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Apple’s iPad and Automation, Weighing the Good and the Bad
Is using the slick portable device to operate a home control system a match made in heaven or a really bad combo?
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October 19, 2010 by Lisa Montgomery

Right out of the box, there’s a lot you can do with Apple’s iPad. So what about using it to control the electronic devices in your home? We asked a few seasoned custom electronics professionals (CE pros) for their take on the popular device and how they think it’ll impact the way we manage our household electronics.

The Good

Big Screen
The almost 10-inch screen provides plenty of real estate for displaying controls, as well as information about them, for electronic devices. “The more space you have on a screen, the less you’ll have to scroll or flip to get to what you want,” says Derek Cowburn of DistinctAV, McCordsville, Ind. “This will make it a great interface for managing large collections of media, and for browsing information. For example, with the iPad you’d be able to browse on-demand listings without having to turn on the TV.”

Cost
Starting from $499, the iPad may seem pricey, but it’s far less expensive than most home control touchpanels of similar size. “It’s poised to open up opportunities for people interested in home control, but who can’t afford a large-size touchpanel from a home control manufacturer,” says Joe Calderaro of Audio Video Interiors, Medina, Ohio.

Apple Backing
Almost every home control system manufacturer offers an app for the iPhone and iPod touch. You can bet they’ll be doing the same (many already have, tweaking for the larger interface) for the iPad. “Once the control manufacturers are on board, the iPad will be a real game changer,” says Ryan Herd of One Sound Choice, Pompton Plains, N.J.

The Bad

Tough to Operate
Apps may help leverage the iPad as a home control device, but at a potential risk to its usability. “People aren’t going to want to have to constantly switch between different apps to control different things,” Cowburn explains. “If all the controls can tie back to a single app, then the iPad becomes a very powerful device.”

Easy to Misplace
Unlike an iPhone that’s usually in your pocket, the iPad will likely be carted around the house by everyone in the family. This may sound super convenient, but just wait until someone leaves it where you can’t find it.

Too Much Stuff
A jack of all trades, a master of none is how some CE pros describe multifunctional products like the iPad. Calderaro compares it to his BlackBerry. “My BlackBerry takes pictures, and I’ll occasionally use it to take a quick snapshot, but if I want good pictures I’ll use my camera.” Similarly, he thinks the iPad will be used occasionally to operate electronic devices, but for serious control consumer will continue to rely on interfaces designed explicitly for the task.

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address): Would you like to use your new iPad to control the lights, thermostats, A/V equipment and other devices in your house?

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Lisa Montgomery - Contributing Writer
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.

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