Monday, April 5, 2010

My Weekend with iPad

I'll be honest with you: I wasn't all that excited about getting an iPad in order to use it. I was mostly excited about developing for it. I bought the lowest-end 16Gb Wi-Fi and figured it would be permanently attached to my computer. For reasons I stated shortly after the iPad introduction, I saw this as a product targeted at other, less technically savvy individuals.

And I still think it's a great product for those people. I really do. I think with just a few changes, such as a keyboard dock with a USB port and built-in Time Machine, this could be the ultimate non-techie computer.

I also saw the very obvious role as a media consumption device. It's clearly targeting the Kindle and Nook, and it's going to do great in that role. The screen is not hard on your eyes, even though it's LED. The colors are beautiful and the viewing angle is nearly 180°. Combined with the 10 hour battery life (mine actually went a fair bit longer on the first charge), it's a great eBook reader as well. I love the idea of eBooks, but until the publishing industry gets a clue and stops trying to charge me $12.99 for fifty year old books I can pick up for a dollar or get from the library, I'm hesitant to actually buy any and will limit my iPad reading to news and all the lovely classic literature available on Project Gutenberg.

But I really didn't see myself falling in love with this product. I saw it as a great vacation computer; something that would be small and easy to pack that would let me check e-mail and surf the web while on vacation without being tempted to do work, and that was about it.

But, the exact thing that makes it a good vacation computer is key. Yesterday was Easter, and I promised my wife I wouldn't work this weekend. So, I actually unplugged and closed my computer and didn't use it at all. My iPhone is great for keeping in touch when I'm away from my computer, but typing any volume of e-mail on it sucks.

The iPad allowed me to do triage with my e-mail and read the news without going upstairs to my office. Now, I have a tendency, when I get in front of my computer, to start responding to work e-mails. I'll also sometimes pull open a project that I've been having problems with if I've thought of a possible solution, or hack out some notes about possible blog postings It's very easy for me to get sucked in to doing a few hours of work completely unintentionally.

But not with iPad. Some people are complaining about there being no Xcode on it. Screw that. I don't WANT Xcode on it. I think it's perfect as-is. This is something I can use to read before bed, without getting sucked into work. This is something I can play a game with the kids on, and not get sucked into doing work afterward. This is something I can use to check the news or weather without going up to my cave office and then getting sucked into work.

The iPad is not a way to do work, it's wax for my ears against the siren call of work.

Plus, it's really fun. It's silly how much I like it.



12 comments:

Paul Solt said...

It has been a pleasure to use and i agree that its a good vacation computer away from Xcode. I read the free sample of The Pacific in the car and time just flew by.

Ken Pespisa said...

Great point about Xcode. The thought of having a full MacOSX and Xcode on this device appealed to me at first, but I think it's just a knee-jerk, swiss-army-knife mentality that made that seem like a good idea. It doesn't need to do everything and it would fail if it tried.

warmi said...

It is a great device ... with a higher screen resolution it is just about perfect for web browsing.

Two things that I don't like though...

1. The iBook app needs more flexibility in terms of enabling/disabling touch based input.
Right now with my large hands I find myself constantly switching pages just by inadvertently touching edges of the screen while holding the device.
In other words, I want to be able to disable all input but the explicit page swipe gesture.

2. From a GLES developer point of view … they really dropped the ball with the GPU. It is essentially the same GPU as in the 3gs model which means we are dealing here with a 3gs-like model which is about 5 times slower in terms of fillrate performance than the 3gs itself.

Jeff LaMarche said...

Warmi:

I haven't had the issue with iBooks, I just think the pricing model sucks balls for everything other than new releases.

Your second comment is intriguing. I thought the GPU was different from the 3Gs, but haven't actually read the breakdown articles yet where they've taken the things apart.

But, in my very informal, very unscientific tests, I'm seeing some really good performance on OpenGL ES apps compiled to the iPad. Better than the 3Gs despite having a lot more pixels to push.

warmi said...

Well, of course I don't know for sure, but it appears to be the same GPU - the driver included with the device refers to an SGX 353 and the performance characteristics seem to be the same ( this only applies to fillrate performance since that’s the only part which is entirely GPU dependant).
Don’t get me wrong, there will be plenty of GLES apps which will run faster on the iPad simply because the CPU side got significantly faster and that alone will do wonders for vertex submission/GLES states management type of code but … pure alpha blending and 2d tests I have done over this weekend (essentially scaling my sprites and backgrounds to reflect the new screen resolution/ratios ) were not encouraging - every one of them ran significantly slower than the 3gs version of the same code.

In any case, I love the thing … I think this is the first non-laptop type of computer/net browsing device that I actually enjoy using.

David said...

Your experience is exactly what I am hoping for when I finally get an iPad (I live in Australia, and they haven't been released here yet).

I spend FAR too much time in front of my computer, and a very large proportion of that time is in reading (either emails, attached documents, blogs, or web pages); or in the evening, playing games.

If I can do all of the above on the couch rather than at the desk, I will be a very happy man.

Guyal said...

There are lots of things a swiss army knife doesn't do, either (try multitasking with it, while you're at it :)

I bought the iPad as an obvious extension to my iPhone game development work, and was surprised at how much fun I found the tablet to be, as a simple end user. Games, O'Reilly Safari and Gutenberg books, Wolfram Alpha.

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