All you need to know about the iPad

Gabe Semenza

April 1, 2010 at 6:05 p.m.
Updated March 31, 2010 at 11:01 p.m.

Dan Wathen spends ample time working with gadgets. As media director for Faith Family Church, he has to.

Wathen uses his Apple MacBook Pro to edit video and audio, his iPhone to communicate on the go and cameras to capture still and moving images.

The 35-year-old plans to visit Sugar Land on Monday to test drive Apple's newest product - a device many believe could over time change the face of computing.

Apple releases its much-anticipated multitouch tablet computer - which it calls iPad - on Saturday.

"I think anything Apple does piques my interest," Wathen said. "I want to see the iPad in person before I buy one. Because I think I could easily stick it under my arm and carry it with me, it could take the place of legal pads."

Wathen must travel to Sugar Land - or another city home to an Apple retail or participating Best Buy store - because the device is unavailable in Victoria for the time being.

So, what is the iPad and what does the device do?

The iPad is a thin, elegant, magazine-sized mobile computer that offers many of the functions found on standard laptops. iPad boasts e-mail, fast Web browsing, e-books, video, music, games, productivity suites and more.

The 9.7-inch multi-touch glass serves as the face of the device. Multi-touch is the ability to apply multiple finger gestures simultaneously onto a display. Pinch with two fingers and you can zoom into a Web site or photograph, for example.

iPhone and iPod touch users will instantly find the user interface familiar.

"I think I would use it for entertainment, but primarily for work: e-mail, eBooks, to view a document easily and respond quickly," Wathen said. "I'll get a lot of use out of it for business. I'll take it into a meeting and not have to carry around my laptop."

Apple unveiled the iPad in January and began taking preorders on March 12. Ahead of Saturday's release, the company this week handed out test models to a select few journalists nationwide.

"The iPad is so fast and light, the multi-touch screen so bright and responsive, the software so easy to navigate, that it really does qualify as a new category of gadget," the New York Times reports in a product review.

"After spending hours and hours with it, I believe this beautiful new touch-screen device from Apple has the potential to change portable computing profoundly, and to challenge the primacy of the laptop," Walt Mossberg, a longtime Wall Street Journal tech writer, notes. "It could even help, eventually, to propel the finger-driven, multitouch user interface ahead of the mouse-driven interface that has prevailed for decades."

Of course, not everyone rides the Apple bandwagon. Not even Wathen believes the device will fully replace his laptop and Mac, computers used for more heavy lifting.

Trent Thigpen is a Victoria College computer information systems instructor. Like most everyone, he has yet to hold an iPad.

"I have heard some people are disappointed with it," Thigpen said. "A lot of people say it's a big iPhone that can't make phone calls. I personally don't have a need for it, no."

Most iPad detractors point to a lack of Adobe Flash compatibility and multitasking as drawbacks they can't overcome. Flash is a popular Web platform that adds video, animation and interactivity to Web sites.

Already, however, dozens of major online players announced they will offer Web sites that allow multimedia consumption on the iPad. These video-heavy companies include CBS, Sports Illustrated, Netflix and CNN, for starters.

Wathen, like everyone interviewed for this story, agrees it's best you test drive the device before buying one.

"I think most everyday people will use it for e-mail, browsing the Web and reading books, magazines or newspapers," Wathen said. "I don't think it's going to be a game-changer right away, but developers are already creating a lot of apps."



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