gets an iPad; neat but not ready for business
Alan Zisman (c) 2010 First published in Business
June 8 - 14, 2010 issue #1076
High Tech Office column
The things I do for this column. I’m writing this two days after the
Canadian release of Apple’s iPad tablet computer. And just for you,
dear readers, I had to get one. I only did it for you. Really.
No, I didn’t line up at 5:30 a.m. that Friday. But the next day, I
bought one at local Apple dealer Simply Computing. So I’m writing this
based on only 36 hours of hands-on experience. Nevertheless, that’s
long enough for me to reach a few conclusions.
First, you won’t be making an iPad your only computer. You need access
to a Mac or Windows computer just to get files onto it. You can’t print
from it. And even though you can buy a copy of Apple’s Keynote
presentation software (for a very affordable $10) and get a gadget to
connect it to a standard projector, the iPad’s Keynote won’t project
your presentation. You can show it to a couple of people clustered
around the iPad screen or export it to an old-style laptop or desktop.
Similarly, Apple released a $10 version of its Pages word processor. It
can import and export files in business-standard Microsoft Word DOC
format. But it loses some of the formatting when it imports DOC files
and lacks features you may count on in a word processor. (I need word
count, for instance, to write this column.)
While there are a lot of limitations to what you can do with the iPad,
a lot of the criticism it’s received is irrelevant. Multitasking? The
only time I missed the ability to have a program running in the
background while I was doing something else was when a third-party
Internet radio app shut off when I opened another task. The iPod’s
built-in iPod app plays music in the background just fine, and
third-party apps have been promised multitasking in an upcoming system
Lack of support for Adobe’s Flash? So far, I haven’t missed it. I have
missed the ability to edit online through Google Documents, however.
Yes, the glossy screen starts showing fingerprints almost immediately,
at least if you view it at an angle. Viewed dead on, they’re not
visible. Typing on the virtual keyboard is much better than typing on
an iPhone or other small touchscreen device – especially in landscape
orientation where the virtual keyboard is almost full-sized.
I bought a Bluetooth keyboard to go with my iPad but haven’t taken it
out of the box – I’m typing this column right on the screen in the
Pages app – but I’ll have to export it to my laptop to count the words.
Apple’s App Store has played a big role in the success of the iPhone
and will, I suspect, make it hard for other companies to compete with
the iPad. But while most of the thousands of apps designed for the
iPhone will also run on the iPad, there’s a catch: on the iPad’s larger
screen they either appear in a small iPhone-sized window or
double-sized – full-screen, but fuzzy. A relatively small number of
apps have been released specifically for the iPad’s higher-resolution
screen. Those are the ones you want.
The iPad is fun to use – for web browsing, watching videos, reading
e-books, and more. I took it to a gig where I played piano, loaded with
PDFs of sheet music, replacing a fat folder full of paper music scores.
I couldn’t do that with a laptop or net book.
It’s probably going to be a winner. Just don’t expect to use it in the
same ways you’re using your current computer. If you want to save,
print or project standard word processor, spreadsheet or presentation
documents, you’ll find it an awkward replacement for your desktop,
laptop or net book. But if you get one, you’ll find yourself using it
in ways – and in places – where you wouldn’t take your current
Oops! I was mistaken,
as reader Stuart Bell pointed out. Apple's VGA Connector for the iPad
does indeed allow you to send a Keynote presentation to an external
projector, though it doesn't mirror everything that's showing on the
iPad's screen. Thanks for the correction, Stuart!