iPad Emerging (as Practice)

[pullshow]I’m in the process of moving into a new home office. For the past several years, I’ve had my office in the basement, but I just couldn’t stand the eternal darkness anymore. (I tell myself that it contributed to my procrastination. Ha!) But here, this morning, I made myself some toast and a cup of coffee, sat down in on the sunny couch in my office. Put a little classic Joan Jett on my headphones. And read the latest news on my… wait for it… iPad.

Let me rewind. Sunlight. Classic Joan Jett. Let me add. My new desk and shelves are minimal and made of blonde plywood (soon-to-be-varnished, though). My coffee cup is handmade stoneware I picked up from a visit to her studio out on the Ohio River. The spread on my toast, Carrot-Cake jam, was cooked and canned in my own kitchen last year. What’s the point? I like texture. I like handmade qualities. I have a soft spot for DIY culture. And the Joan Jett thing? (I could have mentioned old Sinead O’Connor or Tom Waits albums from earlier this week.) I have a weakness for nostalgia, too.

So how the hell does an iPad fit into this picture? This little polarizing laptop/ebook/smartphone/movieplayer/ipod hybrid object? You know, the one I railed against the day after Apple released it? The one with all the missing functionalities (camera, keyboard, Flash-compatibility, multitasking, open ports, etc.)? The one with the closed app store and limited, proprietary development strategies? The one made of smooth glass, stainless steel, and four small buttons? How does it fit?

The touch. Direct manipulation. I’m fascinated by tactile qualities. I love wood-fired pottery because of the texture and organic surface decorations that process makes possible. I can’t stomach mushrooms because I still can’t get past the texture in my mouth. And I love my iPad. There’s something pretty amazing about wanting to move an object… and just touching it and moving it. Direct and simple. Of course, not all the software developed for the iPad really gets this yet, but the simple (albeit illusory) phenomenon of direct manipulation is really satisfying.

I thumb through my Google reader feeds. I see a curious post; I touch it. I’m interested in it; I touch the star and it is starred. I touch the headline, and the original post opens. I flick up and down. Perusing. Same thing for email. For web-browsing. For reading a PDF. (You’ve GOT to get iAnnotate. An iPad with iAnnotate and a free Dropbox account. It will change your reading life. Holy $%*t.)

And it gets me away from my desk. Reading on the couch is simply a very, very nice change from sitting incessantly at my desk. (And yes, I think the iPad marketing movies are SICKENINGLY idealized and condescending. Ugh.)

And one more thing. [pullthis]I didn’t get my iPad because I needed it. And I didn’t get my iPad because I had a plan for how to use it. I got it because it made sense on a simple, intuitive level.[/pullthis] Extrememly portable and accessible. Touch interface. There is an important future here. I sensed that. I wanted to find mine. I’m finding it. It’s a nice surprise. And it feels good. Emotionally. Texturally.

I should also note two more things before I go. First, I mentioned listening to Joan Jett this morning. I can’t do that while writing on the iPad. No multitasking. Lame. I’m pretty sure that Apple just held that back so they could offer it as an upgrade (see the list above) when the next version comes out. Kind of assholish of them. But they’re a business, and this machine, even without the missing functionalities I mentioned above, is worth getting. I’m sure the same can be said for the inevitable upgrades. Can you really fault them for the strategy? It’s not generous; it’s business.

Second, I wanted to type this entry on my iPad, but the keyboard still isn’t very good. Touch-typing on the iPad is slow and very, very unsatisfying. It’s actually pretty great if you’d rather not tote around a heavy Macbook Pro, but if you’ve got an alternative available (and I do, in my office), it’s really still no contest; actually keyboards still put glass-keys to shame.

But this post isn’t about how great the iPad is for blogging. It’s actually not very good at all. It’s about how I took a risk on a technology and that made intuitive sense. And it’s been worth it. Every penny. iPennies, actually.

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