Vail Valley: iPad, therefore iAm |

Vail Valley: iPad, therefore iAm

Don Cohen
Vail, CO, Colorado

Last week, right after Apple started selling iPads, I received several e-mails from friends who, knowing me, expected that I would have one in hand. How true.

I bought my first computer in 1979, two years before IBM introduced the PC. In 1984 I walked into a Computerland store to see what the newly introduced Macintosh was all about. My first reaction was: why would anybody ever use a mouse? Remember now, prior to the Mac, we all used keyboard commands (and believed we were happy).

I hadn’t thought about that experience in years until I first started exploring the iPad. As I cradled the slim block of aluminum and glass I was waiting for a transformative moment when the heavens part and choirs of angels sing. It didn’t happen. But, over the next several days of really using the iPad and exploring all the corners of its abilities, my estimation and admiration of this device grew with each sliding whisk of my fingers.

Early reviews of the iPad are focusing on what it can and can’t do. However, the iPad is a definitional change in technology and it warrants a different perspective. This is a technology that needs to be felt, to be stroked and manipulated.

Settling in

The iPad takes a little getting used to. It’s easy to set-up and learn, but I found that it does take a little figuring out how you hold it (lots of ways) and manipulate the screens. One reviewer said that the technology “disappears” – a good description. With the iPad you’re focusing on content, not where the escape or page down key is. As you begin to move around in the various apps you start to sense how fluid and less inhibited your motions are in working with the iPad instead of a keyboard and a mouse.

Considering that you’re reading this as a newspaper column (either in print or on-line) let me tell you that, for me, the iPad experience is much closer to reading a physical page than an on-screen display. Why? Because it’s the physical experience of holding what you’re reading and using your fingers to “turn” pages.

Something a lot of early reviews don’t talk about is how one of the biggest leaps we’re about to make is in the way we read on-line material. Today, we’re used to using a browser to view the web. The newly-released Wall Street Journal app points the way to a different and far more satisfying future.

When launched, the app loads seven days of issues. Once updated, you don’t need to be on-line to read the paper – just like an iBook or Kindle. Navigation and access is massively superior to the Journal’s Web product, both in richness and speed.

I read an article that had an image gallery of 20 high-res photos embedded in the story. It was Life Magazine meets the Wall Street Journal. The ads were also embedded directly into the paper, meaning that I could choose to watch an ad with full video and, after viewing, return right to where I was in the paper and not have to find my way back. You’ll see more of this in-app advertising later this year with Apple’s iAd technology.

Replacing paper

I’ve subscribed to the Journal for 30 years and have had an electronic subscription since it was launched. While this Web site is one of the best on the net, it didn’t replace the physical paper. The iPad app will. Making that switch will still feel a bit insecure, like not getting your checks back from the bank each month, but that’s a transition I can now see myself easily making.

If you travel, even if you need a laptop for business, the iPad is the ultimate sitting-in-coach-tray-table device. Read, browse, write, watch movies, or listen to your music (on your noise canceling headphones). Last year I bought a little netbook for that very reason. It’s going to stay at home in a drawer now.

What the iPad does is extend the hunched, screen-staring stance that we have all assumed in front of our desktops and laptops. Now your news and entertainment moves to the kitchen counter, the living room couch and even the restaurant table (discretely, of course).

Finally, the iPad is a remarkably mature device, building on three years of proven iPhone technology. As a long-time Apple observer I wouldn’t expect any price drops (it’s already pretty well priced) nor changes in hardware for a year or so. What you can expect is some pretty exciting software-only upgrades (historically free) in the fall and probably thousands of mind-boggling apps.

So, one week into ownership, the choir of angels is now singing, literally, on one of my playlists on the iPad. I get it now, and it’s really swell.

Don Cohen is a Singletree resident and director of the Economic Council of Eagle County.

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