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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

To iPad or Not To iPad?

While technically the iPad isn't even available in my neck of the woods yet, that hasn't stopped enterprising Canucks who live near the border from ducking down across the line and bringing one home. Yesterday I got my first in-person glance at one during a meeting downtown, and was suitably impressed at the usability and form. But with the product soon to be more widely available, I have to consider whether I'll indulge in this product and give it the itManageCast "Seal of Approval" or pass it off as another techno-fad?

For the past while I've been coming closer and closer to jumping in and buying myself an e-book reader, but the problem I've had with the products breaks into one of two chief complaints:
a) too small
b) too limited in function

To me, the purpose of getting such a device is to lighten my briefcase, and have some side benefits of an administrative/remote access tool and ideally also include recreation/leisure capabilities.

Screen Size
Maybe it's just the age I'm getting to, but if I'm going to be spending any serious amount of time reading off an electronic platform, it needs to be bigger than a paperback. Especially since a lot of the material I plan to read is technical in nature, and will include diagrams, images, and colour. I want the ability to upload any PDF file or other document format I happen to get technical docs and white papers in, plus various e-book formats. This starts to really limit the field of currently available products. The 5-6" Sony readers are just too small for my uses. The format size on the Kindle DX would work (9.7" reading surface) and the current version supports PDFs natively.

The e-ink technology is amazing in various light conditions; I tried one of these last year at a trade show and was impressed by the ambient direct-light readability of the screen. But it's still only grey-scale, no colour.

Form Versus Function
Tablet PCs can do all of this, but they are WAY heavy; that footprint takes us out of the zone I'm comfortable holding & reading. What they do offer is the multiplicity of functions that I'm after.

So what am I looking for? I need a device that can be my reader and my notebook. If I'm going to move away from carrying paper I want to truly do that. I want a device that will replace my journal/notes and accommodate the copious notes I take in day, random and frequent updates to my calendar, various tech docs I want in my "hip pocket," Internet access, e-mail access, and the ability to create/read/edit simple documents on the go.

I don't think I'm alone in this, am I?

Additionally, if this same device can be used on occasion as a network console connection, all the better.

What's Left to Consider?

So I figure I'm looking at the iPad, but its got me a little jittery - it seems that it does nearly everything I want in the form-factor I want, but it's that "Apple lock-down" I'm not too certain about. Can I connect it to an external USB drive or an external monitor? How reliable and functional is the 802.11b/g/n connection? I've read reports that have noted issues. Not only that, but now the stories break that the 3G signal strength exceeds national standards in Israel. And how many other countries I wonder?

So what are the alternatives?
I recently came across a product about to be released by German manufacturers using a combo of Linux & Andriod for an O/S, and an Intel Atom processor. The product is dubbed the WePad, and it boasts a larger multi-touch display, although shorter battery life (6 hrs vs. the touted 10 of the iPad). WePad is worth looking at in my view, being a bit of an OpenSource bigot... WePad is due out in the market August 2010 in Europe, so I'll tell you what folks at Neophonie; send me a unit to work with for a week or so and I'll get my review out on what I think sounds like a viable alternative to the iPad.

Now I will commence holding my breath.

1 comment:

Jason J Kennedy said...

Follow up comment from the author - HP Slate is in the running now too... "the Slate will run $549 in its base configuration, which has a 8.9-inch 1024 x 600 capacitive multitouch display, a 1.6GHz Atom Z530 processor with UMA graphics and an accelerator for 1080p video playback (we're assuming it's a Broadcom Crystal HD chip), 32GB of flash storage and 1GB of non-upgradeable RAM. There's also a $599 version with 64GB of storage, and both models will have a five-hour battery, an SDHC slot, two camera, a USB port, a SIM card slot for the optional 3G modem, and a dock connector for power, audio, and HDMI out."