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The iPad is revolutionary but is it magical?

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By now, you would have heard of the iPad, if not seen or, if you’re lucky, touched one. Despite the media saturation, few know exactly what it does. Its release in May, amid the normal Apple hysteria, was shrouded in uncertainty – what was it? And what – exactly – does it do? And why do you need it? Months on, are you any closer to figuring out what it does?

At face value, the iPad is the first of an emerging trend – the computing tablet. As functional as a computer, albeit more portable, but acts as a hybrid smartphone-laptop – you can browse the web, email, watch videos, read books and play games. And it’s the perfect means to carry music, documents and files.

There’s no doubt the iPad is an impressive piece of technology, but is it a “truly revolutionary and magical product” as Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, promised?

What it does right

Yes, the iPad is an attractive device, but this has never been one of Apple’s weaknesses. The iPad follows the same futuristic, streamlined design of its iPhone and iMac siblings, from its filmy touch screen to its iced silver casing.

At 242x189mm, it is large enough to easily use, while small enough to comfortably carry. Yet at 700g, it is surprisingly heavy for its size – you wouldn’t want to be holding it in one hand for long periods of time. 

The visuals are on a whole different plane. Graphics are clear and crisp, benefiting from 178 degree viewing angle. This allows it to seen from any which way without distorting the image. The high-resolution display and LED-backlit screen also make it the perfect movie companion.

As with the iPhone, the iPad sports an auto-rotation axis (meaning the image corrects itself when the iPad moves) and touch technology. These, however, have been further developed and are noticeably more responsive.

The iPad carries a 1GHz A4 chip, which allows for speedy processing. The chip uses less energy than previous Apple products so there is significant improvement in its battery life (approximately 10 hours, depending on its use).

As for applications, a browse through iTunes proves the selection is extensive. The standard applications, such as email or Safari web browser, mean you can hold the internet in your hands (provided you find a Wi-Fi portal, that is) and the iPod section allows you to import and listen to music anywhere (though if you already have an iPod or iPhone, this function is arbitrary).

Movies are fairly easy to import, if downloaded in the MP4 format, and the viewing experience is sharp and engaging. The sound quality, however, isn’t up to par and only suits if you are watching in a quiet area. Train stations, for instance, are not ideal.

As an e-reader, the iPad is competent and easily spars with the Kindle. Whether you would actually read an entire book on a jarringly bright screen is a different argument altogether.

The iWork software, which features document, presentation and spreadsheet applications, is valuable in taking work with you everywhere. Unfortunately, these are not standard applications in the hardware and need to be purchased through iTunes.

Where it misses the mark

There are numerous small things, which are bound to frustrate. The inability to use two applications at once, for instance, will anger those who relish in multi-tasking.

And for a medium designed to sync with other technology, the iPad is lacking in media drive ports. No CD/DVD drive, for one. No camera another disappointing loss, given it’s the perfect size for video chat. No USB port – that’s just downright insane, considering how it’s meant to work in conjunction with your computer in sharing files.

The exclusion of these expected functions leaves one to wonder – is this an intentional Apple marketing gimmick? Will future rereleases introduce these features sparingly till the iPad has everything short of a hat?

Its closed computing system means the iPad is a clean slate until you load applications, available only through purchase. If you really want to make full use of your iPad, without breaking the bank, the only real option is to (illegally) download movies or e-books. Most of the consumer content has associated charges.

To be fair, there are free applications on iTunes – but if you want your media consumption to exceed watching trailers or having free trials of games, you are out of luck.

What this means is that the iPad experience is limited to what Apple provide – although, in saying that, a lot of other companies have jumped on board to offer applications, but still, mainly through the iTunes channel.

Conspiracy theories aside, given the above shortcomings, this computing platform trains the consumer to be just that – a lackey to the guiding hand of the Apple corporation.

The verdict

One surprising thing about the iPad is its price. For all its brilliance and shortcomings, it really is priced quite reasonably, compared with other devices on the market.

So is it worth it?

Well, it could prove a great addition to the workplace – but that’s all it is, an addition. Without a computer base to download and house files, the iPad is just a paperweight.

That being said, it could prove invaluable in certain fields. In sales, for example, it would be handy to key in purchases, update stock and check in with the office while on the road.

For most people, the iPad is more of a luxury item than a necessity. Sure, it means you can do more but, if you already own a laptop or smartphone, do you really need to?

Essentially, the iPad is to computing what a popcorn maker is to the average person – crucial if you own a movie theatre but a little futile if you have a microwave.

So, if you’re looking to work on your business rather than being stuck in it, book in for a complimentary business assessment today with Switzer Business Coaching

Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

Published on: Friday, July 16, 2010

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