Whether tossed into a backpack or propped on a lap while TV viewing, the iPad is a self-contained, Internet-enabled computer ready to fulfill your work and play desires.
But do you know you can also use the iPad’s Internet connection in combination with apps to control other gadgets in your home?
For instance, iPad is being increasingly adopted by consumer electronics such as Pioneer and Samsung to control each company's AV components. Home control vendors are also creating iPad-specific apps for controlling the heating and lighting systems in your house as well as appliances.
Since iPad is an Apple product, it is designed to work best with Apple's product and app ecosystem.
The iPad communicates with other Apple devices via two technologies: the Remote app and AirPlay. Both features require a Wi-fi connection, and Remote assumes you have an AppleTV.
The Remote app can do more than its name suggests. Yes, it does provide touch-screen control over your AppleTV by turning the iPad into a huge directional swipe pad that's insanely easier to use than the limited AppleTV remote. It also gives you a keyboard to relieve you of the tedium of scrolling up/down/left/right through the on-screen alphabet with the directional controls on the AppleTV remote.
But Remote also gives you access to your entire iTunes music and video library, now playable through your AppleTV. It may seem on the surface that this access is redundant – after all, if you have an AppleTV, you have access to your iTunes library in your living room. But Remote lets you carry that control around with you and lets you see everything on its screen instead, sparing you from a scroll through AppleTV's menus.
And it's complete control. Remote looks as if you were sitting in front of iTunes: artwork, song access and playback options, playlist creation, and volume.
Remote also lets you remotely control iTunes on your Mac or Windows PC, handy if your AV system consists solely of the speakers attached to your computer.
Get more control with AirPlay
Not everyone has an AppleTV or wants one, of course. AirPlay is its own wireless system and expands Remote's capabilities beyond AppleTV. AirPlay can be built into AV receivers and speakers, works with or independently of AppleTV, and doesn't require a separate app.
First, update your iPad or iPhone or iPod Touch to the latest OS, 4.3.2. Now, when watching a video or listening to music, viewing photos or watching video on the iPad, just touch the AirPlay icon – a horizontal rectangle pierced at the bottom by a pyramid – and whatever you're viewing or listening to transfers to your AirPlay-enabled viewing or listening device.
It's much simpler than it sounds.
You maintain complete control over the media from your iPad, which becomes an AirPlay remote control.
Other than AppleTV, there are a growing number of AirPlay-compatible devices, including four speaker docks: Philips' Fidelio SoundSphere (three models, fall, $400-$800), the Zeppelin speaker dock from B&W ($600), the iHome iW1 ($300) and the JBL On Air Wireless AirPlay speaker dock ($350).
In addition, Denon has an entire line of AirPlay-compatible devices. If the speed with which the speaker and AVR community have adopted AirPlay is a clue, expect to see a plethora of AirPlay-compatible devices soon.
Both the Remote app and AirPlay have their individual uses, but both allow your iPad to be much more than a self-contained toy box.