External keyboard support: Macworld editors have been aching for Bluetooth keyboard support on the iPhone since the first model was announced in January 2007. Despite the small screen on the iPhone and iPod touch, being able to use an external keyboard for "real" typing tasks would make the device much more useful, and even let us leave our laptops at home for some trips. Sadly, with each new version of the iPhone OS, we've been disappointed by this omission.
The iPad's huge screen--which has the potential to be great for working with email and text--and the announcement of iWork for iPad (see my next item) had several Macworld editors crossing their fingers that Apple wouldn't hold back on this obvious feature. This time around, Apple didn't disappoint. Not only will the company sell a dedicated Keyboard Dock, which holds the iPad upright while providing a full-size (but no-keypad) Apple aluminum keyboard, but the iPad will also work with standard Bluetooth keyboards. I am very, very pleased.
iWork for iPad: If the iPad really was just a big iPod touch, certain segments of the tech-buying public--business users and education, especially--may not have seriously considered purchasing it. But with the announcement of iWork for iPad, the iPad became a device that will also let you create, edit, and present Keynote presentations; work on spreadsheets and word-processing documents; and create newsletters and other basic page-layout documents. And support for Microsoft Office documents means you can import and work with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. It remains to be seen how well iWork for iPad handles these types of files, and what features it does and doesn't support, but with a real "office suite," a 9.7-inch screen, and the aforementioned support for external keyboards, the iPad is a much more capable tool than it's smaller sibling--and for many people, possibly a laptop replacement.
ePub support: Most people expected the iPad to double as an e-book reader. But Apple's announcement that the iPad's iBooks e-reading app will support the ePub standard was big news. Adopted by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) as an open-standards-based format for digital books, ePub allows publishers to create books in a single format for distribution to various e-book resellers and for use on any device that supports ePub. With more and more publishers and hardware vendors adopting the ePub standard, this news means it will be easier for publishers--big and small--to make their e-books available for the iPad and other e-readers.
(Questions still remain, however: Will Apple apply FairPlay copy protection to books you purchase through the iBookstore? Will you be able to import unprotected ePub documents into the iBooks app? We'll be working on the answers to these questions going forward.)
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