A month with an iPad

July 5 2010

Yes, I have heard that some find this meme of professing love and adoration for the iPad displeasing, but given my role and my work it seems to me worth stepping back for a few minutes to reflect on my first month as an iPad user.  Perhaps my angle is a little different, because I am not also an iPhone user, so this was my first exposure to the Apple mobile environment, app store, etc.

My colleague Chris Crummey likes to call the iPad a "game changer".  The impact for me was immediate -- all of a sudden, I've gone from schlepping a laptop briefcase everywhere to traveling with a small portfolio.  Sure, on longer travels, the MacBook will remain a constant companion, but otherwise, it's the iPad that is now a must-bring.  Why?  Because, what I like to say is:

"my life is in there".


Why?  

My work is in there.  My email/calendar/Intranet are there.  They're available anywhere I can get on a wifi signal, and as I got the 3G model, even if I'm sitting on an airplane parked on the tarmac waiting for a gate.  The only time I've been frustrated is when I've been in Germany/Chile and can't use the 3G roaming -- I found the two Sheraton hotels in the world that don't have in-room wifi yet.

Yes, I still love my Blackberry, and it fits in my pocket.  The Blackberry seems more bulletproof (and has a longer time window) for these features, too.  So for reading email and managing my calendar, the Blackberry is still the first device I go to.  But for replying to email I'm indifferent as to whether I like the Berry or the iPad better; I suppose if I got an external keyboard for the iPad, that would settle the score.  The Lotus Notes Traveler implementation is obviously very good, and I've gotten quite used to having this ready access on the iPad.

The iPad can also read PDF documents and, with an app, FileApp Pro, ODF documents from Lotus Symphony.  I have a VGA out cable for the iPad, though I haven't used it yet; I understand there's an app where I would even be able to project PDFs.  Thus, it does everything I need in the typical customer meeting or conference, and has far longer battery life than my MacBook.

My world is in there.  The iPad has great apps to help me with my daily activities, from the obvious social networking (Twitter/Facebook) to the mundane (weather and travel).  Of course, for what it doesn't have, there is browser access to the Internet.  In a month, I have rarely found that I "needed" something on a desktop/laptop computer that I couldn't do on the iPad.  Yes, the interaction on my MacBook is faster, and sometimes that is most definitely needed.  I still would really love a full airline timetable app for iPad; Kayak is OK but isn't as simple as the ITASoftware "Matrix" (which is what Google acquired last week).

And my life is in there.  Because of the synchronization with our home iMac and my work MacBook, all my digital photos going back ten years are on there, music I love is on there, games I play (anyone for Words With Friends?) are on there.  I loved showing pictures of my honeymoon to my admin assistant when I was in IBM's Mass Labs last month, pictures which I don't think I've shared online anywhere.  It was a ten-second process to go from having a conversation about Bali to showing her Bali.  Fantastic.  I've also got some apps on there for the family; the 8-month-old loves to play with Sound Touch...I'm sure I will be adding more for her.  The wife steals the iPad from time to time, and the Kindle for iPad app is her favorite since it is backlit vs. the Kindle device itself.

I love the app store model; I was surprised by it, because without having been an iPhone user, I had incorrectly assumed that you had to buy apps through iTunes and sync them, versus having an app on the device itself.  I love how the apps update themselves when there are new versions.  I love the ease of finding new apps.  Yes, yes, I know, I can hear the robots telling me to pay attention here. [If you don't get the reference, nevermind.]

So I love it, it is a game changer, and my only struggle now is why I am often still carrying three devices (laptop, Blackberry, iPad) at times.  In the future, I suspect we'll get back to one.

Now, what don't I like about the iPad?  App switching/multitasking, which obviously Apple is starting to work on with the 4.0 OS.  I just want to be able to switch context without having to pass through the desktop and startup screens.  I also don't like the fact that my iPhoto is only sync'd via desktop; I haven't plugged the iPad into my laptop in a week or two so I am missing some pictures.  Last, I don't like how many apps are basically skins for web sites.  I get cloud computing and all, but it would be really nice to have more of the functionality resident on the device itself and not always dependent on being able to connect/update from back-ends.  Seems like more than half the apps I've installed so far fall into this category.  Some are quite good -- love the NY Times Editor's Choice app for iPad, for example, and that one "works" offline with the last cached data.  But I'd like to see more of a model that really leverages the iPad for more than just UI and input.

So, that's the first month.  Am I missing something big?  Are you finding the experience different?

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