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Tale of the tablet (Summer 2011)

July 29th, 2011, by

I bought an iPad. Full Circle? Former Mac zealot gone Windows long ago. Cupertino home-bound?  We’ll see.

My wife and I are (FINALLY!) going on our honeymoon in a few weeks, and I decided a long time ago that there’s simply no way in hell I’m lugging a laptop on that trip, and it’s just been “which tablet am I gonna get before we go?” Those of you who have known me for 10 years or more will probably get a particular kick out of this story. For those of you that don’t, the upshot is that I used to be something of a Mac zealot, but switched over to Windows long, long ago, and my livelihood is very Microsoft centric these days. (Funny, that’s the last time I mention Microsoft from here on out. Omen?)

So I’ve been hemming and hawing over which tablet to buy for a while, mostly because I haven’t had time to really research / play with any. I played with a Droid pro a while back and wasn’t blown away by Android. It’s clunky, complicated, sucks the living crap out of batteries, and the Android team at Google respects privacy about as well as Facebook. So despite the zillion options for devices (HTC, Motorola, Samsung, et al) I wasn’t exactly excited about getting an Android device.

For the last few weeks I’ve been getting emails from HP (my company is a reseller/partner) and I see I can get an NFR demo Touchpad for 40% off list. I’ve been moderately curious about WebOS anyhow (before BlackBerry, I was all about Palm). So I google around and find that yes, despite an app store that’s paltry in comparison to Apple and Google, I can VPN to my office and do a remote desktop connection with an app, and I figure, what the hell. Plus, I’m being kinda cheap about it; Instead of forking over $600+ accessories to Apple for a 32GB iPad2, I can get the same size device (sans rear camera) for under $350. At that price it’s an experiment and I can give it to someone as a gift for eff’s sake if I dont like it. So I order it Monday, I get it Wednesday.

At around 9pm Wed. I finally finish up for the day and reward myself. I unbox the thing, which was a major project. They have the stickiest, thickest security tape you’ve ever seen in your life on every corner of the box, and it’s packed in so tightly, it’s a miracle they didn’t need lube to wedge it in to the box. But I digress.

I finally free the thing, and fire it up. Can’t get past the initial login screen because the online registration (which is not optional, and a brick wall before you do anything else) is down. So I call support. By the time they answer the reg is back up, maybe 10-15 minutes in. A very enthusiastic “valet” from another continent is thrilled to show me a few features. So for 10 or 15 minutes I’m “Mister Seth” and i’m actually pretty impressed with the basics of the experience. I bid my valet adieu, set up an email account on the thing, and finally leave the office.

Deb and I hang out at home for 45 minutes and she goes to sleep. I’m still unwinding from a long day so I figure I’ll play with it for an hour and see what’s what. One thing I like about non-iOS is that you should be able to use more web sites, what, with Flash and all. So I go to the Hulu site to watch a little Arrested Development, to check the video quality.

And this is when the wheels completely come off the wagon.

The video plays, but the buttons in the player – you know, unimportant controls like “full screen” and “volume” keep opening up new browsers, because the videos are all ad-subsidized (even when you pay the $8/month) and something is clearly not working right.

I kid you not, before I’ve even watched the first segment of the first episode, the thing locks up.

I can get to the screen that says “shut down” and to other controls (think Ctrl-Alt-Del) but of course none of the buttons work. I get on my iPod touch and google how to soft reset the thing. I press the three keys and hold them, nothing. At some point the device goes completely dark, despite the fact that it’s got plenty of juice. DOA, dude. BLACK SCREEN. GAME OVER. Think 2002-2004 Eric Gagne.

So either a web site annihilated my TouchPad, or I got a bad unit. I decide I’m no longer interested in finding out. The next day my always-helpful assistant got an RMA, boxed it up, and returned it to our friends at Ingram Micro.

So after work, I go over to the Apple Store, fork over $829.13 by the time it’s all said and done ($40 for the magnetic rubber cover, jeez,) and to be honest, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thrilled to give it to them. I got a tablet that works well, without having to wait for it in the mail, with all the trimmings. Shopping at the Apple store is always dangerous; Steve Jobs apparently figured out how to harness and distribute his well-documented “reality distortion field” into every Apple store. The notion of a budget is tough to stick to in that place. I came pretty close to buying one of small and very sexy 11-inch MacBook Airs, but thankfully, I stopped myself.

One step at a time, mister.


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