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Still like the iPad despite some warts and Apple’s business model

Now that I’ve had a few days to play with Apple’s new iPad, I can definitely say that it’s pretty much what it’s advertised to be.

The screen looks great — albeit a bit smudgy from fingerprints — and it’s a fast and easy way to access the Web and send e-mail.

The iPad is a great way to watch video, as long as you buy or rent the video from Apple iTunes or stream it from a source that’s not encoded with Flash. Unfortunately, a lot of Web video uses Adobe Flash.

Using the on-screen keyboard isn’t as efficient as using a physical keyboard, but it’s better than I expected, especially if you hold the iPad in landscape mode. The virtual keyboard in landscape mode is about 85 percent the size of a standard keyboard. You can also use an external keyboard such as the $69 Apple Bluetooth keyboard that makes it possible to use an iPad for serious writing projects.

I like the fact that it turns on instantly. No more having to “boot” a computer or even wait a few seconds for a PC to come out of sleep mode. The iPad wakes up the moment you press its home key — handy if you want to quickly check a Web page or send an e-mail.

While I’m pretty happy with the iPad, I have a few gripes about it, namely that this device, like the iPhone and the iPod Touch, is heavily controlled by Apple.

Aside from using iTunes, there’s no easy way to get data on the iPad. And all applications have to be approved by Apple and canonly be obtained through the App store.

The lack of a USB port forces users to get products designed specifically for the Apple iPhone, iPod or iPad. It also bothers me that users can’t replace their own batteries.

Like many people, I’m disappointed that the iPad doesn’t let you run more than one program at a time. Apple has a news conference scheduled for Thursday where it will show off its next generation iPhone operating system (that presumably will also run on the iPad), and I’m hoping that they will announce support for multi-tasking.

And of course, it’s too big to carry around in a pocket. So, unlike an iPhone, other smartphone or iPod Touch, the iPad is not something you’re likely to have with you everywhere you go.

Bottom line — the iPad is a very cool product that’s fun to use, but I can’t think of anything you can do with it that you can’t do with a laptop or netbook computer, whose prices start at under $300.

I believe Apple may have built the first successful tablet computer, something Microsoft and other PC-makers haven’t been able to accomplish for a decade. I’m hoping that Apple’s leadership will rub off its competitors.

This column first appeared in the Palo Alto Daily News

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