Posts Tagged ‘iPad’

Death of a visionary

Posted: October 6, 2011 in Apple, Mac
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We all knew he had serious health problems. The absences, resignation as CEO and his increasingly gaunt appearance told their own story. But I don’t think any of us expected Steve Jobs to die now. Not at 56.

His legacy not only as a business leader and a technologist but also as a major influence on popular culture is without question.

I never met the man but his DNA is everywhere in my life.  I am writing this on the iMac I work on every day. I rarely go anywhere without my iPhone. Every member of our family has an iPod of some description and one is usually jacked into the car stereo. We have MacBooks and Mac Minis. We download movies every week on Apple TV. The iPad goes with us on every trip.

Millions of others will have a similar inventory of Apple products they never knew they needed but now can’t live without. We’re not all myopic Apple fanboys – we buy the products for the simple reason that they are well-made, innovative and intuitive to use. You just don’t sell more than 28 million iPads [at June 2011] if it isn’t any good.

Jobs and Apple did not invent the personal computer, the MP3 music player, the mobile phone or the table PC. Jobs’ genius – and there is no question that he drove Apple’s transformation over the last 10-15 years – was to redefine what those devices looked like and how they functioned. So radical and successful has this been that the very names – iPod, iPhone and iPad – have become synonymous with those market segments and rivals stumble over themselves to copy and catch up. To do that in one industry segment (Blackberry, Hoover, Sellotape, for example) is an achievement. To do it across three is astonishing.

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The Atavist is an intriguing new take on digital publishing. Founded by two former Wired writers/editors, it aims to be a home for the type of long-form journalism that is disappearing fast as publications fold and the web fragments into social media and soundbites.

Basically, Atavist produces original, in-depth articles that it offers like music tracks for iPad/iPhone, Kindle or Nook (Android versions are in the pipeline). Prices range from $1.99 for a text-and-photos version to $2.99 for a fully-loaded article with audiobook – you can switch between text and audio without losing your place – and other multimedia content and features.

Atavist says it sees its articles as “a new genre of nonfiction, a digital form that lies in the space between long narrative magazine articles and traditional books and e-books”.

See also: Long-form journalism finds a home (New York Times).

App, app and away

Posted: January 21, 2011 in iPad, Technology
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New to iPad? Overwhelmed by the app store? Here are some to get you started.

Given that Apple flogged some 7 million of them leading up to Christmas, it wasn’t surprising that many of my friends ended up with a shiny iPad in their stockings. What was surprising was how many of them were not Mac users but instantly fell in love with the iPad and as a result have either switched to Macs or are planning to do so.

Needless to say I’ve had calls or emails from several of them asking how to do one thing or another. Most of them, faced with the overwhelming choice of the App Store, simply want to know what are the best apps to get. Obviously what apps you like will naturally depend on your interests and lifestyle (I’m not much of a gamer for example, although I’m rather partial to FIFA 11, Brothers In Arms and Scrabble on the iPad) but here (in alphabetical order) are the apps that I find myself using most often:

Allowabank ($0.99) – As our kids are too young to have bank accounts, I use Allowabank for keeping track of their weekly allowances. You can set it up for regular weekly or monthly allowances (we automatically add “interest” to encourage them to save) and any time they spend anything, we mark it in Allowabank and they can see exactly how much they have. A useful tool for helping them understand the value of money.

Apple iBooks and Amazon Kindle (free) – I use both these book readers depending what books are available. I prefer the options and technical wizardry of iBooks (download Alice In Wonderland to see what I mean) but the Kindle has more choice and allows you to share books with other Kindle users.

Apple Remote (Free) – Essential if you have Apple TV. Easy to use and great for controlling iTunes playback to any Apple device on your wi-fi network.

Evernote (Free) – I’ve been a long time user of Evernote which allows you to quickly clip text, images, links and documents for later use. I already have it on my desktop and iPhone so extending it to the iPad and being able to have them automatically sync between each other is a no-brainer.

The Economist (Free, optional paid content) – Arguably the best publication on the iPad right now. If you’re an Economist reader, the $110 annual subscription is well worth it – plus you get access to  online content, archives and you can listen to an audio version of the whole edition. Alternatively, download the free Editors Highlights version for the week’s best stories. Like the ST you have to manually download each edition.

Epicurious (Free) – The excellent cooking website is even more useful on the iPad. We use it constantly as an interactive cookbook – you can also enter ingredients to come up with recipe suggestions and shopping lists. Well worth buying a Griffin stand for.

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The iPad and I

Posted: May 29, 2010 in Apple, iPad, Technology
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I know the last thing the world needs is another hyperventilating iPad review but it’s my blog and if I want to write about it (quite easily and quickly on the iPad’s touch keyboard as it happens) then so be it.

It’s about two weeks since the iPad moved into our pad, so we’ve ample time to play and assess Apple’s latest wunderdevice. Having initially been sceptical about buying a first generation device, I am so glad I decided otherwise – the iPad is far more fun and useful than even I (a long-time tablet advocate) thought possible.

And the emphasis is on that word fun.

While I can and do use it to bang out the occasional email or blog (irritating the WordPress app doesn’t let you add links and other formatting) this often feels like not using a computer at all. As someone who spends a lot of the day hunched up in front of a desktop, the last thing I want to do is spend my leisure hours in front of one so although I find myself doing more on the iPad and less on my desktop, I definitely use the iPad to relax more than anything.

It really is “lean back” technology, whether it’s lying on the couch reading a newspaper or magazine (both the NY and London Times are terrific on the iPad), watching a video, reading a book or playing a game, this is computing as it should be – fast and simple. The games we love on the iPhone/iPod are so much more fun on the bigger screen and apps like Maps, Elements and Star Walk are as stunning as they are useful and educational.

All the things I thought would bug me about it – lack of Flash, that big bezel, no multitasking – simply haven’t been an issue. I find I’m using purpose-built apps (like The Times) more than the paper’s Flash-using website and most of the sites I use seem to have quickly found an alternative. And the thing is so damned fast that switching between apps feels like multitasking anyway.

What has been surprising is how quickly it has become part of the family, living mostly on our lounge coffee table. Because it’s light, fast and so responsive to use (no waiting for that cumbersome laptop to boot up), it’s something that everyone in the family just picks up and uses almost without thinking.

This morning for example, the wife did some Facebooking over breakfast and later did her Land’s End order over coffee on the sofa; my son was enthralled (as your kids will be) by the Magic Piano app, tinkling away at Fur Elise, and playing the video of K’naan’s World Cup theme song over and over again. My daughter doodled away on an arts programme while I kicked back with today’s Times. It’s been a handy resource for homework and great in-car entertainment on the school run. It will be one of the first things we pack for our travels this summer, loaded up with movies and TV favourites – and of course we can download any extras using our hotel room wi-fi.

For a first generation device it is very, very impressive – but then you could argue that as the software was tested and proven on the iPhone, it’s more of an evolution than something entirely new.

Does it have flaws? Sure, but these depend on what you use it for. It is primarily a consumption device rather than a creative one but the inability to print, store files locally, synch wirelessly with my iTunes library are among the immediate shortcomings that hopefully iPhone 4.0 will address in the Fall. Oh – and a camera and a USB port would be definite plusses of course.

But overall, there’s no question in our house – the iPad is here to stay. I have a feeling it won’t be alone for long …