The iPad is nearly here. It goes on sale Saturday, and UPS willing, arrives at the doors of the hundreds of thousands of customers who pre-ordered the tablet starting last month.
Well, you can forget the run up, the hype, what consumer pigeon hole it fits, or even whether it will Change the World As We Know It. That's all history.
Now what do you do? And do with it?
Those are just the first of the questions you'll have about Apple's media tablet, so like a good story, that's where we'll start.
Can I still get one Saturday?
Yes, but you may have to stand in line.
All Apple's U.S. stores will have a limited supply of iPads for sale to walk-in customers Saturday starting at 9 a.m. local time, and Best Buy stores that stock Apple hardware will have an even more limited number (reportedly, just 15 for each store, five each of the three storage configurations).
iPads that have been reserved by others, but not picked up by 3 p.m. will be returned to sale inventory at that time by each Apple store.
If you did reserve an iPad for store pick-up, make sure you're there by 3 p.m.
What's in the box?
Not a heck of a lot. There's the iPad, of course, and Apple's typically terse "documentation," which is nothing more than a small booklet. Also included is a tiny power adapter and six-foot cord, and a cable to connect the iPad to a Mac's or PC's USB port.
How much does it cost to get on the Internet? Do I have to use AT&T?
Slow down, buddy. Unless you're Marty McFly, the iPad you have only connects over Wi-Fi. (A model with both Wi-Fi and 3G is due out later this month.)
So, if you're at home, your Web cruisin' over the wireless network adds nothing to your monthly nut. Out and about? Stay within range of a hot spot — and here, payment mileage may vary — to stay on the Internet.
Flash, no Flash, I'm not a freakin' camera. What Web sites work with the iPad?
Good question. Apple's feud with Adobe over Flash is famous. (CEO Steve Jobs reportedly called Adobe "lazy" for not optimizing Flash to suit Apple's requirements, or taste.)
Sites that stick with Flash will sport swaths of blank real estate on the iPad, but some sites have revamped to support HTML5 instead. Apple posted a short list of what it dubbed "iPad ready" sites Thursday that includes CNN, the New York Times, Flickr and Major League Baseball. (Msnbc.com automatically displays an HTML5 video player so consumers will be able to access our video on the iPad.)
There are, of course, tons more that will look just fine on the iPad. Others, just as obviously, may stink.
(For the Web site dev/design details, check out this tech note, "Preparing Your Web Content for iPad".)
Will iPhone apps work on the iPad?
Yes, but they'll appear in the center of the display and in actual iPhone size. In other words, tiny. At your option, you can double the size of an iPhone app, which makes it not only larger but likely a bit "jaggy," what with the way the mode simply enlarges pixels.
Has Apple stocked the App Store with iPad-specific software?
Naturally. In fact, iPad apps started to show up before the tablet hit consumers' hands. By Thursday's end, more than 2,000 iPad-specific apps, ranging in price from nothing to $9.99 (and some higher), appeared in the App Store within iTunes.
From our admittedly unscientific survey, iPad paid app prices will be much higher than those for the iPhone. The most frequently listed paid app prices seemed to be $4.99 and $6.99.
Here's hoping that app developers don't try to stick customers with a 5X price jump.
Does my iPad have a hard drive?
Negative. Instead, it uses NAND-based memory to duplicate the functions of a spinning hard disk, which would suck up enough power to send battery miser Steve Jobs over the edge. All your applications, videos, photographs, downloaded music, movies, television programs and other data goes into the flash memory.
Depending on how much money you decided to throw at Apple, your iPad has 16 GB, 32 GB or 64 GB of storage space. Each step up cost you $100.
Compared to a new Mac or PC, the iPad's storage is Lilliputian: The low-end MacBook Pro, for example, has a 160 GB hard drive, while the cheapest iMac sports 500 GB. But it's in line with the capacity of its closest cousin, the dinky iPod Touch.
Can I print from the iPad?
No. Apple didn't stick a USB port in the tablet.
You'll have to shunt what you want to a print to a PC or Mac using e-mail, or sync the iPad using iTunes or MobileMe, then print from there.
I want to read some books. What do I do?
Apple's supposed to add its free iBook app to the App Store on Saturday. Install it and you'll be able to purchase e-books from the limited stock — limited compared to Amazon.com's e-book inventory, at least — that Apple's put together for the launch.
Last week, Amazon announced it would rewrite its Kindle software — already available for the iPhone, as well as the Mac and PC — for the iPad. On Friday, the Kindle iPad app became available.
And how does the iPad do as an e-reader? We don't know, yet. We haven't put hands to one long enough to find out. So no comment for now. Wouldn't be prudent.
Can I watch movies, TV?
Of course. You can rent movies or purchase television episodes from iTunes, or if you're a Netflix member, download the free app to stream movies and TV shows to your iPad.
ABC has also posted viewing software (ABC Player) on the App Store, the only major television network to do so by late Thursday.
Can I do real work on my iPad?
Depends on how you define real (as opposed to fake work, which for us means a nap or ESPN), but you can write and crunch numbers and craft soul-sucking presentations if you buy the three apps that make up the iPad version of Apple's iWork suite.
Apple's used a way-back machine to return to the days of the unbundle, when suites weren't collections with a single price, but an agglomeration of separately-purchased programs that worked together, more or less. In other words, you buy the three applications — Pages, Numbers and Keynote — separately from the App Store. Price: $9.99 each.
Of course, if you're a numbers person and wouldn't know a gerund from a gradated background, you pay for only what you want and the hell with the rest.
There's no camera on the iPad, so how do I get photos onto the thing?
Out of the box, the sync cable is your friend: Use it and iTunes to synchronize collections on your computer with the iPad.
By the way, you'll need to update your Mac or PC to iTunes 9.1 — Apple slipped that out Tuesday — to sync with the iPad and organize the books you buy with the iBook app.
If there's $29 burning a hole in your pocket, you can spring for the iPad Camera Connection Kit. One of the two adapters accepts a camera's SD memory card; the other links your camera's USB cable with the iPad. Too bad the kit doesn't ship until later this month.
I tried the on-glass keyboard and hate it. What do I do?
The iPad also syncs with Bluetooth keyboards, so if you have one of those, you should be able to link and use it without any trouble.
Apple sells a combination keyboard and iPad dock — called, not surprisingly, the iPad Keyboard Dock — that also includes an audio jack for connecting the iPad to speakers or a stereo system. It costs $69. While some reviewers have received a dock, Apple's not shipping to the rest of us until late this month.
An Apple-branded Bluetooth keyboard — basically, the same keyboard as in the dock — also costs $69 and is available now.
I have a MobileMe account. Can I add the iPad to the list of my devices to sync?
Yes, you can. To MobileMe, Apple's sync and storage service, the iPad is just another device. You can sync the mail, contacts and calendar on the iPad with your iPhone, Mac or PC; use MobileMe's 20GB iDisk to store documents, like those you create with the iWork apps; register with the Find My iPad feature; and remotely wipe a lost or stolen tablet.
If you don't have a MobileMe account, you can try the service for 60 days free of charge.