A Non Mac-man’s View of the iPAD (and loss of faith in Microsoft?)
You’ll probably wondering what an article an about the Apple iPad is doing in my photography blog. Well, so am I, really. But hey it’s my blog and it may just have some relevance in a rather convoluted way. You’ll notice I’ve stated View and not Review as I don’t intend to review the capabilities and functionality of the iPad. There are far too many reviews out there already from better qualified people, so I couldn’t really do it justice in that department. But I will however, present some of my opinions on why I may just be heading down Apple Way.
I’ve been contemplating trying (buying) a Macbook pro for quite some time now (thus comes the relevance). If you have ever read my review of Windows 7, you’ll know why, but to put it in a nutshell I’m pissed off with Microsoft. For years I was a huge devotee and happily enjoyed each stage of Windows evolution, and by Windows XP SP2 felt pretty comfortable with a then stable OS system. Through work requirements, although never a huge fan, I grew to become a competent user of Microsoft Office, particularly Word and Excel, although Outlook has always left a sour taste in my mouth. Like similar persons of ‘my age’, my first serious foray into word processing was via the text-based WordPerfect and later the windows version, which at the time, was light years ahead of any thing Word could produce.
For spreadsheets it was Lotus 1-2-3, and then the fabulous Quattro from Borland, but eventually, by a process of attrition, Microsoft’s world dominance and client demands, I found myself having to use MS Word. Word is quirky, a tad clunky, and sometimes not the most intuitive program to use, however, through some not inconsiderable time, I’ve become accustomed to all it’s quirkiness and would happily describe myself as a competent and experienced user. That was until, the dreadful Office 2007 and the hideous Ribbon!
Having spent a considerable number of years using Microsoft products and so many hours of my life invested in becoming an experienced user, Microsoft, in it’s infinite wisdom, suddenly decided that the toolbar style and menu style interface that we all were perfectly at home with was no longer valid, and turned to some school teacher to design the ‘Ribbon’ interface. This, I’m afraid, simply awful implementation of a UI is so obviously designed for school children. But can we have our grown-up toolbars and menus back? No way! Microsoft has decided we can’t. I’m afraid this is where MS have simply become far too big for their boots. I’ve tried Office 2007, several times, but have simply given up since I just don’t have the time nor inclination to relearn what I know works in Office 2003. For Microsoft to not give users a choice of UI is absolutely unforgivable and a monumental mistake. Nobody likes being imposed upon.
And now we come to Vista. A defining moment in Microsoft’s history without doubt. Quite simply the biggest OS flop, period, and the best bit of advertising that Apple has ever had..and for free too! Vista looked flash for sure, when it worked that is. But was (still is?) the most unstable, and certainly the most annoying modern OS ever released. Unfortunately for me, a defunct desktop, meant a replacement with Vista. I also plumbed for a system supposedly tailor-made for photo-processing comprising an over-clocked quad core processor, 8GB ram and wait for it…..Vista 64 bit OS. Huge mistake!
Not only did half my hardware not work because there were no 64 bit drivers around, you also had to get used to daily crashes, the green line of death (a change from the BOD but just as deadly), and the incredibly pedantic and most annoying implementation of UAC (User Account Control) there ever could be. Vista just wasn’t stable, and would drive me up the wall.
Herald the arrival of Windows 7. It got great reviews, and I had just about reached a point where I was sorely tempted to remove Vista and down grade (or perhaps that should be upgrade) to Windows XP 64 bit. More fool me… I waited and eventually decided to give MS just one more chance. I’ll say it again, one more chance!
Windows 7 is certainly more stable for sure, it’s workable, but it still crashes, and it’s 95% Vista code with the same Vista bugs. But hey, haven’t I already paid for Vista? Yes. Then 95% of what I’ve paid for I already have? Yes. And that didn’t work too well either? No. And you paid how much? 175 quid! Boy have I been ripped off. Yes the great MS rip-off has conned millions, myself included, big time. Windows 7 is really only a Vista Service Pack in disguise, putting right the things that didn’t work. But SP upgrades were free in the past weren’t they? Yes. But not this one.
When first installed Windows 7 uses a default task bar designed with huge icons for a touch screen PC. Who the hell has one of those? I think the first thing everyone does, is re-configure the taskbar back to the previous incarnation.
What I find so annoying with Microsoft is that they are imposing things upon us and not giving their seasoned users the choice anymore. I know many people love the Office 2007 ribbon, I don’t, I hate it. I want the choice to choose which interface I use. Will they listen? I don’t think so.
And so at last to the iPad. When they first came out I just couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. A large iPhone duh! But whilst eyeing up a 15-inch MacBook Pro at my local Apple store in Sheffield, I and my two kids listened in on a quite knowledgeable young sales girl demoing the iPad to a potential customer. Well I was quite taken, so were the kids. This I thought, was the ideal device form my wife and what with her birthday coming up, and having no idea what to buy the woman who already has everything (sorry darling). How about an iPad?
My wife (I hope she won’t mind me saying), is a complete computer numpty. She has many talents, but operating a simple PC is just not her thing. Other guys in my industry who work away from home like me, receive regular emails, pictures, skypes and videos from their other halves. Me, well I’m lucky if I get 2 or 3 in a year. However, with an iPad maybe there’s hope. It’s so beautifully simple.
That was a couple of months ago and I judge the iPads success by how many emails I have received from my wife whilst I’ve been away overseas. In that case it’s a barnstorming success. I’ve had more emails in the last month than the previous 3 years put together. And guess what, she’s even using Skype now too. The iPad has been great for that and the kids can join in too since the built-in microphone is good enough for conference calls. It works a treat. I know for many of you this is pretty basic fodder, but for us it’s a huge leap forward.
My wife now happy browses the internet, buys stuff on Amazon, checks out the school site, communicates with her friends and many more things. She’s using the scheduler, notebook and contacts list, and playing Sudoku and the kids have been downloading games.
One thing Apple have really cracked is the touch screen keyboard. I’ve always hated such things but this one just works perfectly. The iPad is elegant, simplistic and a joy to use and probably the most convenient tool I’ve seen to browse the web with to date.
It’s been a huge hit in our house all round. The kids are now fighting over it and Dad has had to say it’s Mum’s device hands off.
I’ve enjoyed using it too. It’s great for browsing whilst sat in bed so I can envisage a ‘his’ and ‘hers’ iPad in the not too distant future.
Apple have a real hit here, and once again have set a new standard in the computer industry. I had though at one stage of buying the wife a netbook. The netbook is dead.
One the down side, there are some limitations, and things I miss. Having to do every thing through iTunes is a real pain. Not having the ability to connect an external USB HD or memory stick to download all your favourite photos, documents, music or videos directly is a huge oversight as is not having a USB port. And Apple still insist in not supporting flash, a technology embedded in over 70% of all websites. I really don’t understand that one.
I used to thing Apple goods were for snobs. Not not any more. Microsoft has had enough of my money. My next laptop is going to be an Apple, but that will be another story…