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Kurt's iPad review: Absolutely, astonishingly game-changing!

Posted on: 04/05/2010

Reading the reviews on Thursday did not prepare me for the experience of actually holding and using an iPad. Having owned one now for 48 hours, I am convinced that the iPad (and the new generation of tablet computers for which it will be the flagship) is going to significantly change the way people both (A) think about computers and (B) consume media. It’s a game-changer.

I was already a fan of the iPhone. I’m embarrassed to admit that I resisted it for a more than year because I wanted the physical keyboard that I was used to on years’ worth of Palm devices, but I finally embraced the iPhone a year ago and it’s changed my life for the better: The device has been my phone, my camera, my MP3 player, my e-book reader, my camcorder, my game device, my alarm clock, my photo album, my diary…and my radio.

But at 9:05am Saturday morning the UPS driver arrived at our office with the package from Shenzhen. At 9:08am I was at the Starbucks in the Merchandise Mart unboxing it (and showing it off to the baristas; see photo below).

And by 10:00am my media-consumption habits had changed forever.

It turns out that holding a lightweight, ultrafast, gorgeous glass-and-aluminum device the size of a copy of Esquire in your hands is the perfect form factor for a plethora of uses: For reading books, it’s an order of magnitude better than Amazon’s Kindle device. With headphones, for watching videos it’s a more-compelling, more-immersive experience than watching a 60” TV set. For reading newspapers, it’s awe-inspiring.

For radio, however, I believe the jury’s still out. At launch, there were iPad-optimized apps available from four U.S. broadcasters/webcasters — Pandora, CBS (“Radio.com”), NPR, and AccuRadio (shown below):

What’s odd about it is that the iPad doesn’t, in 2010 anyway, allow for multitasking, so basically you’re looking at the radio as you watch it. NPR addresses the issue by having links to loads of news stories; Pandora offers a biography of the artist you’re listening to; CBS offers what kind of looks like a version of each station’s website; AccuRadio offers gorgeous cover-flow-like graphics. My point: There’s still room for creativity in this area.

In conclusion: If you’re a consumer, I’d urge you to buy one soon, but possibly wait for the version coming later this month with unlimited 3G Internet access available from AT&T for $30/month. (The current release, as you probably know, is WiFi-only, which is why I was at Starbucks and not the Original Pancake House.)

But if you work in the media industry, I’d urge you to get to an Apple store or a Best Buy at lunchtime today (if not sooner), pick one up, and spend the afternoon with it. See what the world of 2012 is going to be like — and start making plans today for your role in that future.

(Finally, here’s one insight that I haven’t seen published elsewhere: Once you’ve gotten accustomed to your iPad, it totally changes your perspective on your smartphone. It’s no longer the wonderful multifunction device you thought it was — it’s just a 1/6-size adjunct to your iPad, a tiny little feature-disabled pocket-sized version of the real thing. Convenient, to be sure, but totally secondary from now on.

(Oh, and here’s one more: When I saw people sitting on the el or at Starbucks with a big clunky laptop computer, complete with a mechanical keyboard, I had to laugh. Laptops looked as uncool as a vacuum-tube TV set. Five pounds? Keyboard? Ha!)


Because I’m convinced it’s such a game-changer, I’m going to make sure we cover the topic of the iPad thoroughly next Monday at the RAIN Summit West. We’ll have representatives from NPR, Pandora, CBS (hopefully; working on it), and AccuRadio present, and iPads for you to play with. Don’t miss it!

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  1. Good review, Kurt. But I don’t see any reason to buy the 3G version. I’ve got one of those Verizon Mifi 2200 devices. That gives me a wifi network anywhere there’s a Verizon signal, and it can be used on up to 5 devices at the same time. No need to be tethered to the inferior AT&T network. I’m sure there’s an iPad in my not to distant future. And just think…publishers don’t have to worry about running ads on the left hand page anymore!

    Barry J. O'Brien · Apr 5, 08:26 AM · #

  2. @Barry

    I used my iPad on AT&T 3G over the weekend by tethering it to my jailbroken iPhone via the Myfi app. Anyone with a data plan that shells out for a 3G iPad is wasting their money.

    Jim Kerr · Apr 5, 09:27 AM · #

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