Monday, April 12, 2010

Hugo Ortega gets his first iPad experience in Australia

I figured it would not be fair to get Australia’s first imported iPad (I know this as Customs worked hard to “define” it in their system today) and not post some thoughts about it. In keeping with that theme it would also not be fair for me to get too detailed on this initial post as I have used the iPad for a total of about 6hrs and that by no means makes me the consummate iPad expert! Truly though after almost a decade of talking Tablet in Australia it is fair to say my interpretation may be different to yours.

and Australia was changed forever

This morning as FedEX knocked on the door and delivered a single iPad to my doorstep I felt like it was the year 2001 all over again and Dr. Neil was at the door! (Read this post and you’ll understand). While on this occasion I had less to be blindly optimistic about, and more to be intellectually cautious about, there was still the palpable taste of geek excitement in the air. As I signed for the package and headed downstairs I couldn’t help but completely forget about the morning’s 200+ emails, the unanswered phone messages or the fact that I had a perfectly good cup of coffee only half drunk! There it was, a FedEX box in its full glory with only but a drawstring standing between me and an Apple iPad.

FedEX, iPad and me!

As my son gathered round with one of my staff we all couldn’t wait to see the item inside. As I pealed open the FedEX box and saw a shiny shrink-wrapped white box with classic Apple logo staring at me I knew I had only one task ahead of me, i.e. cut the nonsense and get the thing out!

Smaller than first imagined

At first I was surprised just how small the device was; I guess like all herculean sized marketing campaigns the reality is often very different. Like all great unboxings I grabbed the device, looked over the ports and buttons (of which it has been repeatedly noted there are some considerable absentees) I then headed for the power button! It turned on very rapidly and one of the initial joys, which have been common in Ultra-Mobile PC design this year, was the sheer silence these fanless devices omit. Not only is there no system fan for cooling there are no spinning components either, i.e. optical drive of traditional spinning hard disk are also gone. Regrettably to my expectation, and almost right on queue, the iPad gave me it’s first “command” reminding me who’s house I was about to move into. Lost in all its shinny glory I forgot for a second I was entering into an autocratic relationship and was about to leave a great portion of my autonomous existence behind. With nothing more than an image of a USB cable and arrow pointing to iTunes logo I knew I was entering the Kingdom-o-Jobs!


After automatially installing the iPad driver and updating iTunes to version (another reminder that I was working with a larger phone-styled device) I was finally into iPad heaven and ready to “get the experience”. My first idea was to get the iPad on the Wi-Fi network so after owning the iPhone (and being extremely happy with it) for some time I headed to the settings control panel and connected to the wireless network. I then jumped to Facebook,, Tegatech website and my Blog. I knew this smorgasbord of URLs was familiar to me and it might well help me judge the experience better. Apart from diverting to the version of their mobile site all the websites acted as expected and was so easy to navigate thanks to the capacitive touchscreen. The “pinch” gesture worked like a dream and rotating the iPad through portrait and landscape almost seemed to work at the speed of thought! I did however start to experience my first dilemma with the single-tasking processor at this stage. Being a power-power-power user in the PC space, and coming from a world where 8GB RAM and 40+ processes running in the background is what we call a “great start to the morning” I was definitely a little irritated with the websites needing a wake-up (literally a refresh) each and every time I toggled between URLs. I couldn’t care less as I was on “corporate internet time” (a world where Gigabytes of data are covered by the cash-cows I never dare look straight in the eyes) and I was using the Wi-Fi-only iPad; it did however cross my mind that for every frequently visited, but infrequently used, website I visit I would now be clocking up a lot more bytes of data, and potentially costs. I think Apple was clever releasing the Wi-Fi version of the iPad first as with this people will get the experience, but not the hefty internet bill that might come with the 3G version. Interesting!

single-tasking means mutli-reloading, each and everytime

After some surfing I opened up Mail (I consider Mail to be Apple’s answer to Microsoft's Outlook Express) and setup my Microsoft Exchange account. Again this was easy and in no time I was sending and receiving email (actually just after I got rid of "sent from iPad” signature! LOL!) I really did not appreciate the limited functionality that Mail brings (given I live and breathe Outlook 2010 18hrs per day) however I did appreciate the speed at which I was live and working. I then decided to venture into App Store and that’s when I hit a massive hurdle for Australians and perhaps many “smallish” markets, i.e. I was forced into Australia’s App Store (forgetting I'd synchronised using my AU iTunes account) and was limited to the amount of functions and features I could access. I quickly logged off and logged back in using my United States account and I began to “get the experience”. Regrettably this experience literally comes at a price and I quickly found myself spending nearly US$60 on apps, movies and a TV series. On the first day I was scared to log into iBook store as my wife might quickly ban the iPad from my hands!

While the richness of the iPad experience begins with the ultra-thin and ultra-sexy hardware, it easily ends with your wallet receiving “that empty feeling”. Recently I described the iPad as a clever portal to Apple’s most profitable (not in $$$ but in %%%) business revenue stream, i.e. their iTunes Store, iBook Store and App Store. While the math may not look as though the iPad is being built as a commodity item, where users will get handed these free in favour of locking them into contractual/monetary commitments like internet bundles and media bundles, I can suggest it's not far from the truth! Just ask avid readers of the New York Times i.e. if you’re a NYT reader and iPad user be prepared to “get the experience” at a price! I might soon call this the iPaid and not the iPad! (I should coin that...LOL)

wash your hands before, and after, each iPad visit!

In summary I love the hardware, but hate the fingerprints on the ultra-glossy screen, and the fact that the screen can’t be read in direct sunlight; ludicrous given just how wonderfully mobile the device is. I love the battery life but know that if rumours of multi-tasking support are true then I’ll basically halve the battery life I have experienced today; I also love the simplicity of the navigation experience, but regrettably hate that it’s “Apple’s way or no-way” when it comes to functions I can extract from th Operating System. I absolutely love the feel of the keyboard on the capacitive touchscreen, i.e. effortless and extremely accurate; regrettably the lack of handwritten input functionality will be a sad loss, especially on a device of this size and nature, surely a natural fit. There is no reason to go into lack of camera (would have been nice for a skype call), lack of SD card slot (for easy transfer for photos) and lack of support for Adobe Flash (blah, blah, blah).

Ultimately I’m in a dilemma and that is this, the iPad won’t replace my iPhone (so I’ll continue to take that with me everyday) but it also won’t replace my Tablet PC (as I also have multi-touch on my Tablet and the added benefit of handwritten input too). So as per Steve Job’s own admission, the iPad sits happily, and arguably, between an iPhone and a traditional notebook; my dilemma is I’m either on the phone constantly or on my notebook, and rarely anyplace else. I believe in a world of converging technologies and may discover that there will not be space for a fulltime third device in my life!? For now however I’ve downloaded (and paid for) a rental of Sandra Bullock’s “While You Were Sleeping” and am headed to bed with my wife and my iPad (and I’ll sneak my AMEX under my pillow in case I want to use the iPad after she falls asleep!!!

PS. If you're in Sydney (that narrowed down the audience) come to the monthly Sydney Mobile User Group where I'll be presenting the iPad and new TEGA Tablet.


Big Max said...

Dear Hugo,

I feel pitty for you, that you are the owner of an iPad, the device of non value add for people who already own a netbook.
Well, I have to admit that you should review the device for your readers but if one is able to read between the lines, one should keep hands off that device.
I wouldn't argue, if the iPad would cost 250 US$. It is good for kitchen and sofa use ........... if needed.

Kind Regards
Big Max

Hugo Ortega said...

Hi Big Max! You and I always understood each other mate! :)))


The Ranger said...

Morning Hugo,

I like that about you - you lay it out the good bad and ugly. I have been a PC user for ever and scummed to the iPhone 3 weeks ago and after sending it back in a week because the loud speaker stoped working, are a convert to the iPhone. However although you point out good points of the iPad (most of which are on the iPhone, except for the larger screen) I will at this stage stick with the PC based UMPC for sometime yet.

Thanks for your comment on the screen brightness - as you know always number one on my wish list, further more the no SD slot or USB again Apple's way of committing you to the "Darkside" joke - their side.

A PC guy highlighted another point - if you need to play with the registry on an apple forget it, just start again.

Keep up the good work Hugo, PS I think the iPad was a good diversion but if I was a gambling man (and I am not) I think you kid will be the first one at school with an iPad lol.


Hugo Ortega said...

@The Ranger! Great to hear from you mate. I'm glad my post worked it's magic and has helped people out there understand iPad better. I'll get more put up shortly. Registry, and many other bits will not be liked by us "geeks"! :-)

PS. My son has been "way cool" for a long time now. He's been taking UMPC to school for some time! Geek's son!

brettg said...

Hey Hugo, good review mate! I think you nailed it. As I'm typing this on an iPad, it will be a short comment. Just too slow and bloody frustrating to say more... BG out!

Hugo Ortega said...

@BG: Thanks mate. I think you and I understand this Tablet situation for what it is, i.e. a Tablet is designed to increase productivity and interaction flexibility, not restrict it like the iPad.

Speak soon.