I just returned from a five day trip to the East Coast. I went to my 50th high school reunion, and I captured some images in New York City. I traveled with both my iPad and a ThinkPad X300, and it was a good opportunity to see which things each computer did best.
It would’ve been nice to just take the iPad, but the email client is marginal, even after I configured it to download all mail regardless of the date. Also, I had to make a presentation on this trip. There are several difficulties with the iPad as a presentation device. The trip from PowerPoint to Keynote is one way, and needs hand clean up afterward. The resolution of the iPad, at 1024 by 768, is good but not great; when I set up for the presentation I was pleased to find out that the projector could handle the full 1440-pixel width of the ThinkPad display.
The iPad is a better device for reading than the ThinkPad. It is easier to hold, especially if you want to bring it closer to your all eyes than it is when propped on a tray table. The battery life is better. Initially, I was concerned about the iPad’s weight, but I now think that Apple made the right decision to put in a battery that can power the device for a full ten hours, even if it adds a few ounces. I much prefer the iPad Wall Street Journal application to the WSJ website, and the iPad Kindle application is better than the Windows equivalent. It could be even better if Amazon allowed you to shop in the Kindle store without leaving the Kindle application.
One of the great advantages of the iPad in a travel situation is that it’s easy to use standing up. This is definitely not the case with a conventional laptop computer.
Password management is a problem on the iPad. I use eWallet, which has great synchronization tools to keep all your passwords up to date. However, there is no explicit password copy function in eWallet; you have to edit the entry and then use the standard iPad copy tool. It’s even a bigger pain if you want to copy and paste both a username and a password (I often have both my username and password composed of strings of random characters). You open eWallet, enter your eWallet password, find the entry, say you want to edit it, copy the username, open Safari and go to the web page, enter the username, open eWallet again, enter your eWallet password again, find the entry again, say you want to edit it again, copy the password, open Safari and go to the web page, and enter the password. The ideal solution for this would be a cross platform password tool with browser integration. I’m not holding my breath.
The big difficulty with the iPad is, of course, data entry. Long term, voice input is probably the way to go, but the present iPad Dragon dictation tool is not very useful. Because of the lack of multitasking on the iPad, you can’t dictate directly into a word processing or email application; you need to open up the Dragon app, dictate to it, clean up the mistakes, copy the cleaned up text, go to where you want the text, and paste it in. Even dictating to the Dragon app is somewhat awkward since the app doesn’t recognize and display the text as you dictate. Operating system improvements and faster processors will probably fix this in the future. For now, if you’re traveling with an iPad alone, you probably want a carry a Bluetooth keyboard.
I did encounter one iPad anomaly. I couldn’t connect to the Gogo Wi-Fi Service on the plane, even though the ThinkPad operated flawlessly. I suspect that, whatever the problems are, they’ll get worked out quickly.
For all the iPad problems, I still think that tablet computers are going to be the road warrior’s device of choice within two or three years. They allow you to do computing in situations where it is difficult or impossible with a conventional laptop. Tablet computers are making their most recent appearance at a propitious time. The combination of trendy cloud-intensive applications and tablet computers is a natural one, since the power-hungry computing can be done remotely.