I watched the iPad announcement last week with interest. I’m not a gadget-hound, but Max and I were both home that day, so he gave me play-by-play commentary of the announcement. It’s certainly an intriguing device with plenty of interesting facets to debate (open/closed, produce/create, and so on).
One thing I definitely don’t get is the ergonomics of it. Look at this demonstration of editing a slide show on the iPad:
First of all, I don’t understand his emphasis on the apparent miracle of coming up with ways to manipulate objects on the screen with touch. I thought we had all gotten used to the concept of touch and multi-touch. But that’s not the main point. Watch it again, but don’t look at the screen: look at his hands.
He looks uncomfortable. He’s trying to hold the iPad in his left hand, and perform precise touching with his right. His non-touching fingers are being held stiffly up out of the way to avoid making an accidental multi-touch. He’s got nowhere to rest his right hand. And when he has to touch with both hands, they keep crossing over each other like some kind of crazy-advanced piano sonata.
I can see using the iPad to watch stuff, or any task that doesn’t require much input. But that demo showed me that it will be much too awkward to make the sort of gestures needed to do real work. People need to rest their hands on something. It’s hard to hold your arm up without something to help carry the weight. Keyboards have palm rests, mice let your wrist sit on the desk. Palm-sized devices like the iPhone are light enough to hold while tapping with your thumbs. Maybe it would be OK while sitting in a chair with arm rests?
I’ll be interested to see how people use the iPad. I could see propping it up in my lap with one hand and tapping for a while with the other, but long sessions, or two-handed use, just seem too unnatural.