A Product Manager’s First Impressions Of The Apple iPad

After compulsively tracking my iPad pre-order’s shipping path from China to Chek Lap Kok to Anchorage to Massachusetts… I finally received my iPad on Saturday, and the first thing my eight-year-old son says upon seeing the device is: “Cool; you got a giant iPhone!”

My iPad’s customized home screen

Forty-eight hours in, I can say he’s absolutely right. But that’s not all the iPad is…

Why’d I Buy My iPad?

I bought the 16GB Wi-Fi version of the iPad because…

  • I’m willing to roll the dice on intriguing new technology;
  • I was not going to buy the 3G version with the additional billing plan for 3G service;
  • I own a MacBook, an Apple TV, an iPhone, and an iMac. Of course, I’m going to buy an iPad.

The Piper Jaffray survey on iPad buyers puts me squarely into a pretty homogeneous group:

  • 74% were Mac users. 96% planned to continue using their computers.
  • 66% owned iPhones. Only four or five respondents (1%) thought they could replace their iPhone with an iPad.
  • The $499 16GB iPad was the most popular (39%).

Primarily, I bought it because of my iPhone experience, really. I enjoy using my iPhone. Being able to interact with a similar device on a grander scale? Yes, please.

The Out-Of-The-Box Experience Kind Of Stunk

Honestly, my initial impression after unboxing the iPad was mild frustration. Because when I turned the iPad on, the first thing I saw was a prompt to connect to iTunes.

iTunes, I don’t have a problem with; I’m used to that software eco-system. No, I was annoyed because I just wanted to turn it on and start Doing Stuff. Not turn it on and wait.

Speaking of which… after connecting to iTunes? Prompt to upgrade to the latest version of iTunes. (Interesting that the upgrade text refers to the iPad as an “iPhone”…)

But, once that was taken care of… the magic began.

Well. Began after registering the device…

I will give Apple credit for the Welcome email after registering because it contained a couple helpful (not-obvious-to-me) tips, like — you can add more apps to your Dock by dragging up to six apps down there from the Home screen (for me, “Settings” and “iBooks” went into the Dock immediately).

First Impressions… In Bullet Point Form!


  • The interface is intuitive and responsive — surprisingly, shockingly fast.
  • The 9.7-inch LED-backlit display is bright and gorgeous.
  • Many free, quality Apps.


  • You can mail photos from the Photos app but can’t attach photos to emails from Mail. That’s idiotic to me.
  • Difficult to find iPad apps in iTunes store; it’s kind of a jungle in there, actually.
  • The unofficial Star Trek iPadd app got pulled before I downloaded it.

What Apps Did I Install?

A lot. But here are my favorite five so far…

Netflix: Streams movies and video over Wi-Fi with your paid Netflix account. App cost: Free.

Marvel Comics: Read premium comic books without needing to buy additional long boxes to store them in? Sounds good to me! App cost: Free.

Mobi Comics Reader: Comic reader with native support for .rars, .cbrs, .pdf and more. This means, I can now bring my entire collection of ROM comics with me wherever I go. App cost: $14.99.

iBooks: Apple’s ebook store/reader is pretty intuitive and the books read well. The big advantage over the Kindle iPad app, from what I’ve experienced so far, is you can buy books directly through iBooks versus making a separate trip to Amazon.com. App cost: Free.

Plants Vs. Zombies HD: I don’t have a shot of this because my children won’t stop playing the game long enough for me to take one. Then again, that’s probably all you need to know about it. App cost: $9.99.

Product Manager Perspective

Switching from my Happy Consumer mindset to Product Manager mindset, I find the iPad fascinating in a number of ways.

While some people (like myself) are enjoying their iPads, others are confused about what the iPad represents, and still others are calling the iPad a dangerous tool designed to help the media elite by infantalizing our ability to interact with hardware and software.

And then there are people like my wife who had zero interest in the iPad until she got to use mine, and now she’s reminding me about Christmas coming up in eight months 😉

It feels like Apple was not trying to create a new kind of laptop, nor a new kind of netbook, nor a new kind of eBook reader or gaming device.

But it does feel like Apple is creating a new category of mobile tool — targeted at the same group of consumers who are interested in laptops, netbooks, eBooks and games.

And they’re leveraging assets they’ve been developing and refining over the last 5-10 years: A thriving content distribution network (iTunes); a large number of applications (thanks to the iPod & iPhone); and their own knack for creating products that consumers find stylish and easy to use.

It’s fascinating to watch, in retrospect, the seeds be planted and watered and nurtured. What’s next for Apple? Who knows.

What’s next for me? My friend Dave let me play Need For Speed on his iPad this morning so I’ll be downloading that tonight…

More iPad First Impressions

  • Steven Levy, Wired – “Compact, cool-running, speedy — and a groundbreaking new way to consume media. You already know how to use it.”
  • David Pogue, The New York Times – “The iPad is so fast and light, the multitouch screen so bright and responsive, the software so easy to navigate, that it really does qualify as a new category of gadget.”
  • Andy Ihnatko, Chicago Sun Times – “It’s a computer that’s designed for speed, mobility, and tactile interaction above all other considerations.”

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4 thoughts on “A Product Manager’s First Impressions Of The Apple iPad

  1. Is the ipad the best tech ever? Maybe, maybe not. That’s not the real question. Will lots of people buy it? That’s the key question from my pov.

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