My desire for such a thing was sparked with the 3Com Audrey. With its touchscreen, wireless keyboard and Internet access (Ethernet only), you could use it to check mail, view calendar events and do some light web surfing. It was discontinued after 7 months, and never developed into what it could have been.
In playing with one (I picked it up for US$10 on Ebay), I got a picture of what I wanted its successor to be, and I described it in that post from two years ago. Today I'm amazed how successfully the iPad meets those requirements. Read on to see what I mean.
- "An eye-level device." In the kitchen, I'm typically standing. At 6 feet tall, I'm often bending over to look at my MacBook Pro's display, which is less than ideal. Now, I can put the iPad in its dock (or stand) and rest it on a shelf. Perfect. If only there were some sort of magnet system for getting it on the 'fridge or wall mount.
- "It must have a touch screen or voice activation." There's no room for a keyboard in my small kitchen, so a touch screen or voice activation is a must.
- "Hands-free cooking." The Epicurious app for iPad (free) is stunning and exactly what I envisioned. It features re-sizeable text that's legible from a distance, shopping list generation, beautiful photos, step-by-step instructions and full menu suggestions. Plus, it's a joy on the iPad's razor-sharp screen. With the slide of a finger (wipe your hands first, or slide the iPad inside a Ziploc baggie) you can prepare your dishes easily.
- "Shared calendar that receives push updates from my other devices." Yes and yes. As a MobileMe customer, my calendars, contacts, email accounts and more are synchronized across all of my Apple devices,** including the iPad. That messy collection of random notes from school, paper calendar, receipts, artwork, etc. that clutters the refrigerator...eliminated.
- "Email, even if it's read-only." How about a fully-functioning mail app with push notification? Done.
- "Weather for the day." Weather Station Pro is only $1.99 and beautiful. WeatherBug Elite is "weather on crack," according to one reviewer, and it's temporarily free.
- "Music." The easiest one of all, as the iPad is also an iPod, with speakers beefy enough to be heard over the kitchen tumult. Of course, you can also have public radio from anywhere or a station that knows what you like to hear with your cornflakes and juice.
Finally, I described "...a touch-screen machine about the size of a 15" MacBook Pro display, but a little thicker. Give it this basic functionality and wall-mounting hardware and you'd have something worth considering. Since it would lack an optical drive, hard drive (flash?) and lots of pricey software, it could be relatively inexpensive. The Audrey sold for $499US." Well done, Apple.
It took a long time, but Apple has produced the ultimate kitchen machine. Thanks, folks!
*No, it's not a "Mac." I get it.
**Sorry, Apple TV. Not you.