We’ll be putting out our first iPad app soon from Greenpeace International — a drop-dead gorgeous image slideshow featuring some of the great (even award-winning) photography that has been captured by our snappers. I’m really excited to see this go out: it’s a very simple concept, developed very quickly, but it takes advantage of the iPad’s simplicity as a multimedia viewing device, the elegance of its gesture system, and the really gorgeous way it can display full-screen images.
I’ve been playing around with the iPad for some time now, and it took me a while to appreciate it for what it is, rather than trying to get it to be what it’s not.
It’s not a PC. I don’t find it all that useful even for email or any typing-intensive work. As a touch-typist raised on a mechanical Underwood typewriter, I like that tactile response of a keyboard. I SLAM when I type. When the iPad came out, I looked at the big size of the keyboard and thought “Oh goody: no more iPhone thumbing! I can type!” But you can’t, really, with a touchscreen, unless you teach yourself to hover over the screen. No F-J key bumps for rest position feedback, no clack and compress when you tap. Not good enough.
And of course, it ain’t a phone. My iPhone has taken over as my camera and my music player and my current book largely on the merit of being with me all the time. The iPad isn’t pocketable, so it’s out of the running for anything that requires ubiquitous presence.
The iPad is a replacement for the book, the magazine, the TV: at all three of those functions, it excels. Vanity Fair? New Yorker? they’re actually cheaper to download for me than pay Amsterdam prices for the sliced-tree versions. I’m currently reading Cory Doctorow’s “For the Win” in the iBook reader, and it’s actually easier for me to read than a conventional book — type size adjustable, brightness scale. And the form factor is close enough that I can take the iPad pretty much anywhere I’d take a conventional magazine or book, whether it’s curled up on the couch of a Saturday, in a café over a foamy Cappucino, or, yes, the reading throne.
With an App called Air Video Server I’m able to watch any films I have on my Mac remotely, streamed in real time, to the iPad with a full control set. So if the kids are watching “Very Odd Parents” I’ve got my own personal screen to catch Jon Stewart on from my iTunes library.
So as a media consumption device, full points. And some of the experiments that Wired and a few other print publications are running with new ways to experience magazine content with a sound-and-vision capable device are really brilliant and promising greater things. Interactive infographics? Bring ‘em on!
It’s not entirely useless as an office tool. It’s great, of course, as a mobile news reader: at our morning updates at 10am in the Greenpeace office I’ve got a full RSS feed of Greenpeace mentions in the press at my fingertips. And it’s handy as an extra screen in meetings, keeping a reference document open on the iPad for reading while taking notes on the Mac. I can also extend the screen of my Mac onto the iPad with an app called Air Display, and that’s a nifty way to add a fifth space to your Spaces app or share a live digital photocopy of the document you’re looking at with a colleague.
But the future of the tablet, I’d suggest, is more along the lines of the Hithchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: it’s an interactive information and entertainment system, not a workhorse, and the units it elbows in on are not the PC or the phone, but the TV and the bookstore.
And, of course, it’s GREAT for looking at award-winning pictures from the front lines of environmental activism. Watch this space.