iPad: no replacement for desktop or laptop computers

photo 2Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been using my iPad almost exclusively. While it is a nice, useful device, it is no replacement for my desktop (or laptop, for that matter) computer running an un-encumbered operating system. It is hardly magical as well. In a previous post, I pointed out some of the good and bad things that I had found (and got corrected, rather rudely, about something that I didn’t know and was less than intuitive.) I’ve found a few more things since then. However, before I go on, let me just say that I still think iPad is a great device and I still don’t care much for Apple.

This past week, I’ve spent most of my time at a hospital. This particular hospital offers up free Wi-Fi for guests. The quality of the Wi-Fi and the Internet connection is superb. The iPad really showed just how bloody fast it is with Internet access. Pages-when they displayed-rendered quickly. But, however, therein lies part of the problem. Apple is very deceptive when it touts the Internet ‘in your hand’ because it is a lie. I know, this debate is over, but the lack of Flash, Silverlight and Java really, really hurts iPad. Many sites that I visit rely on one or more of these technologies and, without them, the experience suffers. Take, for example, the NASCAR Trackpass. I paid for a year subscription so I could follow along with the drivers that I like. With Trackpass, I can get the telemetry from the cars, get live, updated positions and more. Problem is, I cannot use Trackpass on the iPad because it is a Java applet. Other sites I goto only partially render because they are nearly all Flash. I just ‘your browser does not support…’ messages. But, since Steve Jobs has decried Flash is bad, my chances of getting the whole Internet ‘in my hands’ is dead. And that reminds me, if he is so hell bent on not using plug ins, why the hell do I need QuickTime to view the damned videos on Apple.com? Oh, one more thing, if I am supposed to have the ‘real’ Internet, why the hell do many sites think I’m on a cell phone and cannot use the ‘real’ site? Some sites refuse to send the device to the actual page, instead, they keep returning the mobile version. ZDNet is the worst about this (yet, on my Palm Pre, I can get them.) I’m sure that one or two fanboys will tell me how stupid I am for clinging to these antiquated technologies and point out the wisdom of Apple. I don’t care, it is still deceptive to say it is the whole Internet.

The inability to print directly from the device is frustrating, but there is an app for that. HP’s iPrint will print photos directly from the device and GoodReader will as well, though not to MY printer, of course. And lest we forget, the aforementioned Mr. Jobs says ‘it will come’.

The email application has one really annoying trait: it does not always fully download a message. Often, I have to scroll to the bottom of the message and tap a button to download the rest of the message. Usually, that results in a page that is broken. I don’t why this happens, but it is frustrating. Almost all of the messages from CNet act this way (as well as its sister site’s ZDNet email.) What’s weird is that the sites, when I click the link to read the message in Safari, render fine.

Ok, enough complaints. There are some really terrific things I found too.

Battery life is just amazing. I don’t know what they did, but the darn battery lasts an astounding 12 hours. Apple only admits to 10, but they get 12 out of it. Good job there.

Performance on this thing is also superb. Web pages render quickly, apps start right up (except for the Weather Channel app, but it is slow on my Pre as well) and never seem to skip a beat. Games, so far, have been smooth and video playback is outstanding. Even having it render my Windows 7 desktop was pretty quick. I could play-but don’t care to this way-Rollercoaster Tycoon remotely, on the iPad. It was a tad choppy, but fast enough to show most of the animations when I was not scrolling around my amusement park. Pretty impressive.

While it won’t replace my Kindle, the book reading experience is still pretty nice. iBooks is pretty smooth and the ability to adjust font size and control the screen brightness go a long way to making it useable as a book reader. The Amazon Kindle app, however, is much better. Neither, however, will replace the actual Kindle. I do find reading on the Kindle to be a more pleasant experience, but iPad comes close, so kudos to Apple for that.

The form factor, which I think is ideal, is a plus and negative at the same time. Sitting in a hospital room guest chair is pretty painful anyway, trying to find a position to hole this thing comfortably was nearly an exercise in futility. I blame the chairs more than the device, but iPads heft certainly did not help. However, a laptop would have been worse. Once I found a position, however, I would often forget about the heft or the sometimes awkward landscape mode that caused me to hit the home button at the wrong time.

The current newness of the product had some unintended consequences as well. Just about everyone who saw it asked ‘is that that new Apple thing?’ or ‘is that the iPad?’ Just about everyone who commented was at least aware of the iPad. Even doctors, who should have focused on the patient, were impressed by the device. I’ve rarely ever had someone get excited about a device that I was using. In the past, a few people knew what a Kindle was and most who saw my Zune HD thought it was a pretty new iPod (when I would say ‘Zune’, most did not know what Zune was. Sigh. I now just say it is a different type of iPod and leave it at that.)

I’m kind of anxious, now, to get the 4.0 iPhone OS upgrade. I’m hoping that the few irritants I found will be fixed. Even so, it still will not replace a ‘true’ computer, be it Mac or Windows or even Linux.

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