In June, having been given an iPad as a gift, ( which gets me off the hook for what I said here ), I decided to try an experiment. Put the laptop away, and see how well the iPad stands up as a replacement. I bought a keyboard, and a small pile of software packages. I tried, for as long as I could stand it, to give up my laptop and replace it with an iPad.
As you have probably already guessed, I did not like the experience. I am typing this report on a laptop, and the iPad is sitting right next to me, closed and turned off. A couple of friends who read my last post on this topic have been bugging me to post the followup, so here goes.
I like the iPad. I use mine all the time. There are a lot of great reasons to have one. It is the perfect travel companion: e-Reader, map, internet, videos, games. Amazing, don't leave home wihtout one. However, "replacing Michael Toy's laptop" is not one of the good reasons to own an iPad.
The experiment did not last very long, I quickly decided it wasn't going to work. For the record however, here are a few days of notes after trying to use the iPad, mostly as a tool to browse the internet and to write, here is the list of things which caused me run back to the comfort of my MacBook.
- You can't really type on the pretend keyboard.
- If you get the external keyboard, you are in a world of hurt. First of all, it isn't attached, which means you often have the iPad which you grabbed to look at a map and put down, but not the keyboard, which you didn't bother to pick up. Then you try and use the iPad without the keyboard and you discover that you can't type because even though you can't find the keyboard, the iPad knows it is out there and won't give the pretend keyboard. Apple does not make this experience easy, seamless or pleasant.
- Even with practice, it is clunky and hard to select a precise fragment of text with the touch screen.
- Often when reading web pages, you can't get the copy UI to appear at all, making it impossible, for example, to quote something wihtout re-typing it yourself.
- Said quoting is almost impossible, because you can't have a word processor open to type the quote into, while at the same time looking at a web page, since you can only see one app at a time.
- I like to be on AIM and Jabber, so people can interrupt me while I am doing other things, and I never found a good multi protocol chat client that made that experience work nearly as well as running iChat or Adium does on a Mac.
- I like to use client-side blog editing software for creating posts ( mars edit, for example ), and I never found one which was worth even a free download.
- If I try to use the DOM-magnifcent editors built into the web sites of blogging software, when I try to insert an image, I hit "Browse ..." and the web site can't find my photo album, because it is hidden from the web browser.
- There are bugs in Safari and there are times ( like trying to send a private message in Facebook ), when there is no way to cause the magic software keyboard to appear. This causes many web applications to be useless.
- The captcha on many web sites display as broken images, making impossible for me to verify that I am not a robot.
- When writing an e-mail, there is no easy way to refer to a second e-mail is to save the message as a draft, then go read the second e-mail, then come back and edit the first one again.
- Data is a problem. On your laptop you can organize your data any way you like, and you can easily take a piece of data from one program to the next. On your iPad, each program can only see its own data, so it is impossible without the help of some third agent, to share data between apps. Sometimes you get lucky. Images for example, can often be shared between apps if you can figure out how to get them into the Photo Album. Also you can sometimes use third party solutions, like Dropbox, if both the apps you are using allow it. All in all though, it is complicated, messy, broken and annoying.
I stopped pretty soon into the experiment. I knew I wasn't going to be a convert. If I had kept going, the list would have kept growing. The iPad is a weird device, doesn't replace a phone, doesn't replace a laptop. It is wonderful, but weird and un-neccessary.
I am seeing a trend of people figuring out crazy cool things to do where you have an iPad WITH a computer as a companion. If there is a future where people start "needing" iPads, my guess is, it will be in that direction.