The iPad: What you need to know

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As with the iPhone, the iPad’s version of Safari doesn’t support Adobe's Flash technology. During Steve Jobs’s presentation of the device, one Web page he visited showed the blue “plugin missing” icon instead of a Flash animation. Given Apple’s low regard for Flash—two years ago, Steve Jobs was openly dismissive of Adobe’s offering at an Apple shareholders’ meeting—we wouldn’t expect that to change. Adobe says that apps produced with its upcoming Packager for iPhone development tool, which lets developers convert Flash programs into iPhone apps, will run on the iPad, though they won't initially be able to take advantage of the iPad's larger screen size. That won’t necessarily impact Websites with embedded Flash, but it’s something.

Apple tweaked iWork to run on the iPad—why not iLife?

At the moment, the iPad seems more focused on media consumption than media production. You can view your photos and videos, listen to music, read books, surf the Web, and so on. While the iPhone 3GS’s built-in camera takes pictures and records videos, there’s no similar way of creating media with iPad. As such, iLife programs like iMovie, GarageBand, iDVD, and even the editing capabilities of iPhoto are all absent. iTunes’s capabilities are mostly duplicated by the combination of the iPod application and the iTunes storefront application.

While it seems likely that the iPad will feature more media-creation tools (if not from Apple, then from third-party developers), it’s possible Apple chose not to focus on that aspect of the device because it was more complicated to develop the interface for media creation than it was to do so for media consumption.

How does Photos on the iPad compare to iPhoto?

Photos acts mostly as a photo browser. You can browse through albums and—if you’re syncing with iPhoto—Events, Faces, and Places. You can peek inside any collection of photos by reverse-pinching it in the photo browser—you’ll be presented with a thumbnail overview of each image in that set. However, Photos does not offer any of the editing capabilities of iPhoto: you’ll want to do your color-correcting, cropping, and application of filters on your computer before syncing the photos to your iPad.

What’s the relationship between the Calendar and Mail apps on the iPad and their iPhone and Mac counterparts?

The iPad's version of Calendar and Contacts may look somewhat different from their iPhone counterparts, but the functionality seems to be much the same. You can sync e-mail accounts, calendar events, and contact information over-the-air using the device's support for Apple's MobileMe or Microsoft's ActiveSync technologies—if you don't have access to either of those, you can still sync the information from your computer via iTunes.

The big question

I already carry an iPhone and a laptop. Why do I need a third device?

When you get right down to it, that’s the central issue surrounding the iPad. Apple touts its tablet as something that goes in between those devices. Not everyone will want one, but the theory seems to be that many people don’t really need a laptop for a lot of tasks. A simpler device like the iPad could better fit into people’s living rooms, or into their bags for commuting or long trips. But it’s definitely a leap of faith by Apple. Whether users will buy the iPad and integrate it into their lives, either replacing or complementing their existing devices, remains to be seen.

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At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Solid and speedy hardware
    • Big, bright touchscreen
    • Large collection of apps


    • Music and video apps could be better
    • Heavier and harder to hold than a dedicated e-book reader
    • External keyboard needed for long-form typing chores
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