iPad: Why I should get one

iPadWedge2Okay, so my reasons for not wanting an iPad boil down to lack of active pen input and me being a steadfast pen enthusiast. Obviously, I’m in the extreme minority on that (in the rest of the world, not on this site), but I worked hard to carve that niche, so I’m not about to abandon it.

At the same time, I must grudgingly admit that Apple has delivered on several elements I’ve repeatedly called for in Tablet PCs over the years. I called for those things. I should step up and see if they actually work. Furthermore, I’ve defended and promoted many of the things in it that others will surely criticize. Here’s what I’m talking about.

Tailored interface: I’ve said again and again and again, you can’t just slap an interface overlay on top of a desktop-based OS and expect a good user experience. For Tablet PCs, adding tablet functionality to the standard version of Windows wasn’t enough. For the iPad, if the interface was simply that of the standard iPhone only bigger, I would have called FAIL. But they didn’t go that route. The interface is quite similar to the iPhone since they share many of the same control elements, but it’s certainly not identical. Can’t say it’s perfect, but it is tailored to the device.

Application support: Once upon a time, I called on Microsoft to bankroll Tablet Enhancements for Outlook, InkGestures, and TipX, which I collectively called the “Office Ink Enablers” because they greatly enhanced tablet functionality in Microsoft Office Outlook, Word and Excel, respectively. These add-ons made Microsoft Office work on Tablet PCs. Flash forward to today, and we see Apple made iWork work for their tablet. It’s not as magnanimous as rewarding others for making your product useable, but the outcome of making apps tablet-friendly is the same.

Likewise, I and others have argued that lack of tablet-specific applications have held back the Tablet PC form factor. Well, now we get to see if that holds true. We’ll likely see more iPad apps in the next five months than we’ve seen for the Tablet PC in the past five years. If that doesn’t launch the device into users’ hands, then I guess we were all just wrong.

iWork/Office for tablets: On a similar note, I should point out that I have repeatedly defended the use of productivity software in tablet computing. Perhaps most unusually, I’ve made the case that there’s a lot that can be done in Excel using the pen. I found that the eraser of a Wacom pen clears cells in a spreadsheet on a Penabled Tablet PC. I’ve entered data using ritePen. My use of Excel on a tablet is one of my core arguments that tablets can be productivity machines. Thus, from my established standpoint, Numbers on the iPad is a great idea.

The void between Macbook and iPhone: It’s the same void that lies between notebooks and smartphones which everyone is now scrambling to fill. Pretty much every argument for the use of UMPCs, MIDs, netbooks, and tablets applies here, and I’ve made my share. Defending the price point goes along with that.

iPadWedgeThe wedge: No, the iPad does not sport a wedge design as I recently promoted, but look at it in its case. Yeah, the case folds around into a wedge, allowing it to stand upright or lay on a desk at an angle. That’s half the reason I promoted the wedge design, and here it is, enabled by Apple’s own case.

I don’t know, people. Even though I see little utility in the iPad for me, certainly not enough to pull me away from a Tablet PC, I am strongly compelled to get one just to experience the realization of those tablet improvements.

I do have a side path to do that without actually owning one: my wife. She’s interested in trying it out, and I think it would work for her… except she wants pen input. She’s not a tableteer like me, but she loves putting pen to paper. She likes the look of everything in the iPad, but she assumed with all the book-like screens, note-taking would be done by pen and was disappointed to learn the truth (Yes, I married the right woman). Now she’s excited only to try it, not necessarily buy it. I can only hope Apple does something about that with next version.