Tablets here, tablets there and everywhere

Published 12:32 am Sunday, May 22, 2011

We’re getting used to seeing e-reader tablets in the wild. It used to be such a fun game to spot a TV personality holding a tablet computer while delivering the news. A few newscasters even use a tablet computer to control a big-screen monitor slideshow to highlight the evening news.

That’s old hat now — becoming normal!

I follow a video podcast titled IPAD TODAY (TWIT-TV — This Week in Tech). The Internet site has multiple video podcasts with 20-something kids talking about tech news. Sara Lane and Leo LePorte have hosted the show since shortly after the iPad was launched in April 2010.
Sara and Leo talk about featured iPad apps (applications — computer programs), culled from the 40,000 or more apps available on iTunes. Since the iPad is so much more than an e-reader, conversation covers a wide range of topics.

Sara used to have a program segment where viewers sent in video clips of iPads spotted in the wild (used in public). That segment has been discontinued now as sightings have become quite common.

How common? Apple Computers reported it sold 14.8 million iPads in 2010 (released in April), and an estimate of sales for the first quarter of 2011 is between 5 million and 8.8 million units. Apple dominates the computer tablet market with an estimated 80 percent share.

It’s truly “a computer for ordinary people,” a quote attributed to Steve Jobs. It’s no longer a celebrity prop, and it has gained widespread normal usage by ordinary folk. You can’t say 85-year-old Queen Elizabeth II is “normal,” but she recently got her personal iPad after grandkids showed her how easy it was to use.

I’m smitten by the iPad. I rarely use my laptop now, having abandoned it for the more convenient tablet computer. I turn it on and it’s ready to use, unlike the two- to three-minute wait for the laptop to boot up. My tabletop computer is used only for writing articles and stories. Our iPad (wife Jackie claims it, too) is for consuming the Internet while my tabletop is for input.

I usually make 6 a.m. coffee and read the newspaper while it’s brewing. Then, I grab the iPad to read email and check out Facebook to catch up on family news. Then I read Zite magazine, a personalized magazine that culls news articles from around the web. You might say that I read hundreds — well, many — magazines and newspapers by reading my news aggregator Zite.

A long battery life allows our iPad to live on the coffee table, where it is convenient at any hour. At night, I hog our iPad to check email, read Zite again and maybe check out another aggregator, Flipboard, before handing it over to Jackie to play Angry Birds, solitaire or online games. Both of us use the iPad while halfheartedly watching TV.

Our iPad is a quality e-reader with a color 10-inch screen offering great e-book reading using the iBook app. However, since it is a multi-purpose tablet, the iPad supports the Kindle and Nook reader apps and other lesser-known readers.

Speaking of the Kindle and Nook, these dedicated e-readers are designed for one thing only — reading e-books. A departure from the multi-tasking iPad, dedicated e-readers feature low price, long battery life and a paper-like display that is said to be easy on the eyes. They are smaller than the iPad, a feature that some people find appropriate.

Now back to spotting tablet computers in the wild. Just last week, while shopping in the Chocowinity Food Lion, a 30-something woman had an iPad propped up in her shopping cart. I resisted the urge to run over and inquire of the app she was using.

Yesterday, I saw the NBC News weatherman Al Roker, clad in waist-high rubber waders, standing in the flooded Mississippi River. Instead of paper notes, he held his iPad2 while proclaiming the weather. That iPad is now his sidekick, glued to his hand, a prop proclaiming his hipness!

Recently, I accompanied Jackie to Wal-Mart to buy supplies for a trip to the beach. We are to meet with our daughter and her family for a weekend getaway following a business conference that her husband is attending in Charleston, S.C. We seldom get to see the grandkids as they live on the West Coast.

When we first entered Wal-Mart, there was a large display of summer patio furniture. A neat-looking woman was trying out a lounge chair while reading her Kindle e-book. She was obviously waiting for a companion to finish shopping. Her reader was enclosed in a somewhat shabby, well-used leather cover.

When we left the store half an hour later, the woman was still there, absorbed in her e-book.

Oh, times have changed!

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