The iPad came out in the United Kingdom this weekend, and there are a number of new reviews of it making the rounds now. One of those reviews in particular is novelist Charlie Stross’s. Stross has come out with a quite thorough look at the iPad’s advantages and disadvantages, as well as a separate post looking at iPad word processing, keyboards, and cases in more detail.

On the whole, Stross likes the iPad and believes it will be quite useful, especially for reviewing PDFs. He dislikes the “walled garden” nature of Apple’s app store, however, and the things it prevents him from doing (such as blocking ads). He also finds word processing on the iPad to leave a few things to be desired so far, but sees potential when the iPad-native version of Docs to Go comes out.

The iPad doesn’t feel like a computer. It feels like a magic book — like the ancestor of the Young Lady’s Primer in Neil Stephenson’s The Diamond Age. It’s a book with hypertext everywhere, moving pictures and music and an infinity of content visible through its single morphing page. The sum is much weirder than the aggregate of its parts. Criticizing the iPad for not doing Netbook-or laptop-like things is like criticising an early Benz automobile for not having reins and a bale of hay for the horses: it’s a category error. While we’ve had experimental multitouch devices for some years, the iPad is the first true representative of the breed to hit the mass market, just as the original Macintosh 128K was the first computer with a modern graphical user interface to ditto. (If you want to be pedantic you can cite the Xerox Star and the Apple Lisa … then I shall mock you.) The Mac 128K had numerous flaws, but it’s still the direct ancestor of the Macbook Air sitting behind me. It’ll be interesting to see what the iPad gives rise to, 26 years from now …


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