(image source: Apple, Inc)
With the release of the iPad 2, there has been a lot of commentary on the overall usefulness of the iPad. Even amongst the iSource staff, there is some debate as to whether or not the iPad is a truly useful device, or merely an expensive toy. Here’s my take.
When the iPad was announced a year ago, I had no plans at all to buy it. Like many others, I concluded that it was little more than a large iPod Touch; and I simply didn’t see a need for one, especially considering that I had a perfectly usable iPhone. When my friend Mike got one, I played around with it a bit; but ultimately, I came to the same conclusion – a big iPod. Much later, when I started traveling for work again, I finally realized how useful the iPad could be and decided to take the plunge. Several months later, I am a happy iPad user who is thinking of upgrading to an iPad 2. So why is the iPad a tool and not a toy for me? In truth, it’s both. Here’s what the iPad means to me.
PRODUCTIVE WORK TOOL
GoodReader. It all starts here. This uber-reader application holds all of my professional and volunteer work documents for instant recall and review. This includes product manuals, customer notes, even expense reports. GoodReader can sync with Dropbox and several other cloud services, meaning that as soon as I drop a file into Dropbox on my laptop, it can be accessible on my iPad. With Office2 HD, I can edit spreadsheets or documents – and since it also integrates with DropBox, anything I create on the iPad can be instantly available on the laptop as well. Everything can be emailed or made available locally via a built-in Wifi server. If the accounting folks lose the receipts that I send with my expense report, I can pull up a scanned PDF of them and email it immediately. Same for the customer who needs product documentation or the design documentation I wrote last week.
The WebEx app allows me to attend or host meetings without having to fire up my laptop. This allows me to participate in an online meeting from pretty much anywhere, even in places I ordinarily wouldn’t relish dragging my laptop to, like a restaurant.
Simplenote allows me to take quick notes (that sync to the cloud for access on other devices or the web), and IA Writer is excellent for longer text entry (like this article). Combine these with a Bluetooth keyboard (I currently use the Apple Wireless Keyboard) and you’ve got a winning combination.
I’ve also recently begun testing Scribbie, which allows me to handwrite notes during meetings and record synchronized audio them that can be played back together. If you have ever used a Livescribe pen, this is the same concept. Similar to this, but for typed notes, is Notability.
Of course, I can access my personal and business calendars and email much more easily than with my laptop.
I am always appreciative of the fact that I can turn on the iPad, answer an email, and accept a calendar entry in about the same amount of time that it takes my laptop to simply boot up. Of course, the 10 hour battery life is a positive factor as well.
I’ll be honest here – most of my business travel needs are taken care of on the iPhone, but when I am already using the iPad, Flight Update Pro will alert me to changes in my flight plans there as well. And since Flight Update Pro syncs with TripIt, the lack of an iPad native TripIt app is easier to bear.
Business travel and the iPad were seemingly made for each other. I remember the days of playing DVDs on my laptop, hoping that I’d be able to finish the movie before the battery ran out. Now, my biggest struggle is deciding which movies and TV shows I want to bring with me. Or maybe I want to read a Kindle book? Play a game? I no longer dread long flights or long layovers, because I know that I have multiple ways to keep myself entertained once my work is done.
My current project has me on the road 5 days a week, so being able to catch up with favorite TV shows via a combination of the iTunes store, NetFlix, and the ABC Player app is certainly welcome as I would never get the time to do so in the short periods of time I am home. Just come home, sync, and go!
I manage a number of systems for my various volunteer efforts. The iPad is a great tool for keeping tabs on things and doing the occasional tweak or repair. My own servers are on Rackspace Cloud, and so the Rackspace app is a great tool for managing those servers. I use iSSH to log into and manage the Linux servers, and iRdesktop to manage a Windows 2008 server for one of my volunteer groups. TeamViewer is my app of choice to connect to my personal and work PCs from anywhere, and to provide the occasional “Family Tech Support”.
NEWS AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Rare is the evening that I won’t curl up with Fluent News to catch up on the day’s happenings. I can at this point say that the iPad has completely replaced newspapers, television, and radio as my primary (and almost without exception, sole) source of news. While Fluent News is not perfect (there are way too many duplicate articles for my liking), it is still a great app that allows me to read the news that interests me. Pulse is my go-to app to keep up with blogs, and for Twitter, I actually use two apps – TweetDeck for people that I follow, and FlipBoard for lists consisting of web sites that predominately have links.
Kindle is still winning the eBook war on my iPad, consistently having most of the books that I care to read at consistently competitive prices. I am still holding out hope that the Sony Reader app will one day be approved, as I had a Sony Reader years ago and would love to get that content back.
I view the iPad as I do any other technology tool – it is great for some things, not so great for others, and in the end, its usefulness to any one person will depend not only upon their individual needs, but their ability to maximize it’s usefulness. As with the iPhone, this takes some doing – but the results on both platforms are worth it.
Out of the box, the iPad wouldn’t be terribly useful for me except as a big media player. It was only after investigating dozens of the available apps that I decided that it could be a worthwhile tool. As time has gone by, the iPad has become more and more ingrained in my daily life as I continue to explore what’s possible with it.