Evaluating the Apple iPad

Now, I’m quite sceptical when it come to Apple computers. Fans of Apple usually claim that they are easier to use than Windows PCs, and some people I know who’ve never even used one also repeat these same received truths (Kudos to the Apple marketing department!).

However, I’m not aware of any serious peer-reviewed research that provides evidence for these claims. My guess is that after 30+ years of maturing user interface design, that both platforms are about equal – with strengths and weaknesses in different areas.

But what about when the interaction is not all about clicking on windows with a mouse? Both Apple and Microsoft have invested heavily in ‘haptic’ or’ touch-screen interfaces in recent years, but as usual it looks like Apple has cornered the market with their first product – the iPad.

iPad – a good first try

I’ve been using an iPad for the best part of a week, and I have to admit, I’m impressed – but don’t buy it yet! Wait a few years till you see the 2nd or 3rd generation iPad, and consider what the competitors come up with. The iPad is a very good first attempt at a 21st century tablet computer, but it does have its faults:

The good

  • Very handy – small form factor means it can adapt your needs rather than the other way around
  • Powers up in a second – quite revolutionary for a computer
  • By far the best device for using maps and looking at photos
  • No impression of eye-strain from reading the screen
  • Long battery life

The bad

  • Surprisingly heavy and tiring to hold after a few minutes
  • Typing and editing text can be fiddly and even infuriating
  • Lack of multitasking can make some tasks quite inefficient
  • No flash support (but maybe that’s for the best if it encourages the take up of HTML5 for video)
  • Almost useless without an internet connection
  • Very expensive

What impresses me most in using the iPad is that you can easily imagine the game-changing potential for many people of a well thought-out tablet computer…they just don’t know it yet!