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04.04.10

5 Secrets of the iPad

The biggest product launch of the year has set in motion changes for tech devices everywhere. The Daily Beast’s Nick Ciarelli on five iPad developments you need to know about. Plus, love it or loathe it? Read our roundup of 8 early iPad reviews from around the Web.

After a holiday weekend in which Apple’s iPad tablet attracted more attention than Easter itself, everyone and their IT consultant seems to have weighed in with an opinion. But past mere reviews, there are many larger trends that the iPad has set in motion. After a weekend of testing, The Daily Beast has identified five:

Prompted by the iPad, several major book publishers have forced Amazon to let them set their own prices for their e-books.

1. The iPad can run all of the existing iPhone apps—but you probably won't want to.

One of Apple's selling points for the iPad has been that it can run the more than 150,000 existing iPhone apps out of the box. In reality, though, most of those apps look pretty disappointing on the iPad. Unless they've been specially modified, they either run in a peculiar little box or can be blown up to double their size, which looks fairly unattractive in many cases. (Games look a bit better.) It's hard to imagine running too many iPhone apps when there are already more than a thousand apps in the store, many of them quite dazzling, that are designed expressly for the iPad.

2. Typing on the iPad truly isn't bad.

If you can't see yourself doing much typing on a touchscreen, the iPad's keyboard will exceed your expectations. If you turn the iPad sideways, you'll get a keyboard that's similar in size to a laptop keyboard, and it's big enough to type quickly and accurately. Later this month, Apple will sell a full-size physical keyboard that plugs into the iPad, but unless you're working on a new translation of Anna Karenina it probably won't be necessary.

3. Until Adobe Flash dies, the iPad's lack of Flash support will be a nuisance.

Yes, Adobe Flash—the software that drives most video and games on the Web, and that the iPad does not support—is crash-prone and inefficient. And yes, many major Web sites are converting their video to an open standard, called HTML5, which plays on the iPad. In the meantime, though, the reality is that a lot of Web sites do use Flash (including, for some odd reason, a lot of restaurants), and most of those sites won't be as quick as YouTube or The New York Times to convert their pages to HTML5. Until Flash dies completely, the iPad's lack of Flash support will be a nuisance for a lot of novice users who can't figure out why there are blank spots on the Web pages they load. Those users won't understand why Apple has a list of "iPad ready" Web sites: They will think all sites should be "iPad ready" when the iPad is advertised as "the best way to experience the Web."

4. The iPad has jacked up the price of e-books for everyone.

The iPad's e-book app, iBooks, is first-rate, but Apple's entry into the e-book market has basically raised the price of an e-book for everyone. Amazon's Kindle Store previously sold e-books at a discount in the same manner that it sells physical books. Now, prompted by the iPad, several major book publishers have forced Amazon to let them set their own prices for their e-books. Those prices have now risen from the $9.99 that Amazon typically charged for new e-books; James Patterson's The 8th Confession, for instance, is $14.99. On Amazon's pages for many of these higher-priced books, the retailer has posted a disavowal of sorts: "This price was set by the publisher."

5. The iPad may replace your laptop someday. For now, it requires a computer with iTunes installed.

For many consumers who mainly use a laptop to browse the Web, read email, and organize their photos, the iPad may eventually replace their computer entirely. For now, though, Apple doesn't make that easy: You still need a separate computer running iTunes to set up your new iPad. When that changes, we'll know the laptop's days are numbered.

Xtra Insight: Plus, love it our loathe it? Read our roundup of 8 early iPad reviews from around the Web.

Nicholas Ciarelli is the former publisher of Think Secret, an Apple news Web site. He works on the product team at The Daily Beast.