Posted tagged ‘iPad’

Academic uses for the iPad?

July 13, 2010

As I disclosed a few weeks ago, I have become the proud owner of an Apple iPad. In fact, I have become the proud owner of the top of the range model, 3G and a hard disk the size of Nevada and goodness knows what. So what have I been using it for?

Two things stand out so far. By downloading the iPad version of Apple’s Keynote program (their version of Powerpoint), I have been able to use the iPad to run slide shows on projectors, thereby causing great curiosity and (I hope) envy amongst onlookers. Actually, it does this really neatly, and given the small size of the device compared with a laptop I find it is easy to use it at meetings away from the office where I am giving a presentation. Keynote reads your MS Powerpoint documents, so you can use files you have created on the MS Office platform.

Secondly, I have been using it to download and read books. As readers of this blog know, I am also the owner of the Amazon Kindle, and to my delight I was able to set up an Amazon Kindle app on the iPad and then download all my Kindle books purchased on to it. You can then use the iPad like a Kindle, though you can turn pages by touching the screen (which you cannot do on a Kindle). Apple also has its own iBooks app for the iPad, with its own bookstore, and this is slightly more user friendly still than the Kindle program; but the Apple store for now has a somewhat smaller selection of books than Amazon. Actually, I have found the iPad (and the Kindle before it) particularly useful for reading academic work, not least because I can load so many books at once and take them with me while travelling without all the bulk.

So will the iPad have a major impact on academics? Some think that, on the whole, it won’t. Professor Alex Golub of the University of Hawaii recently suggested that the iPad was smart and usable, but did not really have a USP for academics. There is no special academic task, he suggested, for which the iPad is an obvious help. In some ways, of course, we could say this about the computer. It has revolutionised the academy (and everything else), and everybody has one, but its key attributes and uses are not specifically connected with higher education. I suspect that the iPad (and any other competing device that is successfully launched) will in the not-too-distant future take the place of at least some computers, maybe even quite a lot of them. The iPad is, I believe, in its essence a device that allows you to search for information and process it, and to contain and offer up books and papers.

I would suggest that the iPad is coming your way.

The iPad experience

June 19, 2010

Yesterday I had some business in Belfast, and on the spur of the moment I visited the Apple store there to see whether they might have an iPad (and expecting they wouldn’t, given the run on the device). Amazingly they did, and here I am the proud owner of a WiFi/3G iPad, and this post is written on it.

It’s early days yet, but I am inclined to say that the hype is not wrong. The design, of course, is excellent, but it is also very intuitive to use, and extremely flexible. I would also have to say that, as an ebook reader, it is more user-friendly than the Kindle, and what you are reading has more of the ‘look and feel’ of a book.

One very positive experience has been the on-screen keyboard, which for me at least is usable in much the same way and at much the same speed as a ‘normal’ one. I suspect it may not be so good for those who do touch-typing. However, I also bought (and am here using) an add-on keyboard and charger, which works like any other Macintosh keyboard.

The downside? It’s slightly heavier than I had expected, though hardly so heavy as to be inconvenient. And as far as I can tell so far, the battery life is only so-so – it is running down much faster than the Kindle, though admittedly it has much more processing to do.

My verdict? This is not a ‘tablet computer’, and Apple were right to avoid a name that would have suggested that it is. It is something much better. Having used it now for a day, I am inclined to agree that these devices, and ones like them, are likely to be the computers of tomorrow. If I were you, I’d invest in one.

Apple, Google, Microsoft and all that – fighting the technology wars?

June 14, 2010

People sometimes like to see the development of technology not just in terms of what works best, or even what looks best, but also in terms of dramatic (and maybe romantic) struggles between various forces of good and evil. The received wisdom about computing, for example, has been that the more boring but commercially smart Microsoft defeated the more exciting and noble but commercially out-gunned Apple, establishing the dominance of Windows-driven PCs in the process. Steve Jobs was driven into exile in Elba (or maybe it was NeXT).

But hey, Jobs escaped and gathered his troops – or maybe I mean he created the iPod and then the iPhone – and before you could blink Apple had become a super-company defeating the purveyors of uniformity. And now with the iPad Apple may even be re-defining the concept of computing, and the whole idea of the PC (and with it its previously all-pervasive operating system) may be on its way out. Steve Jobs may be about to become the master of all he surveys.

Or hang on a minute, do I hear the distant sounds of battle, is Jobs heading towards his Waterloo? And who will be the winner there? Could it be Google with its Android operating system for mobile devices? Could it be that the Jobs restoration was only temporary, that history is about to repeat itself, and that the hardware-with-propietory-software model that Apple employes could lose out once again to the more flexible but also more boring model, this time offered by Google?

That, at any rate, is what some of the technology commentators are now beginning to suggest, as in this Newsweek article. Others agree that the battle is imminent, but may be less sure as to who is going to win it. For myself, I rather doubt the compelling force of the analysis. Apple’s position in the market now is very different from what it was in the late 1980s in personal computers. While Android-run devices may indeed be proliferating, their standing in public awareness does not match that of Apple. The iPod, the iPhone and now the iPad have re-defined not just technological preferences but a whole fashion sense. I doubt that this is going to go away. The power of design and fashion within consumer technology is much greater now than it was then, and Apple has mastered this more than any other company.

Apple may not have everything to itself – surely a good thing – but I don’t see it losing another technology war. At least not yet.

So here it is: the ‘iPad’

January 28, 2010

A week ago I commented on the technology event that, even without any actual details to hand, was already leaving people breathless with excitement: the expected announcement of an Apple ‘tablet’ device, i.e. a handheld computer with touch-screen capability. Back then the smart money was on it being called the ‘iTablet’ or ‘iSlate’. As I commented at the time, the rumours had to be correct in a general sense, because Apple had allowed the hype to build up to such an extent that they were otherwise in danger of creating such an anti-climax that the whole company could be affected.

And sure enough, on Wednesday (January 27) the new absolutely-must-have tablet was unveiled by Steve Jobs himself: the ‘iPad’. And I have to say that despite the fact that all I’ve seen so far is the company’s own publicity, including this rather neat video, I am absolutely dazzled myself. In many ways it appears to be a larger-than-life iPhone, with the same concept and the same touch-and-feel. Like the iPhone, it will have both WiFi and 3G connectivity, and indeed it will apparently be able to operate all those applications you’ve downloaded on the iPhone. It will of course do music, it will do emails and the internet, it will do games, it will do wordprocessing and spreadsheets, it has a calendar, it stores and displays your photoalbums – you may never have to leave that armchair ever again. But then, as we also anticipated, it will store and display e-books, and to facilitate this Apple is opening its own online bookshop, the iBookstore. This will probably be one of the headline grabbing features, as Apple is thereby taking on the Amazon Kindle directly – and ass against the Kindle, it has colour and a backlit display, so you can read it in the dark.

So how will this go down? Pretty well, I think. The computer magazines are giving it the thumbs-up. And look at the impact on the blogosphere. I’ve just checked: some five hours since the iPad was announced, if I publish this post right now, this second, it will be blog post number 1,062,816 on the iPad across the world. Think of it, the noise from the launch event has hardly subsided and already over a million people have blogged on it. I can only marvel at how late I am.

Apple is good at publicity and marketing, and it is predicting that this device will change our lives. Exaggeration? Maybe, but then again, the iPod and the iPhone changed music and mobile telephony, so maybe they are right here also. But in any case, Apple have been so extraordinarily good as suggesting to us all that they are the designers and operators of the modern world we live in, that some prophecies they now make are wholly self-fulfilling. At any rate, I’ll be able to judge that from the inside as it were. As soon as the iPad ships, one will be shipping to me. Not least because it is remarkably reasonably priced.