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06/15/2010 My First Week with the iPad

I've had my iPad for a week now and I'm surprised and delighted in how I'm using this new device.  Its very different from most of the other devices and machines I've used. However, it's not perfect and from a marketing standpoint, the iAd isn't quite revolutionizing the space.

A Sharing Device

I had read reports of how having an iPad caused people to gather around it. I wasn't sure whether that was due to its newness or its functionality.  One of the biggest differences between an iPad and either a smart phone or a computer is that I've been sharing my actual use and experience with it with others. I find that I don't do this once in a while; I do this for almost half the time I use it.

I'm watching movies with my kids (via the great NetFlix app), or reading news media with my wife, or playing games together with my kids. I've never experienced a "two-person" computer before. With the desktop or laptop, you can look together for a while, but it usually lasts only a short while. Togetherness on an iPhone usually means a glance.

On the iPad, however, we're sitting down together to read, look at pictures, watch and play. From a game standpoint, it's like a good mini board or video game, with your fingers as the controllers. From a movie or pictures standpoint, the quality on the screen is so much better than I expected (and photos on the iPad from a news standpoint blow away everything else). 

I usually hate sharing a magazine or newspaper with someone else (while I'm reading it). But not the iPad. It seems natural to do so.

Close Encounters

Another thing I'm noticing about the iPad is the closeness I feel when I use it. There's a physical distance between you and the computer. There's no distance between you and your mobile phone.

I like the distance between the iPad and me. It's at arms length, a very natural distance for me. Like most other media I've grown up using. It feels very close and personal for a device, much more so than the iPhone. Maybe it's wrong to compare it to a phone, but it's hard not to.

Compared with a computer it feels vastly more personal, like wise compared with a TV. Watching a film feels almost private. I watched "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" with my son on the bed this week and we both felt luxurious. Yes, the screen was smaller, but I think we both saw this as almost a private screening, rather than a matinee.

Maybe the feeling of closeness has to do with the fact that I'm not stuck in my computer chair when I'm watching something, nor tied down to one room. It is a very mobile device.

The iAd

When you start calling things "The Jesus Tablet" you build up expectations. I had/have big expectations for the iAd, especially after reading about the vision for what the format might do for online advertising. The media has these expectations as well as they try to figure out how to make more money through online advertising.

From a format perspective, it has some great promise. Look at this page from the New York Times app. We're not talking about an ignorable web ad in odd shapes, cluttering up a page. This looks much more like a magazine ad, with a great visual as part of the reading experience. It makes you want to do something with the ad. So far this is a vast improvement on the web from a layout standpoint.

However, the actual functionality of most of the iPad ads I played with was very disappointing. These banners in the New York Times allowed me to see different watches, albeit with a cool transition. I don't think this is much of an immersive experience or one that provides me with valuable information or interaction. Other ads were worse, on a variety of other media apps (Wall St. Journal, Time) as they simply launched a Web browser. 

Actually, that is worse than current online advertising. At least there I can close a tab and go back to browsing, but on the iPad I have to quit out of Safari and then relaunch my previous app.

Oh, and I was hoping so much that this would be better. Unfortunately, I think a multitasking feature is going to make this worse. I would rather see rich media, immersive experiences without leaving my app. I hope this gets better.

First Week Conclusion

As a media consumption device, the iPad is something new, just like the iPhone before it. It clearly shows that we're moving into an era of mobile computing where mobile does not just mean a phone. When you start to think about cloud computing and SaaS models, the iPad starts to give a meaning and structure to various trends; we can start to see how this may play out.

I'm taking the iPad out on the road over the next few weeks. I hope it is fairly functional as a working device. Otherwise, its usefulness might be limited to home entertainment.


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