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iPad Fever

Yes, I succumbed. I knew I would. It was just a matter of when. And when came late this afternoon.

I have known for a long time that I wanted an Apple tablet computer. Whenever I sit around the house with my MacBook Air, I realize it’s the wrong product. If I want to type, I’ll sit at my desk. When I carry it around to other rooms, I use it to check email, read the NYT or other news in the browser, look at my calendar, maybe look up some statistic as I watch a sporting event. Holding my laptop is awkward. There are two planes, two flat surfaces, and I want only one.

I had a tablet PC for a couple of years. It had its own problems. It got too hot to hold comfortably when I used it for an hour. It was too heavy. It had no touch screen, so I had to click on websites or emails using the tablet pen.

I knew what I wanted. I wanted a lightweight touch screen tablet computer with no physical keyboard. Once I got an iPod Touch (and later an iPhone), the model was clear. And of course, I wanted Apple to make it, since all my other computing is done on Apple products with Apple operating systems, and since I sync my calendars and contacts and browser bookmarks through Apple’s MobileMe cloud computing service.

In effect, I had conceived of the iPad long ago, as it filled the major gap in my computing needs. I was simply waiting for it to appear.

I intended to be patient. At the least, I figured I would wait for the 3G version to come out later this month.* And since we were in New York over the weekend, there was no danger that I would buy it right away. But the more I read, the more tempted I became, and then I realized yesterday that Apple Stores had stock. If one ordered online from Apple, one would have to wait, but one could drop by a store and walk out with one. I was on campus this afternoon for a meeting. Afterwards, I went down the hill to the University Village Apple Store, tried one out for about 15 minutes, discussed the memory options with an Apple iPad expert, and made my choice (32GB).

What do I think? Well, I’ve been focused more on setting up tonight than enjoying it. I’ve downloaded Amazon’s Kindle app so I can read my Kindle books on it. Netflix. An app that lets me transfer documents from my computer hard drive to the iPad via our WiFi network and then read them on the iPad. My RSS reader (NetNewsWire). The WSJ app and the weird NYT app that lets you read just a small portion of the NYT, though in a convenient format. The Weather Channel’s app, which seems to think my location is Boston.

Oh, that’s another problem with not waiting for the 3G version. The WiFi version lacks not just 3G connectivity but also GPS. I figured I could do without. I have GPS on my iPhone. I don’t expect to be walking down the street with the iPad in hand, trying to find a restaurant. But maybe with GPS the Weather Channel app might have realized I’m not in Boston.

Do I love it? Not yet. But then, for the most part, it does what I expected. No surprises. Happy? Yes. In love? Maybe not.

What I take on our next trip will be the subject of a future post. The contenders: iPhone, iPad, Kindle, MacBook Air. Do I need all four? I sure hope not.

*The version released on Saturday connects to the internet by WiFi only. It comes in three forms, the only difference being how much flash memory it carries — 16 or 32 or 64 GB. The version yet to be released will connect through AT&T’s 3G cellular network as well as WiFi. It too will come with three memory options, and each one will be $130 more than the WiFi-only version. To use the 3G network, one will have to pay AT&T for a data plan, but unlike with the iPhone, no contract will be required. You can pay as you go.

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