Rollup to iPad

Yes, everyone at the press event needed a shot of their own site on the iPad.

Until Friday, when the release date for the iPad (April 3) was finally announced, all of my iPad-related projects were hovering in Fantasyland. It was great. There would be a lunch, great ambitious plans would be made, and the meeting would end with a mutual chuckle and an acknowledgement that really, the project wouldn’t make any great leaps forward until we knew the ship date and had some idea of when we might get our hands on an actual iPad.

Now? Yeah. Things…have changed.

»•«

To answer an increasingly popular question: no, I don’t have an iPad. I’m up against a real deadline, too. On the morning of April 4, I leave for a whole week at the Conference On World Affairs. If I have an iPad in my hands, then it’ll be one hell of a great opportunity to test the iPad in a very tricky and critical environment.

I’ve yet to find a computer that works exceptionally well during a trade show or a conference. It’s a bit like selecting a piece of gear for a lunar expedition. Size, weight, power requirements, the parameters of what I need to get done during my time on the surface, and usability in a hostile environment all come into play.

A full notebook can serve any function I could possibly need. But I often leave my room at 8 AM and don’t return until after dinner; that’s a lot of stuff to be toting around all day. The battery only lasts a couple of hours, so I’ll need to bring the power brick and hope that I can find seats near outlets. And in many scenarios — like sitting on a panel — a big laptop isn’t exactly a discreet way to take or access notes.

A netbook? It’s tiny and light and has a four or five-hour battery, so we’re off to a good start. They keyboard is tiny and no fun to work with, though, and even a Hackintoshed one probably won’t run the sort of software I need. As for the iPhone, it lives at the intersection of casual nonchalance and emphatic power, but I certainly can’t write anything with it. And I’ve tried and failed to use it to host the various notes and cheat sheets I often rely on when I speak. It’s just too small.

So as a consumer, you can imagine how keen I am to test out an iPad in this kind of environment. A big screen on a slim device that runs a modern OS and exciting apps, which weighs a pound and a half and is an inch thick, with ten hours of battery life and a wireless keyboard that I can touch-type on? Gimmegimmegimme.

If it works. Which is still an unknown. Again I remind myself and the world that I have more experience with the iPad than almost anybody outside of Apple…which only means “I played with the work-in-progress for a half an hour at the media event in January.”

If I don’t board that plane with an iPad…I would surely be the saddest little boy in all of Puppetland. On one of my first panels of the Conference, I will be distracted by a familiar glow in the crowd. I will lean into my mic, interrupt whoever’s talking, and say “You, in the eleventh row…is that an iPad? Um, can I see it?”

Pathetic, I know. But that’s what’ll happen.

Let’s not even contemplate such a thing. The iPad will go on pre-order on Friday. If thousands of people with no particular mandate from an eager readership will have them on April 3, then so shall I. The worst-case scenario: I simply go to the Apple Store early that morning and look for a bleary-eyed person who looks as though they’re too exhausted to keep a firm grip on their iPad. See, kids? There’s a solution to every problem if you look hard enough, and tell your driver to keep the engine running.

»•«

In the meantime, I’m preparing for the iPad. I’ve already bought my first two hardware accessories: the Apple Wireless Keyboard and a Pogo Sketch stylus.

Apple's bluetooth Wireless Keyboard.

I liked this keyboard the moment it was released. I thought it was v.v.cool. My fellow Americans, I did feel lust in my heart and I wished to own it. But here’s the thing: the main selling point of the Apple Wireless Keyboard is that it’s small enough to travel with. Any computer I’d be traveling with would also, you know, have a keyboard built in.

So I didn’t dare live the dream. Ah, but in January it became something I needed. Nay, I was now practically obligated to buy it because it works with the iPad.

(But for good measure, I bought it with Amazon Associates credits instead of real money.)

I’ve had it set up with my iMac. It really is a lovely keyboard. Photocopy your notebook’s keyboard, scissor out just the bit with the keys, and there you have the Apple Wireless Keyboard. The keyboard deck itself is stupid-thin, but it’s all made out of aluminum so I think I can throw this into my laptop bag (or my Stylish iPad Envelope) with a certain fearless elán. I’m also pleased to find that it’s a handy alternative to my big Logitech diNovo keyboard when I’m podcasting. It frees up space on my desk for the microphone and a recreational beverage.

Sometimes my first instinct about a product misses the point. I think that’s what happened with the Pogo stylus, though I hope the official scorer will credit the company with an assist.

When it first came out, it was absurd. The whole point of the iPhone was that you didn’t need a stylus. Using a Pogo was like buying a 60″ HDTV and then projecting 8 mm movies onto the screen, or something. Its only possible selling point, as I saw it, was that it let you use your iPhone or iPod Touch in cold weather without taking off your gloves. Even there, you’d probably look at the original price tag ($25) and decide that cold fingertips would help to build character.

Things have changed since then. The price is $15 and there’s a new Stylus model that has a pocket clip, but that’s not the big deal. Now, there are a whole bunch of great drawing apps for the iPhone.

I bought the Stylus at an Apple store on Sunday, with no sense of urgency. I had time to kill, so I moved on to a restaurant in the mall and started fiddling with a drawing app while I waited for my burger. It arrived ten or fifteen minutes later. I’m not sure how long it was. I had become engrossed in sketching, and my food got a little cold before I finally dug in.

Autodesk's SketchBook...my fave drawing app.
A five-minute doodle. Look, I didn't say I was a GOOD artist...

Apps like Autodesk SketchBook (my favorite drawing app) are fun even when you’re just using your fingers. But it’s a different experience when you have a stylus in your hand. The business end is thinner than a fingertip, so it’s much easier to see what you’re drawing. Plus, I stopped painting with my fingers a long time ago. I think it ended right around the day I came home from school with yellow paint inside my nostrils and my Mom yelled at me. Drawing with a pen in my fingers feels more intuitive and natural.

I do have a simple complaint about the Pogo Stylus: you don’t get a little cap or something to protect the drawing end. C’mon, guys. Even an 89-cent Paper Mate ballpoint comes with a cap.

But I can’t even remember the last time I got so engrossed in a drawing that I lost track of the clock. It was another huge win for the iPhone in general. If there’s a single feature that elevates the iPhone from the rest of the pack, it’s the way that it urges and enables me to maximize the amount of time I spend thinking and doing and creating, each and every day. I’ve got ten minutes while I wait for a burger to arrive, three minutes at the post office while as a clerk explains the concept of a “forever stamp” to the unenlightened, six minutes waiting in the subway…it all adds up. I leave the house with my iPhone in my pocket, and I come home with new photos, new drawings, a few tiny things written, many pages of books read, and a better sense of the news of the day.

I accomplished (okay, “accomplished”) all of that in crumbs of time that otherwise would have gone to waste. I don’t get that sort of effect from other phones…least of all from Android devices. If there’s a signature advantage to iPhone’s apps, it’s that you’ll want to use them.

Android apps tend to stop short of being both productive and engrossing. Most Android apps come with a cost: an overall clunky user interface. How motivated am I to draw a picture of the parking lot outside my table? Not very. How much trouble am I willing to go through to do it? Not very much. With an Android drawing app, I’d sigh and end the activity the second or third time I drew a little bit too low on the screen and accidentally activated its Search menu. If it had been a Nexus One in my pocket on that Sunday, it might have occurred to me to draw something with a sketch app but I probably would have just used it for simple distraction: as a way to avoid thinking.

The iPhone can be just as effective as an Android phone as a catalyst for thought-avoidance, of course. That’s not how it usually works, though.

»•«

My iPad prep work continues apace. Right now, I’m trying to get my hands on a case or a cover. I’m also trying to line up as much iPad software as I possibly can. The iPad will be released on a Saturday and that’s significant because the CBS Saturday Early Show goes out on Saturday, y’see. Which means that there’s an excellent chance that on the morning of April 3, I’ll be on TV trying to contain my opinions to a smooth four or five minutes of live television. I’m hoping to have a bunch of apps on “my” iPad that won’t be on any of the others being shown off on TV that same morning.

I should mention that The Early Show’s studio is on the same plaza as the Fifth Avenue Apple Store (its big, signature glass cube is only twenty yards away) and my segments usually go out live at about 7:30 AM. It’ll be a total zoo out there. Every specimen of Our Kind Of People will be on full display, excited about getting their hands on the iPad. Needless to say, I can’t wait. I’ve never been at an Apple Store for a release. Usually I need to be up all night writing so I’ll have plenty of stuff online on That Special Day.

I’m 10% sure that I should wear my tuxedo, as though it’s the Oscars and we’re on the red carpet.

I’m also 10% sure that if my segment is at 7:30 and the store won’t allow people in to get their iPads until 9 and I have a working iPad in my hands, I’d probably better wear shoes that are comfortable for running…

37 thoughts on “Rollup to iPad”

  1. That’s right Andy. Rule #1 is Cardio. Also, don’t forget to double-tap while you are trying to get away from the Apple iPad Zombies…

  2. Strikes me that the subtitle to this post could be, “All of my excellent reasons my pals at Apple should see it in their hearts to get me an iPad a few days before the official launch. Ahem.”

    Not that I blame you. Live coverage on network TV the day of the launch seems like rock solid justification, to me.

    How about a secret phrase you could send out on Twitter to let those of us in the know that Precious has indeed arrived?

  3. Apple’s allowing people to pre-order on March 12 and pickup in the store using their reservation system. That’s really great news, because you won’t have to pack all that zombie-nullifying gear. Are you really planning on taking only a brand-new, hours old iPad on a trip with no other system? As much as I trust Apple to make quality products, I still think packing along a MacBook or something would be a good backup plan–especially if a last minute update or sync is needed. At least you wouldn’t have to lug the laptop around all day!

  4. @Richard – You’re right about some netbooks. I find that realistically, most netbooks will give me four to five hours. Which alas, is right at the margin. If I need a working computer at 4 PM, I need to be careful about how much I use my netbook or plan on plugging in somewhere for a top-up.

  5. @Paul – Oh, God no. I’m going to be out for a whole week and in situations like that I need scuba gear, not a snorkel. If the iPad can sustain me for 12 hours, though, that’ll still be a big deal!

  6. Andy,

    Any particular reason why you got the BT Apple keyboard instead of waiting for the iPad dock-keyboard, which of course also doubles as an iPad stand?

  7. It’s like drawing with a marker…the tip is a foamy sort of felt.

    I’m interested in the possibilities of drawing on an iPad. I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody created a pressure-sensitive pen for the iPad. It’d require a special bit of hardware that plugs into the iPad’s dock connector, and it would only work with the apps of the company that developed the pen, but a company like Autodesk could certainly see the commercial appeal of a $50 pen/app package.

  8. I wonder if there will be an iPad application that provide Wacom tablet “like” functionality with a PC/Mac. Beyond that I wonder if this will be ported to the iPad: http://www.papershow.com?

    You may also want to expand your tactical pants wardrobe to include these: http://bit.ly/9ADP8B .

    I assume you’re working on an “iPad Fully Loaded” book.

  9. Me I’ll be getting an iPad (although later than you :( since I’m in the UK) solely for the art application (s). I’ll be playing with http://mrdoob.com/lab/javascript/harmony/#sketchy (which I can’t WAIT to use on a touchscreen) and also with Brushes, Sketchpad, Art Studio, Layers, Inspire et al. Brushes is my tool of choice at the moment as it has the speed I need and the immediacy of interface. All others hide change colour or opacity behind two or three strokes whereas with Brushes it feels much quicker. It may not be, but it’s the interface I’ve clicked with the most.

    Also, a small plea in the hope that you Oh Celestial One can make it so. Can we have art tool shaped stylii? I’ve tried the Pogo and similar tools and they felt like trying to draw with a metal sausage. I want a stylus with thick and thin end dependant on how you hold it and maybe a notched area to to dry brushing. That said what I want at the moment is an iPad. Sigh, loooong wait til the end of April :(

  10. The burning question is whether to go 3g or to instead pair the iPad with your existing MiFi.

  11. Regarding a case/cover for the iPad, you might want to give this sleeve a look:
    http://www.skoobadesign.com/product/netbook-ipad-neo-sleeve-78/

    Available now. Although it’s just for the iPad, no provision for keyboard. (I have no affiliation with Skooba, just a fondness for minimalist neoprene cases.)

    And regarding stylii, I’m surprised you didn’t reference this: ;)
    http://www.engadget.com/2010/02/11/south-korean-iphone-users-turn-to-sausages-as-a-cold-weather-me/

  12. Well, Andy HAS a Mi-fi, at least. I don’t, so have to wait for the 3G. I have the stylus but haven’t used it much; will revive it for the iPad.

  13. Andy, you have one extra day on me to get your iPad all set up and ready for CWA – my flight for Boulder leaves the afternoon of Dia De La iPad. But I will do my best to get one that morning so I can flaunt, er, utilize it throughout the Conference. Best of luck!

  14. @Panamajack – Because the keyboard stand doesn’t fold flat. At least the ones I saw at the press event in January didn’t. My primary interest in an iPad keyboard is for travel, so that was a bit of a worry. I can throw the iPad and the Bluetooth keyboard in my bag without any fears. I’d be worried about breaking the keyboard stand.

  15. An outstanding article. I’ll be ordering my iPad this weekend as well — but I’m still anxious to hear what Andy will find out in those first few days. Andy, I am sure I’m not the only one hoping for “iPad Fully Loaded” as soon as possible.

  16. Andy…do you have confirmation that the Apple Bluetooth keyboard will work with the iPad? I’ve seen no actual confirmation of that, even though logic and all rational thought seems to indicate that it would be insane NOT to work. But I’m being really careful about the iPad, because I just don’t quite trust Apple to do the rational thing anymore.

    My two big questions before I pull the trigger: will the bluetooth keyboard work, and will I be able to load my own epub/mobi/other random format files into the iBook app. If I can load it up with non-DRM files that I already own, even if I have to convert them, that will make me far happier in my purchase.

  17. Andy you need to make a small edit. I noticed you meant to say the work say and instead typed day here:

    “Our Kind Of People will be on full display, excited about getting their hands on the iPad. Needless to day, I utterly can’t wait.”

    I have done it before myself and just happened to catch it. Otherwise great article, I am going to pick up my wireless keyboard and pogo stylus in advance too and have already started weeding through iPhone apps and saving gift card credits to buy some iBooks when the iPad first comes out. I think I am going to start with Daemon by Daniel Suarez on the iPad.

    I wrote an article on my blog responding to TechRepublic on the 10 reasons to pass on an iPad. I hope you will check it out and possibly offer some feedback for those of us IT people aspiring to be tech writers and podcasters. Love your work and keep it up.

    http://blog.macguy.info/2010/02/why-i-disagree-with-10-reasons-to-pass.html

  18. Have you made up a dummy iPad using the mockups online so you can work out the best way to position it and the keyboard in use. Some rumours put the UK price of the iPad as £500 which seems steep. But at £400 it’s a done deal. I just hope apple don’t try to rip us Brits off.

  19. “I can throw the iPad and the Bluetooth keyboard in my bag without any fears.”

    Andy, I have the 3-battery aluminum kb, not the new 2-battery version. I stepped on it (not on purpose) and it bent slightly. A folded post-it under one corner is needed to avoid wobble. Other than that it’s fine. If it can handle my tonnage, it should be fine in your travel bag.

  20. Fan-girl, me.

    I am anticipating this new gadget greatly. I’ve already emailed Otter Box to request they hurry up with their case for the iPad.

    I am toying with the idea of waiting (gasp) for the 3G model, I am hoping that the GPS apps will make that worthwhile. I don’t recall seeing any info on your blogs, tweets or Mac Break Weekly that would change my plan. I’d be happy for more speculation in that regard. To wait for 3G or not, what do you think?

    Also, I am one of the awful geeks that name the device (I know, it goes back to the early Macs being named after female fantasy characters, I just have to share). I think I’ll have to get out of the rhyming scheme… I have Ichabod & Maude, the iPods and the new iPad will join Simone, the iPhone. Sinbad the iPad? I don’t think so.

    Certifiable… now, I’ve admitted it to one of my favorite writers & his fans. Oh, dear.

  21. Andy, great article about the iPad. I’m planning on buying either a MacBook Pro 13″ or an iPad and the decision is very difficult (that’s one of the things about Apple: you want it all).
    I hope that you get lucky and can take the iPad with you so you can share your experience with us.

    @Paul: you need to make a minor edit. I noticed you meant to say the word word and instead typed work. ;-)

  22. @Andy: Personally, I think the Quirky Cloak has the best feature set for an iPad case; now they just need enough pre-orders to get it into production! http://www.quirky.com/products/30-Cloak

    @jancolors: I’m one of those geeks too. My 64GB iPad will be named Mimir (in Norse mythology, Mimir’s severed head provided Odin with occult wisdom and insight). Maybe Galahad for your iPad? Or is that still too corny?

  23. @Scott: Geek back atcha! xoxox

    Galahad, not bad!!!

    Mac Quadra G3 was named Galadriel. _The Complete Guide to Middle-Earth_ by Robert Foster… okay, have it open now (wow, haven’t looked through this in over 15 years! This paperback edition cost $2.75 new back in the 70s!) Since I am not pre-ordering, for now, I will have to time to comb through to find a good name! I’ll report back & tweet, etc.

    As for cases, I am torn between the solid protection of the Otter Box and the cool look of the Uncommon case, which I would design myself, since I am a graphic designer. http://www.getuncommon.com/products/

    I don’t work for any of these manufacturers, I have a local design/print business. Therefore, any recommendations I make are my own, not paid adverts. However, I could be persuaded! LOL

    @Ihnatko: Looking at the next post on pre-order day (2 posts ahead), I see PLENTY discussion & bandwidth dedicated to the 3G/GPS real or assisted, etc. I think you’ve confirmed what I hoped would be the case about maps & gps.

    I will pre-order your iPad book and get it on release day, for sure. Just like I did for your iPhone 3G book, too. I really hope to run into you one day & get your autograph on them!

  24. Durn ya all to heck, I just wanted a good ebook/web reader, I had no idea I also needed a keyboard and a pen!

    But since I’m a writer and artist, I guess my hand is forced anyway. Ah well.

  25. I am unable to possible until the particular ipad is out in the united kingdom, i’ve seen a few reviews online from Us all clients also it looks amazing. I’ve come across some incredible accessories ^ nearby also! ipad PWNS!

  26. Update: I’m not blown away with the Pogo pen, to be honest. It’s very small, the tip feels like it’ll fall off, because I have to press so hard on the iPad.
    But I saw a review of a pen named Dagi, and it has a transparent nip, so you can see where you’re drawing. I’ve ordered one on ebay. (Three actually, seems to be the smallest number I could find.)

Comments are closed.