Posted by: Leslie White | April 29, 2010

Reviewing the iPad

We have recently acquired several new iPads at the Instructional Technology Lab. Many students and faculty have been visiting the office to try out the new devices, so some of my time at work has been spent explaining how they work. As I explore the iPad  and continue to discuss its capabilities, I am coming to some conclusions about the current model and its future potential.

This first edition version of the iPad is fun. In my opinion though, it is a glorified iPod touch with a 9.7 inch screen. Navigation on the iPad is very intuitive, though the inability to use more than one App at a time is disappointing. Actually, there are many things that are a bit disappointing. First and foremost is the lack of both Flash and Java support. Unless Apple and Adobe settle their differences, I believe the flash-supporting HP Slate will get a stronger following simply due to iPad’s lack of this capability. I was also shocked to discover that the iPad is missing a USB port and a webcam/digital camera. As it is, the only way to get files to/from the iPad is via the internet. To make matters more complicated, any file you wish to pull onto the iPad must be associated with an iPad App. For example, since there is no Microsoft software/Apps, you would need to have the iWord App on the iPad to be able to open a word/text doc.

I am aware that Apple did not intend for the iPad to be a laptop replacement. It was not meant to have all the functionality of a full computer, but you better believe that is people are hoping for. The iPad does not fit into any one device category. Ultimately, I think Apple needs to take a leaf out of HP’s book, and give the people what they want: flash, java, USB port, webcam and digital camera, phone service, and let’s face it….full software capability. I want a CD drive that will take my Microsoft Office installation disc.

Cool potential uses for the iPad:

For students iBook is an awesome App that could eliminate the need for tradition printed textbooks. Not only would this help students save tons of cash (since digital version of books are MUCH less expensive) but we would have less impact on the enviroment (less books = less fallen trees) and students would no longer have to haul 30 pounds of books plus a laptop back and forth across campus. Plus, digital text can be kept updated every day and can include animation and interactive visuals (that’s where we medical animators are excited!)

For healthcare professionals and patients Scene: a doctor enters a hospital room to check in on his patient. This doctor’s personal iPad carries a schedule of his duties for the day and an organized list of all of his patients. From his iPad, he can view an individual patient’s vitals and EKG in real time, without having to be in the same room. The patient’s entire medical history and current state of health, including any x-rays or 3d imaging (MRI, catscans) ….all is available at the doctor’s finger tips. The doctor could potentially use the iPad to educate a patient about a disease or surgical procedure they are about to undergo. 3D videos of surgical procedures along with interactive educational material could improve a patient’s understanding of their condition.

So: Right now, the iPad is a cool toy. If Apple gives in to the demands of the people, however, it could have an incredible impact on how we use computer technology. My opinion? Don’t buy it now. Wait for iPad2. Or perhaps iPad3.

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