Apple Quietly Fills in Some iPad Blanks

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After Apple announced the iPad, a lot of details got passed over in the media frenzy that Apple had whipped up, details such as whether the iPad would support Microsoft Exchange -- a fact that Apple's Web site did not address and that the company did not respond to when I and others asked. That was nearly six weeks ago.

But now that Apple is taking orders for the iPad in anticipation of the Wi-Fi-only model's expected April 3 release, Apple has begun to fill in more of the details. The company, of course, hasn't called me back as promised, but the details are now appearing quietly on Apple's Website.

So here are the answers that are appearing to a few of the questions that Apple wouldn't answer:

  • Microsoft Exchange support: Yes, the iPad will work with Exchange for email, as the iPhone and iPod Touch do. Presumably, as the iPhone and iPod Touch do, the iPad will also sync contacts and calendar appointments through Exchange directly, rather than require syncing through iTunes. I say "presumably" because Apple's Web site doesn't actually address the iPad's calendar and contacts syncing abilities for Exchange.

  • Microsoft Word export support: Yes, the $10 iWork Pages app for the iPad will let you export -- not just import -- documents in the Word format. Apple originally said the optional iWork apps (Pages for documents, Numbers for spreadsheets, and Keynote for slideshows) would import Office documents, but only listed iWork's own native formats and PDF as the formats you could export documents to. Now the Website lists the Word format as one you can generate and attach to emails you send from the iWork Pages app. But the Website does not say you can export to Excel or PowerPoint formats from Numbers or Keynote, respectively -- it continues to list just the native iWork and PDF formats for these two apps, so you may need to rely on a third-party app such as Documents to Go or Quickoffice to work with Office files in a meaningful way on an iPad. (In fact, the folks at Quickoffice told me after this blog was first posted that they're working on an iPad-specific version of their iPhone app.)

These two revelations make the iPad a bit more plausible as a lightweight business device when you're on the road for short trips. But there is still enough unsaid to make me recommend that you do not order an iPad until you know for sure if its capabilities are at least on par with the iPhone's or iPod Touch's.

And while we're at it, a few more tidbits revealed in the last few days:

  • Apple's list of email-supported file formats for the iPad continues to omit the .ics calendar-invitation format. If you get an invitation using this standard file format, you likely won't be able to open and accept it by double-clicking the file, as you can on most Mac and Windows email clients. (Invitations sent through Exchange presumably can be viewed and accepted as is allowed on the iPhone and iPod Touch.)

  • There will be a volume-control button on the side of the iPad, as well as a screen-orientation lock button.

  • The iPad will support the AVI video file format if compatible with the Motion JPEG standard -- this is a new file format for Apple's mobile devices and could open up playback capabilities outside the usual QuickTime and MPEG-4 formats that Apple has so far focused on.

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