Thursday, April 8, 2010

Say Hi to iPaddington Bear

The last time I felt this way was the night we adopted Black and Jack. It was time for bed, so Miles put them in their crate and off we went. You can play with them tomorrow, he promised. But even knowing that, even knowing that there would be thousands of tomorrows, I laid awake all night wanting to sneak away and take out my new puppies.

So it is tonight as well. Time for bed, Miles declared. Put your iPad on the charger. It'll be there tomorrow. Hey, someone has to be the grown-up around here.

And someone has to be the impetuous child. I waited till he was asleep, leaped out of bed, grabbed the iPad off the charger and raced up to my office where I shot the family photo of sorts found atop this post. (Missing: Our Mac Powerbook which is in the bedroom where I don't dare return to get it.)

Yes, that desktop Dell (where SteveFriess.Com resides) and that hard-wired phone (with a special amplifier to compensate for my hearing loss) still have important places in my gizmo universe. It's the once-mighty iPod Touch that's been all but replaced by my iPhone, which holds all the podcasts I could listen to in a month, and the G4 Mac which won't even charge up anymore. And, I swear, I only realized that Palm Pilot -- my first and only -- was even there after the image was shot, so untouched and ignored as it's been for years except to be dusted.

There in the middle is iPaddington Bear, the newest gossling in the bunch. OK, it's silly, but Harry iPodder I, II, III and IV were my iPods and I couldn't think of anything else. You're welcome to suggest.

Now, now. Relax. This is not going to be yet another sycophantic lovefest for the latest thing Apple's Steve Jobs pulled out of his butt. I don't do lovefests well. But I do have a new, incredibly compelling toy and it's the new toy that everyone's been talking about, so I obviously have to write about it.

First off, though, where'd it come from? My Twitter followers probably think I've been hating on the iPad for the past week or so but, actually, I've been hating on iPad Mania. There's a difference and I'll get back to that. But yes, I've been curious to have and to hold one, to see how it works, to compare and contrast with my other beloved Apple devices. I just wasn't going to stand in line for hours to get one knowing that they're kinda pricey and the upgraded versions with many obviously missing features would be along soon enough.

And then yesterday afternoon, this box arrived on my doorstep. I assumed it would be some of the publicity swag that routinely shows up, but it wasn't. Inside, I found a letter and a box wrapped in this:

Somehow I knew. Someone had sent me a new puppy. In fact, that someone was the man officially crowned the biggest tech geek and first iPad owner in Santa Barbara, Calif., in Sunday's newspaper:

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

That's Hunter Hillegas, owner of RateVegas.Com and the VegasMate iPhone and, now iPad, app. You may recall I rewrote all his hotel content for the app and we've been having on-going discussions of other apps we might work on together. So he bestowed this amazing gift upon me as both a thanks for a job-well-done on the past project as well as an incentive to move us forward on new ones. (Also, bravo to Rob Roberti of S.B. for Tweeting that image.)

So, what do I think so far? A lot of things. The tactile experience is wonderful. It's light and bright with all the soft curves and easy-to-navigate smooth glass we've expected since the iPhone and iPod Touch. I've tried a number of the applications that Hunter suggested and I think USA Today's is outstanding and well-organized...

...but the New York Times' Editor's Choice app has no way to Tweet and, if a story takes three screens, leaves you with an unseemly mass of white:

And if you thought online pop-ups are annoying, I had a Chase ad actually take over my screen uninvited. I couldn't get it to do it again, but I'm sure it won't be long.

I agree with most of what Vegas techie Paul Scott has to say in his overview, so go read his commentary. I don't really want to go through my views on the minutae when Paul covers it admirably. And the best, most amusing assessment came from the Las Vegas Weekly's Joe Brown. Tell me that this Justin Bowen image doesn't make you want to read his take:


Along with chuckles, Brown offered the most observant comment I've seen so far:

"The iPad is more for consuming media than creating it."

That's exactly how I'm feeling. Hunter noted that he wrote the letter he enclosed on his iPad using Pages, the Apple word processing software, and I considered trying to write my story today on it. But for as much typing as I do, I got tired of tapping on a sheet of ice. The flat keyboards we all use are ergonomically bad enough; not having actual buttons is hard on the digits after a while to say nothing of the long-tortured wrist.

More to the point, though, I so badly wanted to write this blog post on my iPad and found I couldn't. Why not? Well, for one thing... matter what I did, I could not get a cursor inside this box to do the writing. I was able to do so in the HTML window, but I'm just not proficient enough (at all, actually) to be able to write my own HTML while I'm writing. What's more, there was absolutely no way to upload images:

What you see there is that it doesn't let me "choose file."

This brings me back to the beginning. The Apple iPad is a very interesting device and it is smart for people like me and Hunter to spend time with it and imagine its evident and vast potential. But the list of things that it does NOT do are really significant: No camera, no Flash, no USB ports, no multi-tasking. (See NetworkWorld.Com's "10 Things I'd Like On iPad 2.0.")

These are not little things to be dismissed; in many cases they are deliberate omissions intended by Apple specifically to take advantage of its most loyal customers, those first-adapters who lined up last weekend to pay top dollar. They know how to put a stinking camera in the thing; they left it out so they could make it part of an upgrade and get the same people to buy another one. That's just cruel.

This is why I was snarking all last week, because the media was just embarrassing itself in the service of Steve Jobs even as he manipulated his own biggest fans. And I have two particularly offensive examples of where respected media outlets simply lost their frigging minds:

1. Charlie Rose on PBS. The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg and The New York Times' David Carr were on gushing a gullywasher. They seemed jarringly out of touch as when Mossberg said, "I know lots of people who live their lives 80 percent in wi-fi now, you know. At their work, their home, Starbucks, wherever they happen to hang out." I actually reacted out loud to the TV, "That's because you're a New York City egghead professional tech geek whose friends are probably the same."

But it was Rose's monologue to end the show went completely off the rails:

"What is remarkable for me is this -- 1.5 pounds, a remarkably clear and beautiful picture. And what you can see and what you can do. You can go to museums around the world. You can read books. You can play games. You can see newspapers and magazines. And all those applications which do things that we would not ever have imagined possible in a device that’s 1.5 pounds.

The thing you should do is investigate for yourself and see. If it adds to your life, it’s something that you might not have known you needed, but makes your own life more interesting, more satisfying, and gives you an exploration of the world that you could never imagine before."

WTF? You would think that Apple just invented and populated the entire Internet! The iPad is a new way of using a lot of content, but almost all of that content has already existed and been available for quite a while.

Never mind, by the way, this great irony:

Get it? You cannot watch Rose's shows on Rose's website on the iPad because it requires...Flash! Ouch. And that's a world I've already imagined before, Charlie!

2. Time. They sent a confessed suck-up Steve Fry, to their one-hour sit-down with Steve Jobs and he emerged with three lousy paragraphs for a five-page story? No Q-and-A on the Web? No -- dare I say it? -- podcast? Or padcast? Anything multimedia?

Think I'm too harsh? This leads up to those three lame paragraphs:

"I have met five British Prime Ministers, two American Presidents, Nelson Mandela, Michael Jackson and the Queen. My hour with Steve Jobs certainly made me more nervous than any of those encounters. I know what you are thinking, but it's the truth. I do believe Jobs to be a truly great figure, one of the small group of innovators who have changed the world. He exists somewhere between showman, perfectionist overseer, visionary, enthusiast and opportunist, and his insistence upon design, detail, finish, quality, ease of use and reliability are a huge part of Apple's success. Where Ive is quiet, modest and self-effacing, Jobs is confident, assured and open. For some, his personal magnetism is almost of a dangerous, Elmer Gantry kind. They call the charisma emanating from his keynote addresses 'Steve's reality-distortion field.'

When I get to see Jobs, he is wearing the famous black turtleneck sweater and blue Levi's 501 jeans without which I would have cried, 'Impostor!' Recent weight loss from his liver transplant has imparted a delicacy that reminds me, I can't think why, of the actor William Hurt. We meet in a conference room. On every spare shelf and ledge, at least a dozen iMacs are placed, each one playing a family slide show. Jobs leans back on his chair, feet up on the table, a welcoming grin on his face. My first question is a nervous babble that lasts five minutes. He listens with patient amusement and answers, 'Yes.' Or possibly, 'No.' I cannot remember what the question was. I had forgotten to turn on the recorder. I do so now, abashed."

Oh, I know what Fry babbled on. It went something like, "Oh, Mr. Jobs, I've been masturbating to your photo since my very first wet dream and I just think you're the greatest human EVER, even better than Jesus and Ghandi and Lincoln and please, please, please can I commit suicide right here and now and have my ashes placed near your parking space so I can be near the gum on the bottom of your shoe always, sir, please?" I totally get why Jobs didn't know whether to say yes or no.

As I said, the device has great potential. Apple has the cultural and technological cache to create the critical mass that's been needed to turn people on to tablets. Whereas I initially expected the iPad to feel like a giant iPod Touch, the opposite seems to be the case; after using the iPad, the iPhone feels midgety.

Finally, the Las Vegas Sun has been doing a lot of bragging about its iPad-capable website. Here's what it looks like:

Here's the thing. Below is what the R-J's website looks like on the same device:

Yeah, the R-J's site's still its usual mess, but that's not my point. My point is, would you know if I didn't tell you which one was deliberately prepped for the new device?

OK, time to get back into bed now. I'll regret this in the morning and Miles will dutifully tell me he told me so. But first, lest anyone believe I'm not enthusiastic even as I remain sober about iPaddington Bear, I leave you with this:


James said...

Nice! I'm kinda-sorta jealous you have an iPad but the work you did for VegasMate was great reading so you deserve it. I will console myself by imagining how you will drag tomorrow morning and Miles' raised eyebrow and "I told you so."

Brian Fey said...

I don't know why, but I predicted this would happen about 2-3 week ago. Hunter told me he got someone one for a gift, and I have no idea why, but I just knew it was you. Turns out I was right. Congrats, have fun with it. I'll be glad when my 3G one gets here, as my wife is a bit stingy with hers. :)

Anonymous said...

Couple little notes:

Steve - you may know this already but you can hook up any Bluetooth keyboard to the iPad and use that for typing longer pieces. They also make an all-in-one keyboard dock.

For posting to your blog, I believe there's at least one app, BlogPress (I haven't used it) that gives you another interface for posting. That might work better. Link:

As for the Sun, I was happy to see their videos played properly when I first visited. No Flash hiccups.

As for missing features, the game will likely change a bit today with the preview of iPhone OS 4.0. That said though, do you really want a camera? Please don't say for video chat - imagine actually doing that... The angle would be a shot up your nose. Not that great. I don't know about you but I've only used my Mac to video chat like three times over the many years I've had that option. It's a feature people think they want but from what I hear, very few actually use (the biggest exception may be parents away from kids / grandparents or perhaps soldiers out of country).

They may well include a camera in a future model but I doubt it was omitted to be 'cruel'. They had an aggressive price target to make at $500, about half of what people expected before introduction. Some stuff had to be cut no doubt.

Anyway, not my job to sell the thing but I encourage people to try it for themselves before saying they don't like it. Most people that try it seem to be at least more open to the idea after they do.

And yes, I heard that Charlie Rose love-fest and it was embarrassing. It was like a commercial for Apple.

Enjoy your iPad and thanks again for a job very well done.



Anon... Well, I'm not changing my blogging service after all this time. I know there are keyboards but i still can't envision working solely on this device given i usually have several documents and sites going at once as well as sometimes PDFs or images. And it seems to me that if i have to carry a keyboard, I'm only a stone from just having a laptop. Interesting thoughts though. I wish they had a laptop w a detachable screen that became a tablet. That would be cool, yeah?

Joey now in Cincy said...

This is what I love about this blog, that you don't write unless you have something new to say about something. And you seem to have an endless supply of little stories to tell, always done well. You should do this professionally. Oh wait...

Joey now in Cincy said...

This is what I love about this blog, that you don't write unless you have something new to say about something. And you seem to have an endless supply of little stories to tell, always done well. You should do this professionally. Oh wait...

Anonymous said...

Stephen Fry is a bit of a British living treasure of sorts, and has been in the Apple Fanwank thing since, well, he was the second guy to own a Mac in Britain.

He's not really a journalist so much as he is almost a sort of documentary-comedian, most anything he does now is sort of a slice of life/diary event with a good share of just in fun humour that usually isn't at anyone's expense. Most weeks he hosts a panel quiz show that's like a more factual version of Whose Line Is It, Anyway?, with meaningless, arbitrarily assigned points and "winner."

I'm not sure why Time Mag chose him of all people since he has a blog where he complains that other phones aren't good enough and openly admits that he won't tell you how many iPhones he keeps around because you'd laugh.

In short, paying Fry to write something about the iPad almost seems like an exercise in wasting money because he would naturally write about it, anyway.


atdnext said...

Congrats, Mr. Steve! That iPad you're holding looks mighty fine... But ultimately, it does seem like an enlarged iPod Touch. FYI, I had all the same problems when I tried blogging from my iPod Touch. Unless you're doing a quick diary with no pictures and a small handful of links, it's not worth spending hours to figure out how to blog an entire story on there.