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Asphalt 5 on the iPad.

We were unable to get our hands on a pre-release iPad so I bravely volunteered to snag one for the office on Saturday morning.

Most people in the line outside the Apple Store were giddy with the thought of getting their hands on Apple’s “magical and revolutionary” device. Oddly though, no one quite knew what they’d use it for. “I think I’m going to put books on it,” said the girl behind me. “I’ve heard it’ll replace the television,” said the guy in front.

After using an iPad for a day, I’m sad to say it hasn’t revolutionized my life with its magicalness.

It’s lightning fast, intuitive to operate, and very good for certain tasks: reading, watching videos and playing games. If you’re into e-books I think it’s an excellent platform for that. But I like to input stuff too, and it’s a pain to type on. The lack of multitasking, external ports or camera limits its usefulness as a more general-purpose computer.

The whole multi-touch, motion-sensing interface is very nice. There are plenty of touch-screen laptops and tablets available, yet the iPad’s interface (like that of the iPhone) is far more intuitive, slick and idiot-proof.

A few of the apps I downloaded were buggy, which is hardly surprising since most developers have been using emulators rather than the real thing. And the absence of Flash makes parts of the Web unusable. What’s the point if you can’t watch Hulu on the thing?

The worst thing about the device, incidentally, is the way the software is restricted. Few ordinary users will notice or care, but I think it’s a real drawback that everything has to be approved by Apple. The company used its grip over the App Store to block certain very cool apps from reaching the iPhone. Cory Doctorow wrote an interesting rant post about this over at BoingBoing. Perhaps most importantly, unless the iPad proves a massive hit, the need to clear the App Store is going to discourage a lot of developer innovation and experimentation.

I think the iPad has received so much press attention in part because many in the industry hope it will have a transforming impact. Danny O’Brien of the EFF offers a dose of realism for those folks, comparing creating content for the device to the trend in putting interactive CD-ROMs on the front of magazines. And we all know how revolutionary those were.

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Tagged: Computing, Apple, iPad, app store, e-readers, devices

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