Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Blogging from an iPad

Okay, so I have completely neglected hikingviking.com for far too long. Truth be told, Facebook is my social medium of choice nowadays, and I'm not very active there either. But blogs still have a purpose ... like broadcasting to those I have not "friended", posting my professional thoughts ... and this one has been sitting here dormant for far too long.

So, what have I done in the YEAR that I haven't posted? Well, we bought a house in early 2009. Been here a year and a half now. And we made another child. A calm, gorgeous little boy to offset his hyper and crazy older brother. But see, these are the personal stories that end up on Facebook. Blogs may have once been about those stories, but they really aren't now.

So, what have I DONE in the year that I haven't posted? The professional stuff. Yeah, that. Well, my remaining time not devoted to wife and two kids has been about steering the ship through the recession, so there's very little exciting UI work to talk of. Meanwhile, the world of UI has shifted quite a bit from the desktop UI to real mobile ... smartphones ... iphones and androids ... touch.

I bought an iPad.

That's what I did. Not too long ago, actually. And I have to say ... I'm kinda blown away. The more I tell myself that I did this for profressional reasons ... learning how to code for touch ... understanding the next generation of trendy user experiences ... the more I will believe that that was my primary reason.

My expectations were low. Why, actually, is the iPad any better than a laptop? The screen is smaller. It has no keyboard. Mobile Safari (while really good) still has its issues (big gripe: If a div has overflow:auto and is scrollable, can't you SHOW the scrollbars to let users know it's scrollable?). There's no Flash. There's no camera for video Skype. By the time you buy all the accessories you need, you have spent more money than you would have on a desktop (or a netbook) and you basically have a desktop computer in front of you. Without a mouse. And one that won't plug in to a monitor that does 1600x1200.

Here's what makes it great:

- Really really freakin' long battery life
- It doesn't get hot
- It's way portable
- Instant-On
- Simple apps mean you don't have to navigate an operating system to find what you want to do.
- The on-screen keyboard doesn't actually suck. I wouldn't write this blog post with it, but it doesn't actually suck.
- Touch interfaces are cool. My almost-3-year-old expects it now.

And now that I have a bluetooth keyboard, I feel comfortable sitting on my couch and writing a looooong blog post like this one.

There are a few gripes (this is, after all, a version 1.0). Like, you must buy a case, or the usability of a flat slab of electronics is shot. If you can't prop it up, it ain't worth anything. And (I have to credit a co-worker for this one, but it's a good one) there should be stereo speakers in landscape mode so if you're watching streaming Netflix, you don't get all the sound on one side of your head.

But I remain firmly convinced that (a) the nature of computing is in the middle of a major shift away from desktop anchors to mobile consumption devices, and (b) the iPad is on the cutting edge of what we can expect over the next 3-5 years. It's a brilliant device, who's time has come. And yes, I'm learning how to code web pages for touch. :)