Yes, I did get an iPad

Long-time readers of this blog will know that I have an abiding interest in portable network devices, dating back to the MS-DOS based HP 100 with a packet wireless modem in the early 1990’s. Things like the Sharp Zaurus showed promise, but quickly disappointed as they failed to garner adequate market share to create a viable ecosystem. Recently I’ve been relying on mobile phones: iPhones in the USA, and a G1 Android in China and Europe. I’ve also untethered my MacBook Air by equipping it with a 3G USB modem, of which more anon.
This morning at 7am I lined up with the other faithful at the Apple store in Palo Alto, and around 9:05 I was clutching my 32GB iPad and tendering my long-suffering Visa card to the applauding (really!) Apple employee. And right now I’m composing this blog entry on the iPad using the WordPress app.
My first reaction is that Apple have got it pretty much dead right. Sure, there are some areas that could be improved, but in general it feels natural and harmonious. As Stephen Fry wrote in his review in Time, this is the kind of device that Douglas Adams would have approved of. Don’t Panic. The FOSS bigots have got this wrong: I don’t care that this is relatively closed, any more than I care that my DVD player is closed. It’s an easy to use information appliance.
How about the applications? iBook is sweet, though it’s no Kindle-killer – indeed the Kindle app for the iPad has most of the same usability features. The Netflix app is wonderful, and is going to change the way I watch movies. The ability to run existing iPhone apps is a nice bridge, but after a while I found myself going through and removing a large number of apps that iTunes had brought over for me. This isn’t a phone, and I don’t expect presence- and location-based apps will be very important. (However I was pleased to see that Skype just worked!)
So what about communications? You’ll note that I didn’t wait for the 3G version of the iPad. The key for me is that I want to be able to use this device anywhere in the world, especially in China. So I’ve taken my AT&T USB 3G modem, paired it with a portable WiFi hotspot from Cradlepoint, and I can use this to provide net access for any of my WiFi devices (and those of colleagues). When I get to China, I will substitute a China Mobile 3G modem, and my iPad and laptop(s) will be able to connect without fussing with SIM cards.
Best touch: the “rotation lock” switch. Most annoying: the fact that it’s almost impossible to get the iPad out of the rubbery (and rather ugly) Apple case.
UPDATE: In response to a couple of queries:

  • I’m currently on a 5120 MB/month plan from AT&T which costs me $60. The modem was effectively free after rebate. I don’t expect to use that much data, but we’ll see.
  • All the PDF files I’ve tried display just fine in portrait and landscape modes.There are several reasonably-priced PDF reader apps which claim to give a more iBook-like experience.
  • As for viewing AVI files, I haven’t tried – see this thread at MacRumors.