C the Light

So I spent my Saturday morning in line with a bunch of other dorks, gleefully handing over a silly amount money for the latest from the temple of Apple — an iPad. I wanted an iPad for a “sofa computer”, something convenient for checking email and Twitter, or browsing the web, while sitting on the sofa with my daughter. I knew the limitations, and actually appreciate some of them (no Flash). But after using it now for a few days, I’ve come to respect the iPad for being much more.

First, the iPad makes for an awesome media player. The screen is bright, sharp and has vibrant colors. I will definitely be using it to catch up on movies and TV that I normally can’t dedicate the couch time to watch.

Social networking on it also rocks. Tweetdeck is awesome on the iPad, and mobile Safari does a pretty good job with web content, but has some flaws. The only glaring holes right now are missing Facebook and iChat applications. The former should be corrected pretty quickly, but on Apple can fix the latter.

One surprising area for me has been using the iPad as a media reader. The New York Times Editor’s Choice application really shows off the promise of the format, and I look forward to seeing their full application. iBooks is also suprisingly good. Being a gadget geek, I have a Kindle, and it is clear the iPad is going to crush it unless Amazon cuts the price in half. Reading books on the iPad is a better overall experience than on the Kindle.

The biggest surprise has been the iPad as an application platform. I’ve thought about developing for the iPhone, but found the screen too small to build the kind of applications I would be interesting in. The iPad is a near perfect form factor with enough screen real estate to build some exciting applications, enough so that I’ve actually dived in to learning the bastard language of the world: Objective-C. I’ve got some ideas in head already for applications, so that makes learning it a more goal-oriented task.

Now about Safari. I had originally thought I would just build mobile Safari applications using JavaScript, HTML and CSS. But Safari on the iPad is a bit quirky. I checked out the demo sites for ExtJS and JQuery UI on the iPad, and the widgets don’t render as well as they do on desktop Safari. Even JQuery Touch as a little bit off. The demos would flash a green background on transition that was annoying. Even the stuff I expected to be fine wasn’t. For example, the right scroll bar in the Word Press edit field for posts doesn’t render, making it difficult to add posts.

Safari on the iPad is good enough for the basic web tasks (Google, GMail, Slashdot), but it is not ready as an application platform. Native applications will be the way to go, and I think the iPad is going to lead to a lot of demand for Objective-C developers who will be writing tomorrow’s world changing applications.

One thought on “C the Light”

  1. Thanks for the review,
    just asked yesterday in Twitter for reviews from people that had an iPad for more than a week.

    Have you haerd of http://phonegap.com/?
    It lets you build native apps with HTML and JavaScript and are still allowed.

    I’m also interested in developing for an iDevice, but not sure if Objective-C or JavaScript/HTML5.

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