iPad as a tool for Landscape Architects/Designers

We've had an Apple iPad in the office for several months, I wanted to let people know about our experience.

What’s good about the iPad...

  • Owning one makes a statement 
  • Excellent presentation tool
  • Portability
  • Intuitive navigation
  • Valuable applications
  • Web syncing w/ google services
  • Content consumption
The iPad is a well designed and executed facsimile of a small underpowered computer. The machine works exceptionally well as a portable image portfolio, presentation tool and internet* consumption device. Navigating through an image gallery is intuitive. An application store with more than 200,000 applications means you should* be able to find one to fit your needs.

What’s not so good about the iPad...
  • Owning one makes a statement
  • Sometimes erratic internet connectivity ( with verizon mifi)
  • No USB port
  • No SD Card Slot
  • Hidden/unavailable file system
  • Some bacic functionality is missing
  • Erratically curated Application Store

The iPad is expensive, a small netbook (or sub notebook) could accomplish the same, and many more tasks for half the price. It may not look as good doing them; and it will likely be less intuitive to operate, but it would still likely be familiar... we’ve all been using operating systems for years. Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, is famously anti-button, but the iPad takes this to extremes. It has 3 buttons and a rocker switch - 1.) Power/screen on, 2.) Screen lock (prevent the screen from automatically rotating - soon to be a mute button for an undisclosed reason), 3.) Home and 4.) the rocker switch for volume control. At the very least a Menu, Settings, Search and Back button would be nice.

The only port on the iPad is the proprietary Apple connector. There is no USB port, or SD card slot. The only way to add these features is to purchase the camera connection kit $29.99 from the apple store. This kit comes in the form of two pieces that can be connected to the apple port that then hang off the side of the device when in use. Counting the individual USB connector and SD Card Reader connector each with caps, there are a total of four small pieces which I suspect are easily misplaced. This kit and it's implementation are absolutely inelegant, and the antitheses of Apples design strategy. Even with this purchase, the connections are still limited, the SD card reader can only be used to import pictures. The USB port will support some external hard drives, or keyboards... i’ve read. 

The file system is unavailable to users. It isn’t possible to plug the iPad into my computer, similar to an iPod, and enter “disk mode” which would allow me manually to add files to the memory. In most cases, in order to get files on the iPad they must be loaded through iTunes, which allows a restricted list of media files and images. In order to load a .pdf file we had to purchase an application called GoodReader. Even then files had to be loaded through iTunes. You are even restricted from downloading most files from the internet or email.

I was able to determine that it is possible to take a screen shot of the iPad by pressing and holding the Home and Screen Lock buttons simultaneously, but once stored in the image manager, the rotation of the image was 90 deg. off. Had to open the image in the photoshop app to rotate it. One would think this should be a basic function of the image gallery.

I’m sure you’ve heard stories about Apple haphazardly removing applications from it’s App Store.

Summary:
The asterisks in the second paragraph indicate the major problem with the device and Apple’s ideology, which can prevent users from doing all they may need. The iPad seems all about limitation. Limited buttons, limited applications, limited connection options and file accessibility. Inability to process flash encoded video or websites. It does what it is allowed to well, but may take some creative work arounds to do all that you may want, or some things may just not be possible.

I am looking forward to the coming availability of Tablets from makers implementing other Operating systems. I have an Android phone (Moto Droid A855) and enjoy the experience and continuous improvements it offers, along with a standard micro-USB plug, Micro SD card slot and access to load whatever file I may choose. Bring this experience to a larger screen with a faster processor and I will be a happy tablet user. Just released Samsung Galaxy Tab - CNET Review

Our specific model is the 16GB wi-fi only. For mobile internet access we use a Verizon Wireless Mi-Fi, with some glitches not sure if it was the iPad or Mi-Fi.
I hope to follow up with a list of the applications we have found useful.