ipad1[4] Jason Hiner has an interesting post on ZDNet about why the iPad is “only good for two things.” Of course, those two things are pretty big areas, and it should come as no surprise that one of them is e-reading.

Hiner says that the iPad is best for “reading and viewing”, and largely narrows that down to e-book reading, as it’s too awkward to hold it to consume movies or music for a long period of time.

But, as a reader, the iPad is admittedly amazing because of its brilliant full color screen, touch-based interface, and long battery life. And when I say “reader” I mean reader in the broadest sense of the term. As you’d expect, it’s great for reading news, books, static web pages, emails, long PDFs, and business documents. (For just reading books, the Amazon Kindle is still superior, but for omnivorous readers the iPad is the new king.)

He points out that it’s really handy to be able to turn it on instantly and to be able to flip the screen around to show someone else a document or image, to the point where he could sometimes do without his laptop altogether.

The other area where the iPad really shines is the multi-touch interaction—being able to drag things from place to place quickly and intuitively. He uses the example of Scrabble as remarkably easy to learn, thanks to the interface that mostly just involves dragging things back and forth.

One of the areas where the iPad has trouble, Hiner says, is in document processing. Not in text entry—he finds the iPad’s keyboard perfectly adequate for just writing—but doing more complicated things like adding links is difficult to impossible.

Thinking about it, I find I have to agree with Hiner. Most of what I do with my iPad involves either reading of some kind (e-books, RSS feeds, Flipboard) or similarly text-based social networking. The iPad is a completely awesome document-viewing device, and it works well for playing multi-touch-related games such as, yes, Scrabble. But it doesn’t surpass a computer with dedicated keyboard in a lot of ways.


  1. I really think this is a mental block some people have.
    This lunchtime, right now, I am in my hotel and I am on page 7 of an 11 page investment business proposal for submission on Friday. The sum is €1.8M and it’s going smoothly. I generate many business documents on my iPad. I write a huge no. of emails and I have edited documents for my staff. I think people need to get past the ‘form’ factor and just do it. The first time some people try it I believe they just get stuck psychologically and then give up and write it off.
    I have never played a game on it. I read eBooks of course too.

  2. I agree with Howard. Last month I used Keynote for iPad to make a gorgeous slide-show presentation; Numbers for iPad was used to generate the charts. And it was so simple — and much faster than doing it using my big computer. To insert a photo, just a few taps brings in the photo from the album.

    By the way, as I nursed a pulled muscle, I made the entire presentation on my back, completely relaxed — thanks to the convenient size of the device.

    People who say “It can’t be done” too often mean “I can’t do it.”

    I have found that they iPad does a few things excellently, and many things very well. The versatility is one of the keys to its popularity and success.

  3. Well said Michael. As you mention it I actually updated an excellent Keynote presentation about three weeks ago purely on the iPad. A lot of content changes, technical changes and dates. It was easy and successful.
    What I find tiresome is the constant repetition of the mantra “But it doesn’t surpass a computer with dedicated keyboard in a lot of ways.” (sorry Chris)
    Of course it’s not as powerful a creator of content as a desktop .. or maybe even not even a big laptop.
    This is the misconceive concept of all or nothing. That is to miss the point! The iPad is very very useful at doing many many things. It is an excellent consumer and presenter of media and content. But it is also a very useful device for creating content … to a certain level, and that level is a good and valuable level. Because it is not the ‘ultimate’ level does not diminish it’s usefulness, value and viability.
    Users are discovering this. I see it everywhere I go. Some faster and some slower. The psychological barrier I feel is the most difficult.
    Does it suit everyone ? of course not! That again misses the point. Does it suit a lot of people ? Yes, most definitely. A lot of people and in a lot of situations.
    The Tablet is here to stay and will carve out it’s own niche, expanding as the power and capability expands. Will it ever take my desktop’s place ? I don’t believe so. Will it take the place of my MacBookPro ? I am not sure. Maybe.

  4. I think the mistake people are making is waiting for the one uber-device that will Save Us All, and there is just no such thing. I do use my iPad for reading content, but I also use it for storing and transferring files (I can upload something to Dropbox on a work computer and then immediately download it onto the iPad via wifi) and for displaying stories to my classes, teaching music to them, filling a 5-minute wait with an educational video and using the apps to give them context vocabulary. For example, right now they are fascinated by the Virtual Families app. There is a family living in a house inside my computer! We are learning the French words for all the members of the family and objects in the house. It is a very effective teaching and learning method! To diminish this as simply ‘reading and viewing’ is really unfair, imho :)

    Bottom line is, just because it isn’t a suitable device for *some* people does not mean it is not filling a vital need for *other* people. Why is it so hard for some pundits out there to accept that for a lot of people, the iPad is a great device, worth the investment to them and something they are enjoying and using often?

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