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Eight Days On An iPad

Mark Rowan is president of Griffin Technology

Since it was announced in January, the mainstream and technical press have spent thousands of pages on how the iPad will (or won’t) change the way we consume media.

The futurecasting has been all over the map. The iPad will kill the book. The iPad will roll over the nook and the Kindle and force content providers to play a new kind of game. The iPad will allow short-distance levitation and clear up persistent skin conditions. All are very interesting insights. And all deal very little concerning on what the iPad actually would do.

An eight-day trip to Hong Kong was my chance to find out first hand. No laptop. Just an iPad. This is a chance to pioneer and to really push the limits of the promise. To find out how close the iPad comes to being the device that solves the tablet equation. So I spent the first week with my iPad engaging in multiple thought experiments and asking the kinds of questions any good skeptic would.

Here are some of the notes I kept.
En route:

> Accessories packed: Apple power supply; Airport Express (always handy to have a back-up plan if the WiFi is dodgy wherever I end up); a couple of new Griffin iPad products. Their combined weight is more than the iPad’s 1.5 pounds.

> Is it just me, or does it feel like my iPad case should have the words “Don’t Panic” scrawled across the front cover a la Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe?”

> Pleasantly surprised to find battery was at 56% after probably 4-5 hours of fairly processor-intensive gaming, music, typing, and surfing.

Hong Kong

> This morning after catching up on emails I did a 30-minute session of pocket yoga HD. Got the blood pumping and started stretching out after the 20+ hours on airplanes and hoofing it up and done Nathan road yesterday. Half hour session didn’t even dent the battery. I’ll never have to go to a hotel workout room again!

> Lack of multi-tasking a bit limiting, but the BeeJive app’s push notification let me run chat/jabber and respond to email as it came in.

> Not regretting choice to not pack Bluetooth keyboard. Typing on the iPad is much easier than anticipated; keyboard is as easy to use to use as most netbooks.

> How to deal with iPad’s lack of camera: I found Yusuke Sekikawa’s Camera-A /Camera-B apps which turn the iPhone into an external camera, using Bluetooth to stream the image to your iPad for capture. Feels a little odd to initiate photo capture on the iPad screen when it would be much more natural to click the iPhone screen. Photos are stored on the iPad so it makes it a little easier to access the photos than it would be to move them via email or syncing.

> I was able to access and view Google documents, view and edit Google spreadsheets but was unable to find a way to share them. I have to believe editing capability throughout the Apps suite is in the works; as corporate use of Google Docs and similar cloud computing platforms becomes more prevalent, the iPad will see much more service as a content-creation device.

> GMail works just fine, with a mobile interface that’s intuitive and looks great in landscape orientation.

> Had loaded up on music, games, books (with the iBook Reader) and movies before I left. I had lots of fun playing “Plants v Zombies”, “Flight Control HD” and building beats on Korg’s iElectribe. Tweetdeck HD and TwitPic worked well to share photos and tweets with my Twitter friends.

So is the iPad going to change how we consume, share and connect with content and each other? Absolutely. Cupertino’s focus on an unmatched user experience only makes it easier for more people to consume movies, TV shows, apps and more. And as I found on my trip, while the iPad does have some limitations, its size, its ease of use and computing power combine to create a near-ideal role as a communication/connectivity tool.

For companies like us who design and manufacture accessories, the key challenge will be to create an ecosystem of accessories that allows users to get the most out of their iPads without sinking it under the weight of clever ideas with limited use. Apple has invested millions of person-hours into building a device that makes content easier to consume than ever. We manufacturers owe it the same kind of consideration as we develop for it.

Griffin Technology Inc., is a manufacturer of CE accessories for home, mobile and personal technology. For more information go to