My first iPad experience

This morning I held the iPad for the first time. It was not the romantic moment I had hoped for. It felt heavier than I expected and a little smaller. But then I turned it on and after it flipped every which way, I found myself staring at SmartCompany.

It looked so slick! We filled the whole screen, the colours were bright – it looked like SmartCompany in glossy magazine format without the printing costs. In fact, it looked so great, my editor immediately queried why we would develop an iPad app. Suddenly the new phrase “iPad friendly” that I have been seeing around the traps made sense.

I soon forgot its weight. It was fun to watch the content turn up and down although it is more sensitive than the iPhone and made me feel quite seasick until I worked out how to get it steady. It is also very responsive to touch and being able to enlarge a section with your fingertips was again much quicker than the iPhone.

After flipping through other media sites to see what they are doing – not much – we began to look at some games. Armin Kroll from jTribe, who had brought in his iPad for us, has already developed a chess app. And one could instantly see the kids in the back seat playing chess quietly and cooperatively for hours instead of those awful, mindless things they play on their mobiles. Big plus for frustrated parents.

Adapting games and inventing new games that take advantage of the iPad is a no brainer. The other obvious use for the iPad is education for kids. Imagine taking a group of kindergarten kids and being able to show them a piano keyboard on a big wide screen and with a simple touch, play a G or a B.

We all know the annoying bits – no phone, hard to type on the keyboard, no camera, no USB – but none of that seemed to matter much. What did matter to us was no flash. Although most of our ads looked great, there were a few blank squares. We talked about how that is easy to overcome with advertisers supplying ads in different formats – and whether the use of flash for advertising might even be phased out by this game changer. But it was also obvious how advertisers are going to love this device. Being able to run screen-sized ads that people will find impossible to ignore and integrating aps, videos and other compelling tools inside the ads will be very appealing.

But then we had a host of questions:

Who will buy it in the business community? People in the business community spend a lot of time online on their computers and then catching up on their mobile devices. Are they really going to carry around something extra? Men don’t like to carry bags.

Will they pay for iPad apps? Will iPad apps be sold as one-off purchases? Or will you need to take out subscriptions?

Who will use it in the family? In our family for example everyone has their own laptop and their own iPhone. My teenage kids hunch over them, guarding their privacy. But the iPad isn’t private. You try pulling one of those things out on a train and you will have people peering over your shoulder the whole trip.

Amrin told us that he works in a shared space and they leave it out like a magazine for people to pick up from the coffee table. Gee. I couldn’t imagine leaving a device worth $600 around on a coffee table. A tattered old BRW yes. But not an iPad.

I also can’t imagine that each member of the family will have one. We might have one or two to share. But where do they sit? On the coffee table? The kitchen table or in the bedroom?

My time was up. My editor James Thomson grabbed the iPad.

Here are his views:

As Amanda says, the iPad is a typical Apple product – great to look at, great to use and very, very slick.

I was also thrilled to see how good SmarCompany’s website looks on the device, which means that we will have a strong presence on the device when it launches (whenever Apple decides it can send a few Down Under).

What I am struggling with a bit is the circumstances that the iPad will be used.

After my brief play the iPad felt more like an entertainment device – great for playing games, casually browsing the web or reading a book or magazine. I can see users sitting at home on the couch with their iPad, or using it on a plane or a train.

Bu I couldn’t help thinking that even in these circumstances, a laptop or notebook might well be a better option. Particularly for business users, the lack of a keyboard will make it very difficult to do any real work on the iPad.

Say you read an interesting story on the iPad and want to fire off a link and some comments to a colleague. Yes, you can use the on-screen keyboard, but that’s neither easy nor overly comfortable. Yes, you can plug in an external keyboard, but I’m not sure this will be terrifically practical either, particularly if you are sitting on a train or on a couch.

Of course, we’ll learn more about how the iPad is used when it comes out – and its uses will no doubt surprise us all. But for me, the practicality of the iPad remains a question.

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