I learned from experience not to buy the first version of an Apple product (my mistake was the Titanium Powerbook G4, which had several tiny, persistent problems that annoyed me during the life of the machine). But I’ve been an owner of the new version of the iPad for about a week now. It’s interesting because it seems supremely useful, and yet I’m not entirely sure what it’s for. A neighbor of mine who once worked in the computer industry (and who also just got one) said to me yesterday, “We used to call things like this technology in search of an application.”
Findings so far—
—I love reading the New York Times on it: for me, the tablet version is superior to both the unwieldy print version and the overly busy online version, from which I can be easily distracted. I find myself reading several entire articles each day now, instead of skimming the headlines and telling myself that I’ve read the news.
—Typing out e-mails on the touchscreen is fine enough, and since I do all my creative work by hand (at least in its first draft), I can see this easily replacing a laptop when I travel, which is nice. Though a couple of times in coffee shops, I’ve seen people open up bags from which they extract an earlier model of the iPad (without the nifty multipurpose cover), and a separate stand to put it on, and an external keyboard, and I’ve thought, “Someone should come up with a device that combines all of these things in one unit! Maybe Apple will do it—they’re good at that sort of thing.”
—Unfortunately, it looks like I’m still going to have to carry my DSi XL and PSP when I travel. Shouldn’t this be a really great gaming platform? I’ve downloaded a few things: the Shredder chess app is nice and has lots of features (and reminded me that I’m incredibly rusty with chess), and the Smart Go Kifu app is good enough, though I much prefer to play Go against people rather than computers. And there are a few conversions of Euro board games that I have yet to try. But this platform seems tailor-made for turn-based strategy RPGs, and I’d love to play something on it with the depth and length of a Fire Emblem or Ogre Battle game. (Though Battle for Wesnoth looks promising if rough around the edges, and I’ll have to give that a try, too.)
So the device seems like it has a lot of unfulfilled potential that’s waiting for a sufficiently imaginative person to unlock it (or for me to do the research to find the best apps). Still, it’s managed to surgically attach itself to my hand, even though at the moment it’s halfway between a clever toy and a useful tool.