Absolute Power


100 Hours with the iPad

This blog originally posted on the Low Power Engineering Community 4/08/10. 

My iPad arrived as promised last Saturday morning at 11:00am. Woohoo! And it’s been ON for probably 80 of the 100 hours between then and now. While my parents (now in their mid-80s) think I’m nuts, my kids are having a great time! Here are my top five initial impressions.

  1. It’s a more personal experience. I haven’t thought much before about how restricting it is to use a mouse and keyboard to interact with everything on a computer. My iPhone changed that somewhat, but on a device that small you lose more than you think by having to scroll around all the time. This thing is great for browsing the Internet, reading news and books, even watching a movie or listening to music, all from your favorite armchair or (I can’t wait for summer) lounging by the pool.
  2. It’s a more social experience. I brought my fresh-out-of-the-box iPad to a family gathering on Saturday and it was the center of attention. The optimal placement for one of these things is NOT on a desk or on a bookshelf, but on a coffee table or a dining room table, where people can see and interact from all sides – like the old PacMan table-top arcade game! Suddenly a laptop, with its lid blocking 180 degrees of the view, and keyboard accessible from only one direction, seems mighty restrictive. And it’s now clear why those meetings at work seem even more boring these last few years – staring at all of those grey laptop lids is pretty claustrophobic, even if the people behind them are actually paying attention.
  3. Size matters. Yeah, the iPad might be just a giant iPod Touch, but what’s wrong with that? In fact, applications like reading books and magazines, watching videos and movies, and browsing the Internet were compromises in the smart-phone form factor. Plus, everyone I’ve talked to over the age of 40 has said, “Whoa, I can actually see the screen!”
  4. Saved by the virtual keyboard. I don’t know what percentage of people these days are trained touch-typists, but I’m not. I can keep up with most people in typing English, and consider myself “above average to superior” when typing in a typical computer program. (Remember how fast you used to be able to type “begin” and “end”?) My biggest problem has been that I need to look at the keyboard while I’m typing. I never realized how much of a disadvantage this is. I’ve gotten used to typing things like this blog very quickly, and then looking up to see if it all came out right. Now, with a large virtual keyboard, suddenly I’m looking at the keyboard and the output at the same time!! Ha! Take that, Mavis Beacon!!! It’ll take some practice, but I’m thinking this is a great combination for people like me.
  5. More to come. One of the ways you know you’re onto something important is when you keep getting new ideas for extension, expansion, and innovation. After playing around with the iPad for a few days, I’ve put together a prototype sheet music library/displayer using pdf files, thought about kids no longer carrying around 30-pound backpacks, mused about the ultimate Internet-connected-digital-photo-frame app, and can even imagine an iPad (maybe connected to a TV or projector) along with four iPhones – as the ultimate gaming system! Watch out, Wii. Now’s a good time to start that iPod Touch wrist strap business…

On the downside: fingerprints. Ouch – this thing is a CSI field day! Along with those wrist straps, the “iScreenWipe” or “iGlove” or “iBottleOfHandSanitizer” would be a definite winner.

So how is all of this connected with our world of low-power engineering? What I haven’t complained about, or heard anyone else blog about since Saturday, is battery life. In fact, my iPad ran for more than 11 hours of movie watching, Internet surfing, multiplayer gaming, and app downloading on its first charge, and has been going strong ever since. Amazing. We’ll look at the numbers in a future blog.

The iPad has been a hit for everyone from ages 6 to 85 (I haven’t sampled outside that age range yet) – and I’ve already purchased a second one for the high end of that range. My parents saw our iPhone videos of our kids played on the iPad, and just had to have one. Grandkids’ videos and pictures – priceless!

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