Unlike Amazon's Kindle, the iPad's screen is a traditional backlit LCD display, not E-Ink. LCD isn't as easy on the eyes, but it's got a few upsides—it can display colors, it can do animation, and you can use it in the dark. Pages turn instantly in iBooks, unlike the half-second it takes on the Kindle. You can also see full-color photos—you can get iPad travel books, photo books, cookbooks, and textbooks, all of which look crummy on the Kindle—and authors can even include video.
Unlike the Kindle, the iPad will also let publishers customize the way they present their content. The New York Times showed off a beautiful reader app that it is planning to build for the device. Finally, here is an electronic version of a newspaper that can rival print, one that includes an editorially designed layout, distinctive typography, and full-color photos. But it's even better than the paper: It's got a search bar, videos, and interactive features. The Times didn't say how much it would charge for the app, and it's too soon to say how much the iPad will help old-media companies. But if I were a news exec, I'd be more optimistic about the digital future today than I was yesterday.
Apple claims that the iPad can be used for work, not just play—but I'm not sure that's true. The company unveiled an iPad version of its office suite iWork, which has a spreadsheet program, a word processor, and a presentation app that have been customized to work via touch controls. These were the only apps I found a bit clunky.
What was the hold-up? Typing. In portrait mode, the on-screen keyboard is too small for typing quickly with two hands. You get a bigger keyboard when you rotate the iPad sideways to landscape mode, but then you've got another problem—it's too wide to hold it and type at the same time. The only way around this is to rest the device on a table or your lap, but then you find yourself staring straight down awkwardly. When Jobs and other execs demonstrated the iPad, they all crossed their legs and rested it on their thighs. That works when you're sitting on a comfortable couch. It'll be a bit tight when you're squeezed into coach.
Apple will sell an add-on keyboard for the iPad, but if you want to do a lot of work on the go, you're probably better off getting a real laptop. The iPad isn't for work. It's for every other waking moment.
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