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Innovation

The keyboard ain't bad: An iPad retraction?

With the iPad's arrival, many have tried the kicker feature - the on-screen keyboard - and with 50% capacity of a normal typing keyboard, some say it's not that bad.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor on

My colleague Joel Evans who writes for the ZDNet Mobile Gadgeteer blog tried and tested the iPad keyboard. Equally to my surprise yet dismay, he managed 47 words a minute through an iTextSpeed testing application. He managed to get 23 words correct yet only 7 words incorrect during his test.

I am a competent typist and when I get going on an average day, I write around 80-85 words a minute. Strangely enough, when I get a headache I write more averaging 90-95 a minute. Granted, most of those are spelling mistakes of sorts, but then again I am mildly dyslexic. Journalist and made it to university? Thank God I wasn't brought up in the 1970's some might say.

One of my biggest gripes with tablet, slate - whatever you want to call them - computers, the devices with no physical keyboard, is exactly that; the lack of the physical keyboard. There is a reason why laptops and netbooks, albeit not as much, are as popular as they are with students and that's because they can type to their heart's content without the need to necessarily think about the act of typing.

When I got my new laptop, the first touch-screen laptop I had ever used, actually, the on-screen keyboard wasn't that bad as I thought it would be but still took some getting used to. The thought of using it to write an entire essay would be preposterous.

Side note This doesn't represent fully the on-screen keyboard utility in Windows 7, nor is it really a fair comparison to that of the iPad. The iPad on-screen keyboard seems "friendlier" and easier not to make mistakes with, frankly.

Though, with hindsight, I don't think iPad's or tablet PC's are designed for students to write entire essays on. There are just no clear guidelines or even considerations from the hardware or software manufacturers to say so.

Some users can write entire articles with the iPad with some asking whether it could replace the laptop entirely. I don't think it will, though Apple products to sport a popular trend - they haven't taken over the world before now; I doubt the iPad single-handedly will storm the planet with mystical like power. The one thing it has done is blown the tablet market way out of its own league, offering more devices at a potentially cheaper cost.

So this isn't a retraction of previous comments, as sorts. It's an acknowledgement that the one kicker feature for me - the on-screen keyboard - may not be as bad as I thought it was. We shall see; I have yet to endure the local Apple store and thronging towards and against the shop window in a mass-panic geek lynch mob.

But we shall see.

Got an iPad yet? What's the keyboard like? Good? Bad? Want to throw it against the wall already? Worth the price of $500 along with the unwritten right to your first born child? Have your say.

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