When I bought an iPad 2 earlier this year, I didn’t think of it as being a work machine. Rather, I found myself drawn to the display of iPads every time I walked into an Apple Store (a dangerous thing in and of itself), and after spending a chunk of an afternoon playing a very simple soccer video game on one of them, I was a goner.
Upon my purchase, I feared that I would be like a kid who got the birthday present he’d been pining for, only to become bored with it in a few weeks or months. Initially, it looked like it might go that way, as I played games on the machine that I eventually tired of.
But then I started taking it with me for out-of-town trips to conferences and visits with friends. And happily I realized that I didn’t have to lug my heavier laptop with me every time I hopped on a plane or a train.
If you travel a lot and tire of loading an electronics store into your bags even for the shortest of trips, the iPad may be the light, compact jack-of-all-trades that you need.
With either a local wifi or the subscription 3G connection, you can can surf the web quickly and easily — the iPad was made for busy consumers of information. You can do basic work tasks with simplified versions of Apple’s productivity suite — but don’t expect Microsoft Word! And while the iPad doesn’t have Adobe Flash capabilities, most YouTube and many other streaming videos work well on it.
The iPad’s battery life is boon to travelers, lasting a good 8-9 hours on a charge.
If you want to do heavier-duty writing or notetaking, you’d be advised to buy an add-on keyboard (some of which serve as covers for the iPad as well), as the pull-up touch screen keyboard is best for hunting and pecking. And if you plan on doing significant writing or graphics work, you’ll probably want that laptop with you.
In the office
During the past year, I’ve noticed a lot of people carrying iPads into meetings with them, even in their own office buildings. It appears the tablet computer is becoming more of an office staple.
The iPad won’t replace your office computer as a workhorse machine, but it can be very handy if your job requires you to bop around a building, campus, or other work site. Because it’s a breeze to turn off and on, you can do quick checks of your email or jot down a few notes without waiting for it to power up.
Reasons to exercise willpower
There are lots of good reasons not to buy an iPad. First, it’s pricey. You can buy a quality, full-fledged PC laptop for the same price or less. A netbook may be all you need, at a fraction of the cost.
Second, the iPad does a lot of things on a range of acceptable to pretty darn good, but frankly, it doesn’t excel at any of them. If you want a portable computer to do heavy duty writing, graphics, or number crunching, get a laptop or netbook. If you want a quality e-reader, the Kindle or the Nook will be a little easier on your eyes and a lot less expensive to boot.
On the entertainment side, if you want to play video games on the road, you can pick among a number of portable gaming systems. If you want to watch movies or streaming video while traveling, your laptop or maybe the Kindle Fire (the verdict is still out) is a good option.
Before you buy
If you’re thinking buying about an iPad at least partly for work/travel purposes, you might want to get a sense of whether it will do the job for you. I’d suggest taking a close look at a book like Jason R. Rich’s Your iPad 2 at Work (2011) (pictured above), which does a fine job of explaining and illustrating choices and options.
In addition, if you’re not in a huge hurry, you might wait out the rumors that an iPad 3 is scheduled to arrive sometime during the first half of the new year. I’ll be sticking with what I have — the iPad 2 is a terrific machine, and it wasn’t cheap — but there may be enough bells & whistles in the next version to justify holding out for a few months.