written strongly against the iPad for this reason, suggesting that, ‘The model of interaction with the iPad is to be a consumer. The way you improve your iPad isn’t to figure out how it works and make it better. The way you improve the iPad is to buy iApps.’
Doctorow goes so far as to argue that, ‘I think that the press has been all over the iPad because Apple puts on a good show, and because everyone in journalism-land is looking for a daddy figure who’ll promise them that their audience will go back to paying for their stuff. The reason people have stopped paying for a lot of “content” isn’t just that they can get it for free, though: it’s that they can get lots of competing stuff for free, too.’ ( source: http://www.boingboing.net/2010/04/02/why-i-wont-buy-an-ipad-and-think-you-shouldnt-either.html .
Response to the iPad.
On the 28th of May the iPad was launched in the UK; Apple has now already sold over two million world-wide. Clearly the consumer market loves it. In terms of looking at videos and photographs, the iPad is a lot faster than other laptops; it is also a lot more user friendly, it is far quicker and easier to expand and flick through images on an iPad than a normal laptop. When reading articles or books on the iPad, the user just needs to touch the screen and move their fingers apart in order to increase the size. And although the lighting of the iPad is arguably harder on the eyes than the Sony Reader or Amazon’s Kindle, it does have a brightness control setting to ensure comfort when reading books. The iPad also has scroll functions to skip through chapters and the pages turn very fast; an advantage over many e-books on the market.
However, when compared with other word processing capabilities, the iPad is not as efficient, virtual typing is difficult, especially with the added difficulty of holding the computer at an angle. It is more difficult to type on a touch sensitive keypad than on a standard keyboard, and for someone doing large amounts of typing it would be an utterly impractical piece of equipment. The touch keypad is designed for responding to emails, not for writing a novel! There is also no way to print a document directly from an iPad and it has no USB port: in order to keep in line with the Apple family, they were not put on the device. The iPad also doesn’t come with iWord; this must be separately purchased, and it has no camera, a function that many consumers would have liked to see built in.
Having said that, it has exceedingly good gaming capabilities, due to the high speed and the quality of the graphics and it is this function that rather sums up the iPad for me: it is a luxury, not a necessity. The iPad may use technology that, in the right circles, has been around for a while, but it is the first piece of technology to make this available to the average consumer, and this is very much what the iPad is: a consumer piece. It is an impressive design, with a large screen, and a thin, lightweight layout. It is designed for ease and comfort; it is as Jardin suggested ‘not too lightweight or heavy, nor too thin or thick’. It is an aesthetic wonder.
And for the screen indutsry?
Eva Riley, an Edinburgh-based film director has said that ‘I don’t think it will change my world. I’m fairly adverse to these new technologies and my wee Mac suits me just fine. It’s just another fancy gadget.’ And this is probably the situation for so many digital media experts. Those who are willing to embrace new forms of digital media will do so with this new gadget, and those that are not, will continue with the methods they know and trust. It is unlikely that the iPad is going to revolutionise the screen world as such, or even make many lives easier or faster. Like many things, we may yearn for it but in no way are we going to need it. It is simply a new gadget on the market. What it may change however, is the way we are going to start producing our stuff, taking the iPad into account as a new platform to reach our audience, much as we do with HD.
If we are the ones producing the content, then we are the ones who will determine whether or not the iPad really has a future. So the question is, will Doctorow be proved right or wrong when he says that ‘Gadgets come and gadgets go. The iPad you buy today will be e-waste in a year or two (less, if you decide not to pay to have the battery changed for you). The real issue isn’t the capabilities of the piece of plastic you unwrap today, but the technical and social infrastructure that accompanies it.’