Apple iPad_First Impressions

The Apple iPad was announced several weeks ago with much fanfare. It’s an interesting device that, to my mind, to be of value and interest to the market needs to be do of two things: offer all things to everybody and/or be a bridge between a computer and a more portable phone/MP3 device.

As the iPad hasn’t yet arrived in Australia I’ve been unable to handle let alone test one. And, frankly, I often prefer to wait for the first upgrade before I’d even consider buying most electronic devices. This strategy often allows for a range of improvements to the interface, elimination of bugs and compatibility issues with other devices (e.g. as is the case with a new software program not working with an even newer camera) and improvements to speed and capacity. So, rather than a critical review, this article is simply a first impression on the concept of the iPad.

I thing its wise before exploring what the iPad is by first understanding what it is not. It is not a phone nor is it a still camera, a video camera or a laptop computer. It is not a file-based nor software driven device in the sense that you cannot use it to processes images, either RAW or JPEG or, for that matter, write a letter in Word. Just to further clarify that point its important to understand that the iPad does not run software (e.g. Word, Powerpoint, Photoshop). It does, however, run apps: user-friendly applications that provide the viewer with a fun and intuitive interface with the content being viewed.

So what is the iPad? It’s a highly portable, content-based device designed for display. While I can’t yet comment on real-world battery performance or legibility under a range of lighting conditions the device clearly provides a great option for reading eBooks on the go. And, while the iPad cannot store, process or display RAW files it does allow you to display JPEG’s. The obvious conclusion is that the iPad may well prove to be a great tool by which the photographer can present portfolios of their work. Imagine the device being handed around a boardroom table in much the same way that a book or traditional portfolio is currently. Tremendous cost savings exist for digital albums, portfolios and eBooks compared with the range of print-based alternatives.

The inclusion of multi touch technology means there’s no need for a mouse, trackball or trackpad, further maximizing screen real estate and eliminating the need for an ancillary device.

Critically the iPad seems to be designed as an experience and content (e.g. pictures) driven device and, as such, will provide an easy and portable way for photographers to share their work. True to Apple philosophy the device will look great and be extremely intuitive. You’ll be able to get up and running almost immediately with apps that will require the most minimum learning curve.

So, without the opportunity to handle, use and test the device I’m in no position to recommend it to photographers. But I can’t wait to be in a position to do so. I’m particularly interested in the quality of its display (color and neutrals reproduction, brightness, contrast and sharpness) under a variety of lighting conditions. What I can say is that, as a concept, the iPad is a winner. Once you understand what it is designed to do, and accept what it does not, you’ll be better placed to make your own mind up as to if and where it fits into your own range of electronic devices and/or marketing tools. I'm certainly interested and can't wait to get mine.

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Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography
Glenn Guy