Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
April 30, 201010:13 PM

iPad - The Next Road Warrior Or Just Another Gadget?

Can the iPad replace laptops and all the wires that go along with them? And is this the ultimate business tool for those on the go? Well, the answer is...

Almost.

Or, as Maxwell Smart used to say: "missed it by that much!" 

Here's a run-through of the best and the worst about the iPad. 

The great: 

  • Super thin. It's going to be hard to find a form more favourable than this for the business traveller going forward.
  • Brilliantly crisp. The screen is amazing. The glare is almost  non-existent and everything looks very fresh and new.
  • Great for books, movies, TV and pictures. Considering that you can't always be hooked up to an Internet connection, it's good to know that any type of media resident on this device plays, reads, looks and sounds great.
  • Full of amazing app potential. You can rest assured that  the recent gold rush we've seen for iPhone apps will pale in comparison to what is being developed for the iPad. Apps like TripIt, FlightTrack Pro, Kayak, and more make this an indispensible tool for the ultraportable road warrior.
  • A completely re-invented way of dealing with email. The ease of flicking through email does make going  through a lot of email fairly painless and much more visually appealing.

You can almost do everything with it - but it's not a smartphone or a laptop, so you're going to have to curb your apprehensions and think of it as a device that is somewhere between the two. It will take some getting used to, but after a few minutes, it will be obvious that this type of device will become the business traveller's standard going forward. Think about sitting next to a client in an office or hotel lobby and how great it will be to demo products, review videos or even go through presentations. This is going to be perfect for on-the-go sales reps, realtors, artists, and for anybody who does small group presentations.

The not-so-great?

  • Weight. It's not as light as you may think. Granted, it's not as heavy as your standard laptop, but there's just too much goodness in the iPad for it not to be a little on the heavy side.
  • It needs a cover. Or a slip... or something. No one wants to scratch up a screen that beautiful. If someone releases a cover that can also triple as a stand  and can be angled better for typing, that will change many people's current complaints about what the iPad doesn't do so well.
  • Difficult to type with for those on the go.  The iPad lies flat, and it's not easy to type while hunched over an airline food tray, or while sitting at the gate. If someone can create the ultimate slip cover from the last point that can double as an angled stand, we've got a winner, winner, chicken dinner!
  • Lacking a camera and phone. For the road warrior, having the ability to use Skype would be a huge bonus. 
  • Not seamless with wi-fi technology. No one wants to be tethered to a connection, so the 3G with wi-fi version is the only way to go. The problem is that wireless and wi-fi technology hasn't been perfected yet. So, while it's a negative, this is more of an indictment on our current state of connectivity.
  • Lacking Flash. Flash has become a standard technology to view websites, so while Apple battles it out with Flash's owners (Adobe), some websites will be a challenge. Apple wizard, Steve Jobs, shares his side of the story here: Thoughts On Flash.

Overall, it's important to remember that this is only the first generation of the iPad, so it hasn't found its legs... yet. That being said, it is an awesome piece of technology that will have your flight mates leaning over your shoulder for a look. Expect all of the bad listed above to be fixed in upcoming iterations (which won't take too long).

The iPad is going to change mobile computing, and it is going to become an integral part of the road warrior's arsenal. And, remember, if you can't wait for the next generation iPad, it's not an iPhone or a laptop... it's an iPad, so keep your expectations in check.

The above posting is my tech and gadget column for enRoute Magazine called, Ultraportable (which will now run exclusively on the enRoute Blog). I cross-post it here with all of the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Marc
    Mitch Joel

    Dude, are you serious about the case? Because you just described Apple's case! It's got some drawbacks (expensive, attracts dirt, weird texture), but it does just what you want: it turns your iPad into a portfolio, with a flap that protects the screen, but folds around to turn into a slanted typing mode or mounted on end (either landscape or portrait) as a stand. That's why I got it -- I didn't want a plain case and separate stand as I want the stand with me. It's great. Makes typing easier, too.

    (I also disagree with your Flash comments. A couple years ago I disabled Flash on my computer and now my browser uses a quarter of the memory and doesn't crash constantly. I'm delighted to be rid of it. I haven't missed it at all. If a site doesn't have video I can see, they just lose my business. Their loss, not mine.)

    Reply
  • Posted by Colin Bhowmik
    Mitch Joel

    I think the iPad will be a hit with entrepreneurs and SMBs for some of the reasons you mentioned above. As an independent consultant, I plan to purchase one (I'm in Canada and waiting!) to help me increase productivity as a one-person shop.

    As for Skype, I was hoping Skype would be available over wi-fi on the iPad. Does the iPad not have a mic?... or can you use Skype with one of those headphones that also has a mic. VoIP is definitely cost-effective when you're clients are global.

    As an FYI, Microsoft chimes in re: thoughts on flash and are actually taking Steve Jobs' side - http://bit.ly/bmBFaT

    Reply
    • Posted by Charles Neville
      Mitch Joel

      Colin, yes the Skype app works just like it does on the iPhone. I imagine Fring works too, and Fring can do a one-way Skype video chat. Fring also works over 3G but the audio quality isn't up to much.

      Reply
  • Posted by John McLachlan
    Mitch Joel

    I'm completely with you in iPad. There are some things now that are a little annoying or missing, but they will get ironed out and once I get a case for it that does act as a mini tilted stand, I'll be pretty well set.

    Mitch, on a separate note, I LOVE your writing and i think you are so good at conveying ideas, concepts and techniques in the social media sphere. This is my way of saying I admire you heaps. As a good journalist maybe you can answer a question that's been nagging me for a while now, why do people, especially business writers and media use the term "going forward" so much? You used it in your post and it seems unnecessary. I mean this with respect and it's an honest question from me not meant to be snide.

    Thanks for the amazing posts.

    Reply
  • Posted by Kevin Ertell
    Mitch Joel

    I love my iPad and now pretty much hate having to pull out my laptop (which only happens when I have to pull out a corporate app that requires Internet Explorer).

    Another great feature I would add is the fact that the iPad turns on instantly. No waiting for a boot up process. That's fantastically great.

    My iPad has also replaced my paper notebook. I now take notes during meetings using The Evernote iPad app, which instantly syncs with the Evernote app on my iPhone and my desktop. It's really great to have those notes with me wherever I need them.

    I think the iPad will also have some uses within retail businesses. I blogged about some of my thoughts at http://www.retailshakennotstirred.com/retail-shaken-not-stirred/2010/04/the-ipad-a-retail-revolution.html.

    Reply
  • Posted by Ron De Giusti
    Mitch Joel

    The iPad is definitely a move in the right direction for us all, and it helps push all those other manufacturers to step up their game.

    I love the fact that Skype can work on it.

    For me, a key to using it in my day-to-day work would be for the ability to do live meetings (webcasts) with video and voice.

    If I can use it for webcasts as well as producing my slide decks and social media use, including email, it is up there with my iPhone as the jesus-tablet.

    Reply
  • Posted by Matt A
    Matt A

    I'm not so sure... Granted I've just played around with it briefly, but it doesn't do it for me.

    I got my iPhone for checking emails/doing small tasks on the go and a sub notebook for any mobile computing. A tactile keyboard beats a touchscreen when writing anything else than short messages any day of the week for me.

    At the moment I see iPad as a fun gadget but personally I see little business use for it apart from a conversion piece or a purely "motion graphics platform" for design pitches.

    Reply
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