GPSOLO June 2010
A Lawyer's View of the iPad
By Jeffrey Allen
To almost nobody’s surprise, on January 27, 2010, Apple announced the iPad. Well, at least nobody was surprised by the announcement of the product—the name caught off guard a few pundits who had predicted that it would be called the “iSlate.” So, the real question now becomes exactly what is the iPad?
Apple claims that it has created a new technological niche and filled it with the iPad. I am not so sure that the claim stands up. I do like the iPad concept, however, and I have concluded that, without regard to whether it represents the definition and fulfillment of a new technological niche, it does represent a pretty nifty piece of technology that could prove very useful to lawyers in both their professional and personal lives. That is not to suggest that the iPad has no flaws; it comes with several major shortcomings. Whether or not Apple will choose to correct them in later iterations remains for the future to reveal. Whether the flaws make the iPad sufficiently undesirable that you will choose to wait for a later version remains for you to decide. I have made my decision; I ordered an iPad yesterday.
First thing, let’s look at the iPad and its features to explore what it does and does not offer. The iPad comes with a high-resolution, 9.7-inch LED-backlit IPS (in-plane switching) display. Apple designed the iPad to display content in portrait or landscape orientation. The IPS display technology has a wide, 178-degree viewing angle. The iPad comes with the same multi-touch technology as the iPhone and iPod touch. Having used both the iPod touch and the iPhone since they first came out, I have evolved into a big fan of the multi-touch screen and consider that feature a very big plus. The iPad weighs in at about a pound and a half (add a tenth of a pound for the 3G version) and measures 9.56” x 7.47” x 0.5”. Apple claims up to a ten-hour battery life for the iPad.
The iPad comes in two different versions: WiFi and WiFi plus 3G. Each version also gives you the choice of 16 GB, 32 GB, or 64 GB of memory. As the iPad has no slot for a memory stick or memory card, what you get when you open the box represents the memory you will have to work with; accordingly, you will probably want to get a unit with at least 32 GB and preferably 64 GB.
The iPad comes with the same docking connector as the iPhone and iPod. It has no other ports for data or charging, so whatever you connect to has to go through that dock. In addition to the iPad itself, Apple offers a number of accessories to make it work better (although adding the accessories does make it somewhat clunkier to carry and use). Some of the accessories described online have not yet appeared on Apple’s online store ( http://store.apple.com/us), however, and we will have to wait a while to get them. The list of accessories includes a dock, a keyboard dock, a case that folds up to make a stand for you to use the iPad with its virtual keyboard, a VGA adapter that will let you connect the iPad to a projector or other VGA device, and a kit that will allow you to connect to a digital camera and download pictures to your iPad. You can also use the Apple Wireless Keyboard with the iPad. The iPad dock and the keyboard dock provide access to a dock connector port for syncing or charging, and an audio line-out port can connect to powered speakers via an optional audio cable. The iPad docks also support other iPad accessories.
The WiFi iPad requires an accessible hotspot to give you Internet access. The WiFi plus 3G version works through an accessible hotspot and also gives you the option of 3G connection. Apple has set up a plan with (surprise) AT&T to give you the choice of 250 MB of data per month for $14.99 or unlimited use for $29.99. The structure does not require a contract (which also means that you do not get a discount on the purchase price), so you can cancel usage whenever you want. You can turn it on and off if you want as well.
The iPad will run Apps from Apple’s App Store. Although Apple says that almost all the Apps in the store will run on the iPad, many of them will require modification to take advantage of the screen size and features the iPad offers. Time will tell how many App developers will modify their Apps to take advantage of the iPad’s features. To encourage and facilitate this process, Apple has already released a new SDK (software development kit) for the iPad. Apple, of course, has set up its own software Apps to take full advantage of the iPad, so if you use Apple’s Calendar and AddressBook, expect your calendar and contacts to look better (and be larger and easier to read) on the iPad. Expect similar tuning with Apple’s Mail program. The iPad uses a version of the Safari browser, which Apple is adapting to work with the iPad.
For those seriously interested in working on their iPad, Apple has modified its iWork programs (Pages, Keynote, and Numbers) and converted each to an App that it will offer in the App Store for $9.99. The Apple iWork software has already established itself. If the Apps function anywhere near as well as the full programs, they should prove exceptionally useful. Moreover, the ability of the iWork software programs to deal with files created by their Microsoft Office equivalents allows the transfer of files between an iPad and an office computer, even if the office computer uses Microsoft Office and not iWork.
Because of its larger screen, the iPad will provide a much better Internet experience than the iPhone or the iPod. That will come in handy for those of you wanting to do legal research on the run. It will also provide a better viewing experience for movies and pictures. Be careful about the viewing experience, however, as it poses some ethical dangers. The wide viewing angle means that people sitting on your side on an airplane or next to you at a lunch counter can see what you have on your screen. Undoubtedly someone will come up with a privacy screen for the iPad. When that happens, be the second in line (right behind me) to get one. The privacy screen will restrict the ability of those on your sides to see your screen and thereby protect your privacy as well as your clients’ privacy.
Apple has taken advantage of the iPad technology to tackle the eReader category. The iBook App gives you the ability to purchase and read books on the iPad (you can also access the materials offered by Amazon using the Kindle App). To facilitate your reading experience, Apple has created the iBook Store, which will allow you to acquire new reading material and download it to your iPad. Some have criticized Apple for taking on the eReader but not using e-ink technology. I could not more strongly disagree with that criticism. I have used e-ink technology since shortly after it first came out. I won’t deny that I like it and find it very easy to read, but I would never trade the backlit clarity of the iPad for e-ink technology. The iPad will read as easy or easier than any e-ink product, and it will offer you color where the e-ink devices offer only shades of gray. I would much rather see pictures in color than not. Moreover, I am used to seeing magazines in color. You will have the ability to read magazines on the iPad, just as you do on the Kindle. I would prefer reading them in color rather than in an e-ink version.
As I mentioned earlier, the iPad comes with only three options for memory size and offers no ability to add more memory. What you get when you buy it is what you have as long as you own it. I have found the 32 GB on my iPhone restrictive and the 64 GB on my iPod touch restrictive. I would much prefer if Apple got over its reluctance to include the ability to add memory cards. The ability to expand the device’s memory would make it much easier to use the iPad as a picture album, a movie viewer, a music player, an eReader, and a storage device for a variety of other information. It would, for example, allow you to get a media card to store books or movies that you don’t need on a daily basis but want to have with you when you travel.
One other thing that I wish Apple had included in the mix for the iPad is a webcam. A built-in webcam for use in videoconferencing would have made the iPad much more useful. I fully expect that Apple will correct that oversight in a future iteration of the iPad.
Now we can examine the proposition that the iPad represents a new technological niche. Apple targeted this niche at a place between the iPod touch and the laptop. The iPad certainly qualifies as less functional than a laptop and more functional than the iPod touch or the iPhone (other than the telephony features exclusive to the iPhone). In fact, however, I don’t consider the iPad a separate niche of technology, any more than I do the netbook. The netbook provides less functionality at a lower price than a full-fledged laptop, but it remains a laptop. Although it may prove tempting to refer to the iPad as an Internet appliance, the fact remains that it is either an escalation of the iPod touch or a less expensive version of the tablet computer, with a few additional features, such as the multi-touch screen. Simply put, it is evolutionary, not revolutionary. That said, the fact remains that it offers a good escalation and a package that will prove useful to many, irresistible to others, and unattractive to some.
I find myself in both the useful and irresistible camps. I expect that many of you will find the iPad attractive as an e-mail device, or as an Internet appliance, or as an eReader, or as a . . . pick a function, any function. The iPad will enable me to travel to many meetings without a laptop. Its weight and size make it an easy fit for a briefcase or a large purse. I will likely carry it with me most of the time instead of my MacBook Air and my Kindle, because it will do for me what I expect both of those devices to handle.
Most people who get netbooks expect them to provide e-mail, Internet browsing, and, perhaps, some movie watching, so those who found the netbook sufficient will likely find the iPad equally sufficient or more so than the netbook. Apple has tried to start its pricing of the iPad accordingly, offering the lowest level of the iPad at $499. Apple’s pricing structure for the iPad can be found in the chart below.
|WiFi plus 3G|
Jeffrey Allen is the principal in the small law firm of Graves & Allen in Oakland, California, with a general practice that, since 1973, has emphasized negotiation, structuring, and documentation of real estate acquisitions, loans, and other business transactions, receiverships, related litigation, and bankruptcy. He also works extensively as an arbitrator and a mediator. He serves as the editor of the Technology eReport and the Technology & Practice Guide issues of GPSolo magazine. He is also a member of the ABA Journal Board of Editors. He regularly presents at substantive law and technology-oriented programs for attorneys and writes for several legal trade magazines. In addition to being licensed as an attorney in California, he has been admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. He holds faculty positions at California State University of the East Bay and the University of Phoenix. You may contact him at email@example.com. Jeffrey Allen blogs on technology and the practice of law at www.jallenlawtekblog.com.