If you've written off Apple's iPad because it doesn't have a USB port, take heart: things aren't as bad as you think.
If you've been amongst the screaming masses calling for Steve Jobs' public lynching just because the iPad doesn't have a built-in USB port, put away your pitchfork: word around town is that Apple's own Camera Connection Kit
(CCK) may be all you need.
The Web is awash of reports about USB devices that do not, in fact, fall over when plugged into the iPad. Over at TUAW
, for example, a reader reports that USB keyboards plugged into the CCK work as per usual with iPad applications, while a USB headset has been used to make Skype calls from the iPad to great effect. Comments
on the US Apple Store also suggest that USB speakers can be plugged into the iPad to provide external stereo sound.
Apple has previously said the iPad will support standalone Bluetooth keyboards, but has remained mum about the use of USB devices other than digital cameras. This has inflamed online critics, who have lambasted the company for its decision to exclude what has become a basic connectivity port on everything from computers to set-top boxes, educational toys, consumer appliances, and even adult playthings
While many non-digital camera devices do appear to work, some users report that the connection is not completely without hitches. Plugging in a USB keyboard returned an error message saying “the attached USB device is not supported,” one TUAW reader offered, but upon closing the error message the keyboard worked fine.
Another noted that his USB mouse and Webcam did not work, but USB ports built into a USB keyboard did in fact work – leveraging USB's built-in daisy-chaining capabilities so that a USB card reader plugged into the keyboard was recognised by the iPad, and photos automatically imported off the camera's CompactFlash card.
External hard drives will apparently work if they’re externally powered: the iPad’s USB bus doesn’t provide enough power to keep bus-powered devices running. However, because of the iPad’s design, the only files that the device will see on the external drive are images.
It's also worth noting that iPad applications do not seem to support keyboard shortcuts out of the box, although this would seem likely to change as iPad-based productivity applications become more common.
Like the iPad, the CCK is currently not available through the Apple Store Australia, but now that it’s out in the US it’s likely to appear here the same time the iPad officially makes its way onto our shores – sometime in 2011 at the rate we're going. And while Apple could easily block the use of USB devices other than cameras in a future software update, one suspects the potential outcry would be enough that this particular Easter egg may be left well and truly alone.