The iPad in the world around you

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Apple speaks of the iPad as an in-between device—a digital media, Internet, and communications tool—that fits somewhere between an iPhone and laptop. And that makes sense. But where does it fit in your life’s locations? For me, it works this way.

The living room

Assuming that you have a coffee table, that’s a perfect place for an iPad. Pick it up for casual reading, display pictures of your daughter’s medical school graduation when you next have the ladies over for tea, or fire up Safari for some couch surfing.

If you have a taller block of furniture in the room (I prefer a grand piano but any waist-high table will do), place an iPad dock on it, place your iPad in it to charge, and play slideshows of your latest vacation. Attach a couple of small speakers to the dock and you’ve easily wired your living room for sound.

The kitchen

Do you watch TV while cooking? Me neither, but my mother does, and she might enjoy catching up on one of her favorite shows available from the iTunes Store. Again, a dock with external speakers is a must (I anticipate you’re going to see a lot of third-party iPad-compatible speaker-equipped docks in the coming months). And if she’s too distracted with the bernaise sauce to watch video, perhaps she can be convinced to download an Internet radio app.

While in the kitchen, the iPad will be a great resource for looking up recipes on the Web. I routinely use an old laptop or my iPhone for this chore. The laptop is slow and the iPhone’s screen too cramped. I like the idea of a device that’s fast, has a screen larger than an iPhone’s, and is highly portable.

The family room

Like all good TV families from the 1960s, my clan watches TV in the family room. Given that I already have a full complement of gear in this room, the iPad would seem redundant. And in many cases it is.

However, it could (and should) be a useful remote control. A variety of companies are creating IR dongles for the iPhone and iPod touch (and now, presumably, for the iPad). Having your media center’s controls available from a large touch-screen is very appealing to me. I also have a Mac mini attached to my AV gear and the Wi-Fi remote apps I currently use on my iPhone will be all the more useful on a larger screen.

Additionally it would be terrific if Apple completely opened-up video output on the iPad—allowing you to display not just movies, videos, and Keynote presentations, but video from other apps as well. And yes, I’m thinking about games. The iPad’s screen is roomy, but not nearly as roomy as my 42-inch plasma display.

The bathroom

How to put this delicately…. My guess is that a large percentage of the iPhones and iPod touches returned to Apple with water damage suffered their fate in the bathroom. Let’s just say that you’d have to be remarkably clumsy to similarly dunk an iPad.

You’re aware that this thing displays e-books, right? Enough said.

The bedroom

If you’re the kind of person who has a television shoved in the corner of the bedroom or take an iPhone or iPod to bed for some pre-sleep viewing, the iPad is a good fit. First, you can watch what you want on the device rather than leaving it up to chance and late-night TV, and you can share the experience. Unlike an iPhone or iPod, two can comfortably watch an iPad because it’s off-angle viewing is acceptable.

I’ll mention a couple of caveats, however. I haven’t heard the speakers in the iPad (and I bet you haven’t either), but my guess is that they’re nothing special. It does bear a single 3.5-mm stereo headphone jack, which, with the aid of a headphone splitter, you could share with your bedmate. Optionally, I expect there will be wireless audio transmitters such as Audioengine’s W2 that will let you broadcast the iPad’s audio to a pair of remote speakers.

Additionally, the iPad’s 1024-by-768 display produces large black bars when showing widescreen video. So while the video will certainly be larger than what you’d get from an iPhone or iPod, there’s this compromise.

The car

The iPhone/iPod-While-Driving rule applies: Drivers devoting their attention to an iPad while operating a vehicle will die. But the iPad can serve purposes that won’t endanger you and those around you.

The 3G model includes assisted GPS, which means navigation on a screen far larger than an iPhone. Look for car-mounting accessories and iPad-compatible GPS applications coming soon.

While browsing those auto accessories, be sure to check out one of the many back-seat mounting kits that will allow your kids to watch the iPad while you drive. (Yes, these kits should also include a transmitter to pipe the iPad’s audio through the car’s stereo.)

The plane

Exactly how much fun is it when you’re travelling in coach, settling into a movie on your MacBook, and the joker in the seat in front of you cranks his chair all the way down, forcing you to close the laptop’s lid three-quarters of the way to prevent it from being crushed? An iPad’s smaller footprint should mean you never have to suffer this indignity again.

The hotel

I admit that I’m not the target user for the MacBook Air. While I admire its design and lightness of being, it seems silly to carry a full-sized laptop that’s hobbled. However, I don’t mind nearly so much a device that is lighter still but has limitations that I clearly comprehend. Given that on most business trips I use my laptop for e-mail, Web browsing, and writing, I could easily live with the iPad (though I’d be tempted to sneak along a Bluetooth keyboard).

The classroom

If you’re a parent of college students (or a college student yourself) you know how obscenely expensive some text books are. Remove the paper, printing, and shipping costs and these texts should become more affordable. Better yet, they can be updated electronically—thus saving yet more paper, printing, and shipping costs while, at the same time, offering more current content.

Walking around

A sure sign that the iPad has caught on will be the appearance (and widespread use) of safari jackets with enormous pockets. Or, well, men carrying purses. The iPad is a perfectly fine device to carry around the house, put in a car, or carry on an airplane, but for just walking around use you need some kind of accessory. Bag and case makers are already jumping in with both feet. You’re sure to find a lot of choices other than Apple’s $39 iPad Case when the iPad is eventually released.

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