By Andrew Hesner
I have always been an Apple fanatic. My first computer was a Gateway desktop that lasted 11 months. After that I was given an old iMac, multicolored and teardrop-shaped. It looked like something from outer space. I immediately fell in love with it. It was the best computer for its time.
I still own an iMac, a newer one from late 2008. On its third anniversary, I took it to a shop for maintenance. They told me it was running perfectly. Those words are rarely uttered to a PC user. Not only have I had outstanding success with the iMac, but I am a proud owner an iPhone, an Apple TV and an Apple AirPort Express wireless router.
And now, an iPad 3.
Two years and two generations later, it is Apple's second-most-profitable product and has a 70 percent global market share in the tablet-computing industry, compared to Android's 30 percent. The new iPad 3 sold more than 3 million units after its March 16 unveiling and has proven to be a pretty amazing product. The tablet, deemed useless by some, is one of the reasons why Apple has become the richest company in the world.
Consider the features: The new iPad's retina display brings significantly better graphics and resolution. The camera now offers 5 megapixels and high definition 1080-pixel video recording. Similar to the iPhone 4S, the device is fitted with Siri-style voice-recognition that is much more accurate than those pesky "say a command" systems on other devices. It's mind boggling to know that the 7-inch iPad has thousands more pixels than an HD TV and resolution of 2048x1536.
The retina display changes are easily noticeable and for those who are hesitant to use the device after the numerous articles on overheating issues. That was an over-hyped software problem that only occurred with a few devices and under acceptable circumstances.
The 100-plus-degree temperatures occurred while the device was being charged and, at the same time, running heavy-graphic games such as "Infinity Blade 2" and "Real Racing 2." If a TV gets hot while displaying a movie, why wouldn't an iPad?
On closer examination of "heatgate," Consumer Reports magazine concluded that the high temperatures are "not a cause for concern" and the magazine ranked the new iPad at the very top of its tablet charts.
The iPad does have legitimate flaws. But they are minor and can be overcome easily.
First, the device comes without ear buds. The iPhone, iPod and iPod Touch come with headphones. Why wouldn't the iPad?
Second, Apple recommends purchase of a protective portfolio-style case and screen protector. Apple's product slogan, "An intersection between technology and art," leaves consumers afraid of damaging the product. Result: Buyers can spend hours in crowded department stores, or online, trying to find the perfect case to compliment personal style and budget requirements. It's not that easy. Trust me.
When the first iPad was released in 2010, Apple and other companies offered a narrow selection of protective accessories. Two generations later, finding a case is like shopping for a car. Scores of stores, from BestBuy to Wal-Mart, carry an array of cases in a plethora of styles and materials. Be prepared to waste at least a few hours trying these cases out. Ideally, you want something of high quality without straining your wallet too much. I spent more money on gas driving from store to store than on the actual case.
For those who are overprotective of the $500 product, a screen protector is a requirement. Those who pained through the process of applying a screen protector to an iPhone or iPod Touch, will find the iPad a whole new ball of wax. Removing air bubbles and dust may also take a few hours. My recommendation is to run the shower while applying the protector in the bathroom. The steam from the shower will minimize the dust in the air.
Despite of these small problems, the iPad 3 is an amazing device. I love it. It is so complicated, yet so simple to use. For those who think it is just a big iPod touch, it is much more -- the power of a laptop, mobile hotspot capabilities, more books than a library, a music player with the best music store built-in, a screen you can actually see, face-to-face communication and an HD TV all-in-one. I highly recommend this product.
Andrew Hesner is a junior journalism major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He is from Blairstown, N.J.
Sidebar: Is PC-based IUP having a Mac attack?
INDIANA -- A recent informal technology survey in an Indiana University of Pennsylvania undergraduate classroom found that three of seven computers in use were Macintoshes, and more than half of the smartphones were iPhones.
Even on this mostly-Microsoft IUP campus, the finding that Apple products are crowding in is not news, even to tech experts.
"It is estimated that 60 percent of the smartphones on campus are iPhones," said Todd D. Cunningham, IUP executive director of information technology, during an April 17 phone interview. "The remaining 40 percent are a mixture of Androids and BlackBerrys."
Earlier in the semester, faculty members in several IUP academic departments received iPad tablet computers from the university.
"Eighteen tenure-track faculty received them in the criminology department," said criminology professor and department chair Randy L. Martin.
"They are slowly coming to the university," said Cunningham. "iPads are not the only tablet computers that are in the hands of faculty, however. The Motorola Xoom and the Motorola XiBoard are also popular."
Why would IUP choose several different tablet computers?
"[The] iPad was a general consensus," Martin said. "It was the best version of tablet out there. The faculty uses them a lot, and they are useful for the criminology online masters program. The only downfall is that the iPad does not support Adobe Flash Player."
IUP journalism professor Patricia Heilman noted the personalized nature of the iPad.
"There are some problems with a state institution purchasing iPads for faculty and students," Heilman said during an April 25 email interview. "First of all, the state owns them. When you leave IUP, you need to turn in the iPad. You lose anything you purchased for it."
Why not stick to one brand -- Apple or Android? Will iPads or other tablets be supplied to students, similar to the iPad programs at Duke University and the University of Maryland?
IUP Chief Information Officer William S. Balint expressed caution.
"There are hidden fees with every new device bought," said Balint during an April 16 phone interview. "We have to be cost-effective and cost-responsible. We did not receive any new money or IT staff for tablet devices, so we have to limit what we can support."
So why would IUP supply some academic departments with the most expensive of the tablet devices, the iPad? Wouldn't a PC-oriented campus like IUP integrate better with a Samsung or Motorola tablet device running Android software?
"iPads would be an easy transition for students or faculty with iPhones," said Balint. "If you're an Android person, you buy a tablet using the Android operating system."
And if you're a public university -- like IUP -- you shop for volume discounts.
"We purchase the tablets through resellers that offer the lowest prices possible," said Cunningham. "At one time, we ended up buying a 10-pack of iPads and only paying for nine."
Would IUP ever consider buying Macintosh computers as a transition for current Mac users, or even iPad users?
"I believe we should have a multi-platform campus," Heilman said. "We never know on which platform out students will need to work in the future. Having experience on PCs and Macs will give our students an edge."
While Apple only holds a 11 percent nationwide market share in the desktop / laptop industry, it holds a 70 percent global market-share in the tablet industry and a 37 percent nationwide market share in the smartphone industry. If that 12 percent computing market-share were to go up, would IUP provide "transitions" and perhaps offer Macintosh computer labs to students?
"We do have some business need for the Macintosh, mainly because of the applications used by art and music majors," Cunningham said.
But, Cunningham added, Macs are not ready to run reliably and effectively within a large organization.
"They are not something that is enterprise-ready yet," Cunningham said. "The management side and deployment methods are not up to par for enterprise. Windows is so much better in an enterprise way."
"Apple is fairly stable and fairly intuitive, but not diverse in pricing and business," he said.
Code words like "enterprise" refer to, in my opinion, the complicated systems and servers that IUP uses. If Apple computers were introduced, the university's various PC-based drives (P, I, U, etc.) would have to be reformatted and re-networked. Such changes would cost money, what IUP is trying to conserve.
Of course when administrators and tuition-payers hear of Mac computers, they assume higher prices. Macs may be more expensive than Dells or Toshibas. But are they cheaper in the long run?
Heilman said she has reason to doubt it.
"I wanted a new university-issued MacBook as my replacement, and I wanted it partitioned so I could run both the Mac OS and the Windows-operating system, because I use high-end design software," she said. "The university refused and issued me a Dell laptop. Upshot was that to configure the Dell with what I needed, it cost $300 more than the base MacBook (which came already configured to the specs I needed)."
Balint and Cunningham were not certain of the maintenance costs of Macs versus Windows-based computers. But one avid Mac-user student said Apple computers are built better and last longer.
"I've had my Mac for nearly a year and haven't had to do a bloody thing," said IUP journalism student Jacob "Jake" Williams, an editor at the campus newspaper The Penn, during an April 24 email interview. "No extra software, nothing!"
Heilman agreed. All her original Macs work, and she never has lost a file or experienced a hardware crash.
But that may be changing, too.
Apple computers increasingly are becoming infected with viruses that Windows-based devices are notorious for.
This may be a bad development, but it says something good about the popularity of Apple products, according to professor Heilman.
"It's a good and a bad thing," Heilman said. "I liked being left alone by hackers. The fact that computer geeks are writing viruses for Macs means there are enough Mac users to irritate."
--- by Andrew Hesner