It’s the kind of hype that only Apple can build. From Steve Jobs’ announcement of the iPad, to the reaction of the blogosphere, to the retail debut in the U.S., it’s hard to recall a device launch that has had this level of curiosity, commentary and criticism. The iPhone launch comes to mind, but if we let the numbers tell the story, the iPad has easily surpassed its smaller sibling in initial sales: more than a million units shipped so far – a sure sign that demand for the new gadget is meeting expectations.
But numbers don’t tell the full story. Especially when it comes to Apple products and even more so in the case of the iPad, a device which on paper at least, fails to impress. After all, from a functionality point of view, the iPad has less going for it than the iPhone. As many observers have pointed out, it lacks a camera, a keyboard, a memory card slot and in it’s current iteration can’t multi-task. Then you get your hands on one and these quibbles take a back seat to the experience of using the iPad. It may only be an iPod Touch on steroids, but that single difference – the size of the screen – makes all the difference in the world.
This isn’t a review of the iPad. If you want to read one, check out Marc Saltzman’s take on the gadget in text and video. He explains why the iPad is a device worth taking notice of and worth trying before you decide if it’s right for you. Instead, this is the story of Andrew Takla, a gadget geek of the first order who made up his mind months ago that he had to have an iPad.
As any self-respecting geek would, Andrew considered the drive down to the U.S. to buy himself an American model, but in the end he decided to delay his gratification by a few weeks and became one of the first to pre-order a Canadian model from Apple’s website.
As the weeks rolled on and talk of supply problems surfaced, some of us in the office began to question his decision. “What if they run out of iPads in the U.S.? Won’t that mean that Canadian pre-orders will be delayed? Andrew, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?” You had to admire this man’s resolve. He stood firm. He did not panic. He did not cancel his order and make a run for the border. “Apple will deliver,” he stated calmly. I for one remained doubtful. Perhaps that’s because I’m old enough to remember the terrible iPhone shortages that plagued the Canadian launch of that device. With a shudder at that memory I offered what I hoped was a supportive smile and said, “I hope so.”
Well today was the day that Andrew was able to survey his skeptical co-worker with a not-so-subtle “I told you so” look as he proudly held aloft the shipping box that contained his iPad. Apple (via FedEx) had indeed delivered. The only thing left to do was perform the ritual unboxing, a ceremony so steeped in tradition it has been documented all over the web in pictures, prose and video.
Andrew began the process of taking the wraps off his new toy, and like a kid on Christmas morning, he could barely contain his excitement. The goofy grin at times looked like it might consume his entire face.
Andrew’s iPad model of choice – a 16GB version with 3G capability – emerged from its trademark glossy-white box and was greeted with daylight for the first time. As it was held, nay, cradled in Andrew’s paternal hands and raised up so that all could see, I believe I heard the sound of angels singing Hallelujah. Or it might just have been someone’s ringtone. It was an emotional moment.
Once we had sufficiently collected ourselves, it was time to move on to the next step in our iOdyssey: the First Sync. Carefully, Andrew connected the iPad to his laptop via the USB cable and the crowd around his desk once again breathed a collective “oooh” as the computer dutifully responded with the message “Found New Hardware – iPad”. Have any four words ever sounded so sweet?
Then, in a somewhat anticlimactic pause in the proceedings, we waited for the iPad to complete its synchronization with the iTunes software. We waited. And waited. It turns out that in Andrew’s pre-iPad excitement, he had gone on a virtual shopping spree in the App Store in anticipation of his upcoming mastery of mobile computing. There were a lot of apps to sync.
Depending on how you look at it, the App Store’s ability to keep all of your i-devices up to date with all of your downloads apps is either a blessing or a curse. I’m sure Andrew was delighted by the slow but steady progress as his new gadget morphed its catalog of software into a mirror image of his iPod Touch, but I was growing impatient. Watching any device sync is the electronic equivalent of paint drying.
The process did come to a halt 10 minutes later – an eternity from my perspective – and it was time, finally, to perform the ultimate inititation rite for any gadget that possesses the magical ability to connect to the internet sans wires: firing up the browser and checking out a website or two.
First stop? No not Google – that would be too easy. Instead we pointed Safari to – insert shameless plug – Sympatico.ca, our very own portal and a good test of the iPad’s surfing acumen. It loaded flawlessly. If you’re raising your eyebrows and muttering “So what” at your screen right now, you might not be aware that not every website works on an iPad. Sites that use Adobe’s Flash for all or part of its content will not play nicely with the iPad because the device does not support Flash natively, workarounds notwithstanding. This includes many video sites that rely on the Flash video format for their clips.
At this point, the crowd began to disperse and we left Andrew alone with his new tablet tag-along. It had been an exhausting morning and the pair needed time to bond. Ever the doting dad, Andrew’s first responsibility as an iPad owner is to provide the necessities of life: a cover, an extra charger and a MicroSIM card from Bell Mobility (of course).
Congratulations Andrew, we wish you and you iPad all the best. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
Disclosure: Sync is owned and operated by Bell Canada