The Apple iPad: Lightning Strikes Cupertino Again
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the way it uses the iPad’s big, pretty screen to let you sort and explore your existing notes. I tend to be much better at collecting information in Evernote than I am at going back and evaluating it and deciding what to do about it. The iPad version makes that task so engaging that I’ll finally have an incentive to go back and weed out all those chicken recipes (I went vegetarian a while back) and figure out just why I thought it was so important to save that article about Peruvian folk music.
One work-related feature that’s conspicuously missing from the iPad is multitasking—the ability to open multiple programs at once, and have some running in the background while others are active on the screen. There are good reasons to hope that Apple will add this feature at some point in the future (and that future could come sooner than we think; Apple has scheduled a press event to talk about version 4.0 of the iPhone operating system, which is the system the iPad uses, for this Thursday). But after using the iPad for a few days, I have made a discovery. If your processor is fast enough, you don’t need multitasking. The A4 processor inside the iPad is so fast that you can close one app and open another in the same amount of time it would take you to switch from one active application into another. So I think this criticism will fade away over time.
As useful as the iPad is for productivity-oriented tasks, let’s be honest: people aren’t going to buy it just so they can use it at the office. I started my review with that stuff because I wanted to emphasize the machine’s bona fides as an office workhorse, for the benefit of anyone considering it as a laptop replacement. But where the iPad really shines is in applications that are more visual or interactive—namely, games, video, music, reading, and what I’ll call information grazing.
I don’t have space here to describe every cool entertainment application for the iPad—there are already thousands. Videos like iTunes movie or TV episode downloads or YouTube shorts obviously look great on the iPad. I’ve been enjoying the Netflix app, which allows Netflix subscribers to view the service’s “Watch Instantly” movies and TV episodes on demand. (One more validation of my decision to can my cable TV subscription.) The broadcast networks are busy converting their content from Flash format (which Apple’s mobile devices can’t show) to a format called H.264 (which they can), and I have no doubt that by this summer or fall almost every popular video source on the Web, such as Hulu or Boxee, will have iPad-friendly options.
In iPod mode, if you’re just listening to music, the iPad is overkill. Apple hasn’t gotten around to introducing the multimedia-enhanced albums that people were gossiping about last year, which would really make sense on the iPad. But for browsing other types of audio information, the iPad is a wonder. For now I’ll just mention the NPR iPad app, which is a full blown news site in addition to being an extremely useful guide to the network’s recent on-the-air coverage, and the iPad version of Pandora’s app, which supplements your favorite tunes with a ton of new background information about the artists.
The iPad is great for reading e-books. I haven’t decided yet whether it beats my Kindle at that task; I’m sure I’ll have plenty more to say about that in future articles. For now I will just observe that both the Kindle iPad app and Apple’s new iBook app work well and are very attractive. What’s even more exciting about the iPad is its potential to help book and magazine publishers rethink their genres. I downloaded an amazing app called “The Elements” that points toward what will be possible. It’s the digital companion to the coffee table book of the same name, by Theodore Gray, and it’s filled with stunning, interactive 360-degree images of samples of all of the elements, from hydrogen to Ununoctium. With a flick of your finger, you can set each image in the book spinning like a top. (You have to see it to understand.) If you want to dig deeper, you can access Wolfram Alpha’s scientific knowledge base about each element directly from the book. While there is as much novelty value here as true educational value, it makes the science fun, and isn’t that … Next Page »