This last week has been very busy with my preparations in going on an around-the-world trip.  At the same time, after taking all (250+) those cherry blossom photo’s last week, I had a miserable week from either  pollen allergies and/or a cold.  Hopefully, it is a cold and once I get over it, it won’t come back versus seasonal allergies which tend to get worse as you get older.  I still want to think (mentally deceive myself) that I don’t get allergies…..  The rest of the week was an interesting combination of dinners with friends, interviews and planning future events in innovation and entrepreneurship.  I hope to talk (blog) about those in more details in the coming weeks.

Anyway, I left Narita like I usually do for the United States.  Unfortunately, since I usually tend to always fly Japan Airlines and my final designation was Dulles airport in Virginia (next to Washington D.C.) so I had to transfer via Los Angeles (LAX).  The “silver” lining was that I had a 3 hour layover with nothing to do.  Therefore, immediately after exiting customs, I made a beeline into a cab to buy me an iPad.  Actually, I had already pre-ordered one of the 3G versions coming out later this month.  However, many of my close friends (usually very picky) were using words like “cool” and were generally excited about their purchase so, of course, I had to get one (non-3G) version ASAP.

Asking the driver to take me to the nearest Best Buy, we drove a few miles and found one.  I quickly ran into the store and asked if they had any iPad’s but apparently they were out of stock. Luckily, I then returned to the waiting cab (who also had all my unchecked luggage – ie., Leica camera, passport, etc…) and used my iPhone application Yelp! and searched for the nearest Apple store.  Thankfully, there was one about 2 blocks away.  After finding the Apple store after two circumnavigations of the shopping center (it was inside a Macy’s not visible from the outside), I went inside probably the only store in the whole center with a lot of people.  Statistically, I’d say about 30% were playing with iPad, 30% were asking computer questions on their existing products, 30% were looking at other products.  Net, I’d say only 10% were actually there to purchase an iPad.  Regardless, during the 7 minutes I was there, I say five devices sold.  Personally, I purchased the 64GB flash version for a somewhat expensive $699 ($775.15 with tax).  Note: I noticed Apple has replaced the HP based WinCE devices used to process purchases with their very own iPhone attachments to scan and process credit card payment without having to go to the cashier.

After quickly returning to the airport, round trip – 30 minutes/$50 with tip, I quickly checked in and went straight to the AA Admirals Lounge.  After the getting some food, the complimentary wireless pass and unpacking the box (which I left in the lounge with I’m sure briefly excited someone afterwards), I hooked it up to the PC.  My first impression is that the device “feels” heavier than it should.  This is probably because I’m comparing the weight to one of my favorite laptops the Sony X1 made out of carbon fiber.  Frankly, it reminded me of the other Apple laptops where they tend to use a lot of aluminum for structural stability but probably more for aesthetics.  It is probably too bad that they couldn’t use a material like carbon fiber to reduce the weight (more on this later).  Since the “user manual” is really a piece of paper that tells you to hook it up to iTunes (really) and to explain the 4 buttons, I felt this wasn’t necessary since when the device is powered on, it shows you the same thing graphically.  (The button explanation could have probably been printed on the plastic wrap that the iPad comes with.)  Ironically, when I first connected the iPad to my Windows 7 PC, it had some problems recognizing the device so I had to unplug/reboot once to get the driver to install properly.  Once this happened, I had to start and re-start iTunes twice because it didn’t like the iPad initially.  Anyway, I didn’t find this too much of an issue, but I assume this could be disconcerting for other people (like Slate during their live podcast review).  So with about an hour before boarding the plane, I started to both synchronize with my existing iTunes and purchased a few iPad specific programs (namely Apple Pages $9.99 – a word processing application and Apple Keynote $9.99- a presentation software/portable PowerPoint killer).  I also downloaded iBooks (free) but could not download any books at this point.  Unfortunately, with close to 500 pictures, 1300 music tunes, 100 applications and most importantly 50 videos from TED, I was only able to sync about 60% of all this stuff in an hour.  Most of the time was due to iTunes re-sampling my photo’s for the higher solution of the iPad.

After boarding, I was able to watch about 4 hours of TED video’s on the iPad in pretty good resolution with only 40% battery loss.  The only complain I have is that the device is too heavy to hold with your hands to keep it vertical.  After about an hour, you end up setting it down on your lap or tray table.  The angle of view doesn’t decrease in contrast substantially like some LCD based computers and the iPad itself doesn’t get hot like other media players or computers, but the angle is sometimes awkward.  What I found somewhat interesting is the addition of an extra switch that allowed you to “lock” the orientation of the screen.  Initially, I didn’t quite understand what the point of the switch was, but as soon as you view movies on your lap or table, the iPad sometimes loses its orientation (portrait or landscape) and will auto rotate into the wrong view if you don’t have it locked.

Some other interesting thoughts, observations and comments:

  • The iBooks application looks really promising and the selection of books looks interesting.  In the future, I probably will carry the Kindle or the iPad but not both.  If the selection of magazines and books on the iPad catches up to my Kindle, I will switch.  However, the problem with the iBooks application is that you have to buy the books via iBooks.  This means you need a WiFi connection at this time.  I would have bought books to read but since I only had one lounge WiFi access, I couldn’t.
  • The number of applications missing from the iPad versus the iPhone is disappointing.  Namely, the voice recorder and calculator.  However, I was able to download some pretty good apps for free.
  • The Picture Frame feature is a serious feature on the iPad.  When I heard another review by Walt Mossberg describing it as a picture frame, I didn’t think he was serious.  However, there is a dedicated button next to the unlock slider that turns the iPad into a very expensive (yet very beautiful) picture frame.
  • Typing on the iPad is actually not as bad as some people have written.  Since I’m a 10 year BlackBerry user, typing in weird, contorted fashion has become easy for me.  Regardless, since the iPad is multitouch, the typing is not that bad.  Holding the iPad in portrait mode in your hands and typing using your thumbs is only a bit smaller than the Blackberry (though, if you have small hands, it may not be possible to hold the iPad stably and type).  In landscape mode, putting the iPad flat on the table works well though not having any key pitch can be a little awkward for some.  You won’t be able to speed type, but things like e-mail (blog…?), I think it would be adequate.  Yes, I have purchased all the docks and keyboard accessories but they have not arrived yet.  I will update my thoughts on this later.
  • Having WiFi connected tends to decrease battery life a lot faster.  This is not a scientific observation but just a feeling.  I can’t wait until the 3G version comes out to see what the “real world” battery life will be.  Regardless, with a display this large and great performance, the battery life is already very good.
  • I am syncing both my iPhone and iPad to the same iTunes application and account.  I am currently downloading a movie (over the hotel wireless, apparently this will take 51 hours though) and I’m curious to see how the digital rights of the movie will be managed.  Will I be able to watch on both?   Just one?  Furthermore, I should be getting my 3G iPad later this month.  Again, I’m curious to see how many devices you can “share” applications and content on.  Another test is to see how content purchased on a specific iPad (via iTunes or AppStore) will be copied to iTunes and then transferred to yet a different iPad.  Stay iTuned.

Net net, my initial advice is that if you already have an iPhone, I would think seriously about adding the iPad to your gadget collection.  If you have a Kindle on top of this, there may be no reason.  At the very least, I would wait before purchasing the iPad until the 3G version comes out later this month.  To have this connect/authenticate with WiFi (via the Safari sometimes – requiring awkward zooming, etc..) and its associated battery consumption, I would have some concerns.  If you like showing off your pictures, the picture frame feature is useful – furthermore, for photographers (or wannabe’s like me), the ability to display RAW files is also useful.  If you do PowerPoint or Keynote presentations, this might be a portable device you can take to conferences and not haul your laptop.  You will need a CRT adapter to connect to the iPad if you want to connect to a projector though.

Your comments are always welcome.