I Get Asked, "How Do You Like That Thing?" A Lot

It happens almost every time. I will be sitting somewhere in public, like a waiting room, and I am reading it or I’m at a store and I get it out to look something up, make a note, check my calendar, create a reminder. And, inevitably someone will ask me, “Oh, how do you like that?” Or, “Is that the iPad thing? What does it do?”

This is a tough question to answer in some ways. How do I like it? I freaking love it. I love it as much as any hunk of glass, aluminum and silicon I have ever owned. I don’t love it more than my health or my kids or HER. But, I love it. It’s like when I bought my first iPod. I remember thinking, back in, like 2002 or 2003, when the iPod first came out, that it was a kind of stupid idea. First off, I still remember when digital sound files were huge (they’re still the same size, but the memory got cheaper) and sounded awful. So, even then, the idea that people would listen to mp3s all the time was pretty ridiculous to me. But, by the time the 3rd generation iPod arrived, the one with the touch wheel and four buttons under the screen, I was sold. The screen was still grayscale and I think I got the biggest one that held 20 gigabytes. But, when I started loading digitized songs on there (this was before the iTunes store, too) and I was able to carry hundreds of albums and thousands of songs, I started wondering how I ever lived without one. I have bought, since then, a 5th generation iPod and the 3rd generation iPod Touch. I love all of them. I love listening to music and have thousands of songs on my iPod. Literally. In my lifetime I have easily purchased over a thousand albums. I used to have to choose which CDs I wanted to carry with me, but no more.

In November of 2009, I lost all of my computing equipment. It was a real drag. The only last “computer” I had was my iPod Touch. Luckily, I also was able to keep my WiFi in the house. So, for months, waiting for a chance to replace my equipment, all I had to browse the internet, do email, and any other computing, was the Touch. And, it was okay. Not perfect, but okay. If only it was bigger…

In January 2010, Apple announced the iPad. I had been following the rumors of a tablet device by Apple for a couple years and when I finally saw what they had announced I knew it was what I wanted. People said, “It’s just a big iPod!” And, the crazy thing to me was that they tried to make that sound bad!!! The iPad is more than a big Touch. But, that’s not a bad way to look at it, for a start.

The iPad is a portable computer. What’s really awesome about it is that Apple has started getting rid of the desktop metaphor. I don’t care, really, about a file structure most of the time. I have a desktop computer if I need to go mess around with folders and directories and stuff. But, what I really think is so cool about the iPad is that it just works. It just does the things I want to do. See, I realized that about 75% of the time when I was using a computer I was reading things on the Internets. Another 20% of the time I was doing email or word processing. About 5% of the time was spent doing processor intensive things like photo manipulation, say, or video editing, or audio encoding and editing. That small percentage of time is pretty insignificant to be lugging around a laptop or tied to a desk just in case I want to do those things. So, I have a desktop iMac to do those tasks.

What does my iPad do? Why do I carry it all the time? One of my primary uses for it is to keep track of tasks and “to dos”. My job, currently, has an insane number of projects going at any given time. Right now I’m trying to get new ASB members elected, interview other potential appointees, get ready for our graduation commencement ceremony, Baccalaureate ceremony, cap and gown delivery, Class of the Year party, graduation practices, coordinating the Junior Honor Attendants, an end of year ASB banquet, and start looking toward next year and summer preparations (camp?). Also, I have a family life, too. I do NOT have the memory to remember all the things to do to make those events all happen. I can’t keep them in my head. So, my iPad has an awesome app called OmniFocus that I use to organize all of the various things we’re doing.

My iPad has a very good calendar app, too, that I can put every single appointment into. Since I got my iPad I have not missed a doctor or dentist appointment, no matter how far in advance I have scheduled them. In fact, I laugh when the dentist calls to remind me about my 6 month cleaning appointment. It’s a pointless call because my iPad reminds me already. I read blogs and Twitter and my Kindle and iBooks all on my iPad. I’m reading three books, two magazines and about 20 blogs plus mainstream and independent news sources. I sometimes listen to NPR on my iPad on weekends when I’m downstairs making breakfast.

I do my 99% of my email on my iPad. The only time I have to go to my desktop is on the off chance that I need to look up a really old email message. That’s about it. I do my Facebook and blogging on my iPad, too. When I have a lot of typing to do, like this blog, I will get my Bluetooth keyboard out and pair it up with the iPad. It works great.

I play games on my iPad. My favorite games have been the #sworcery game, Words With Friends, Crosswords, Infinity Blade, Battle for Wesnoth, Tower Defense, Tunnel Shoot, and many more. The great thing is that most games, and apps, for that matter, are less than $5 each. For .99 I can stand it if the game is not very good.

I can DJ with my iPad. I have been playing with the Djay app a lot lately because I want to do really inexpensive school dances. And, this app is going to allow me to do that. It’s crazy. I come into contact with a few professional DJs and they are, no doubt, way better than me, but this app puts me on the playing field with them. For a big dance, hands down, I want a good DJ there to rock the house. But, for a little dance in the gym, I think maybe I can spin those tunes for nothing. Okay, actually, the app was $20. At first, compared to 99 cents, that seems like an expensive app. But, have you bought Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Office? What about Final Cut Pro? $20 is nothing, then! I pay that for a new BluRay disc or to go see a movie with my girl. Twenty dollars is not a lot of money in the big picture. A full-featured DJ rig costs thousands!

I can learn Spanish, watch HBO, Netflix, Ted Talks, write a term paper and so much more. What does the iPad do? Almost anything you want to it to do. Almost.

Does it replace a laptop? For me, yes. I don’t want a MacBook except maybe to be able to edit video when I’m not home… but that would happen so infrequently that I… um, what? Oh, the iPad2 can edit video? Okay, forget it. I don’t want a MacBook anymore.

I think that the iPad is a brand new way to compute. I think it will change the way we relate to technology. I think it already is. It is not a toy, and, for me, not really a luxury. I guess the luxury is the way it allows me to do what I want to do when I want to do it. I can shop, pay bills, make notes, look up information and entertain myself anywhere. I think the coolest thing about the iPad is that pretty much anyone can use it. This is a computer for people that don’t like computers. The only real drawback to the iPad is that you do still have to hook it up via a cable to a desktop computer with iTunes, but I’m guessing that within 5 years you won’t have to do that anymore. My five year old son uses an iPod Touch with no problem. If you know someone that should be using a computer but is scared by them, introduce them to the iPad.

I also highly recommend that if you get an iPad that you should get one with cellular 3G service. You might not use a lot of data and might be able to get away with a discount plan, even. But, I think you need to be able to get email and Twitter and Internet wherever you are. The iPad really comes alive with an Internet connection. It’s very useful without one, but it’s awesome with Internet access.

Okay, so I am accused of being an Apple zealot. Maybe it’s true, but I grew up with Windows machines. My first computer of my own had Windows 3.1 on it, okay? I had Windows 95 and 98. Thankfully, in 2001 I got to buy first Mac and have never been happier. I love the iPod, iPad, and Mac because they are awesome, useful, and beautiful pieces of technology. They have geeky, engineered guts and the soul of an artist. I still use Windows machines. We have three of them in the house for the kids to use. Windows is okay, but, to me, Macs are so much better.

So, it should come as no surprise that I think the Xoom, Galaxy Tab and other tablets are pale shadows of the iPad. It’s not just the hardware, it’s the software, too. It’s the iOS operating system and the iTunes environment. It is so nice to be able to just download a new app and know it’s not going to screw up my iPad by installing itself all over the place and then being impossible to remove like so many awful Windows programs. The iOS has it’s flaws, too, but I have an Android phone and, basically, I hate it. Android is a janky operating system. Honestly, if you ask me, the people that refuse to by Apple and swear by Android? Those are the religious zealots.

Now, can you imagine me really giving this answer in the waiting room for the dentist? Yeah, me neither. That’s why, when they say, “How do you like your iPad?” I smile, and say, “Oh, I love it. It’s great.” And when they ask, “What does it do?” then I laugh and say, “Well, it does pretty much everything.”


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