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Issue 8.6


Apple's iPad

Issue: 8.6 (September/October 2010)
Author: Geoffrey A. Rabe
Article Description: No description available.
Article Length (in bytes): 7,105
Starting Page Number: 14
Article Number: 8603
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Full text of article...

With Apple selling 3 million of its game-changing new tablet computer, the iPad, in just 80 days, you have to call the device a roaring success. Even Time magazine underestimated how popular the device would be when it quoted analysts in its April 12 Steve Jobs/iPad cover story issue as estimating "that Apple could sell 300,000 to 400,000 iPads this weekend and 6 million this year -- more than the iPhone in its first year."

The iPad is similar to the iPhone in that it runs iOS (version 4 should be iPad compatible this fall) and the same custom-made 1GHz Apple A4 chip as in the new iPhone 4s. The iPad has a gorgeous, much bigger 9.7-inch (diagonal) touch-screen display, though it's lower resolution than the iPhone 4 (it's not a Retina Display). Like the iPhone, the iPad's screen can be rotated 90°, depending on the iApp. However, with the iPad's larger screen is more suited for reading book-length material, accidentally turning the device and causing the screen to rotate can make reading difficult, especially in bed, so iPad has an orientation-lock switch that will keep the iPad screen content from rotating.

The iPad comes in several configurations. It was initially released with a Wi-Fi only antenna, but later models include 3G cellular access as well. The 3G service is completely optional, with no contract required and pay-by-the-month data plans. In the United States, 3G service is exclusive to AT&T and is $15-$25 month, depending on the data plan (250MB or 2GB).

There are numerous Apple-made and third-party accessories for the iPad. As far as cases go, I felt that Apple's portfolio-style case ($39), though expensive, was the best as it allowed for multiple configurations: you can fold the front cover into a slot in the back which tilts the screen at an angle for typing, or prop it vertically or horizontally as a stand for watching video or using the iPad as a picture frame. As a touch-typist, and given the difficulty of typing on the virtual keyboard, I also purchased the Bluetooth keyboard (Apple, Inc., $69.00), making a perfect iPad bundle. But there are numerous accessories available and my recommendation is to go in to an Apple Store and try out the various stands and cases available for yourself.

So far I've only described the physical components of the iPad and associated accessories. But the iPad can run most of the 300,000+ iApps currently available in the App Store for the iPhone, including the three iWork apps (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote). Many apps have been reprogrammed for the iPad, making use of its larger screen. In addition, there is Apple's iBookstore, from which you can purchase thousands of ebooks. Note that iPad also supports many other ebook stores, such as Amazon's Kindle and Barnes and Noble's Nook, making the iPad the world's most flexible ereader. Unlike Kindle hardware, iPad has a backlit color screen, making it ideal for reading in dim light and for comic books (there are several comic book apps and stores for iPad), though iPad isn't as readable in bright sunlight.

One thing you may have heard other people asking -- perhaps even yourself -- is what do you need this 'iPad-thingy' for? It uses the same OS and runs the same programs as iPhone, but it just has a bigger screen. It doesn't even have a camera (it would make an ideal video chatting device). But that larger screen is key. For any of us with an iPhone, we know it's the perfect smartphone, with its ability to browse the web, check email, play games, and even download and listen to music or watch movies and TV shows. But those activities are often hampered by the iPhone's small screen. With the iPad, we get all the above in a much more accessible device. It can be used to carry around a photographic portfolio or presentation, and make use of wait-time at the dentist's office or oil-change shop to get real work done. A businessperson can make use of the time on an air-flight to study or work on that presentation. With remote access apps, such as LogMeIn, you can even control your home computer while on the go.

Given that REALbasic Developer is a programming magazine, it's probable that many of you are interested in developing applications for this new iOS platform. If so, there are SDKs (Software Development Kits) available on Apple's web site available for download (http://developer.apple.com/) and you can learn how to program for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. Other uses programmers will value include reading documentation (not only are ebooks cheaper than paper ones, but having a separate device is ideal as you can follow a tutorial on your iPad while working with your computer), great utility apps like scientific calculators and unit converters, for monitoring social sites like Twitter without cluttering up your work computer, digital cookbooks and nutrition trackers, and for general entertainment (streaming video from Netflix or Hulu, reading novels and comic books, etc.).

All in all, Apple has set the standard again with the smartest smartphone available (the iPhone 4 having just recently come out sporting new bells and whistles) and now with the world's best and most intuitive tablet computer. If you haven't tried one yet, at least get down to your nearest Apple Store and get your hands on one. You may just have to take one home with you!

End of article.