There’s always something to howl about

A Month With the iPad

I got the iPad – 64gig 3G enabled – about a month ago. Unfortunately – or fortunately given how busy I’ve been – I haven’t had enough time to truly explore the possibilities.

Here’s my set-up. My MacBook laptop has been retired to serve as my home computer. I got an iMac (1 TB, 4 gigs of RAM) two weeks ago to serve as my desktop computer. And I have the iPad for the in-between use. The iPad serves as a light-weight mobile computing device.

Why this set-up? First, I needed to get something that could support Windows since all of the major bankruptcy software runs on Windows. (This software is maddeningly bad and looks like it hasn’t been updated in functionality since 2002.)

My MacBook had only 2 gig of ram, which would not adequately support a virtual machine. So I’m running Fusion’s VMWare on the iMac, which is awesome. With Mac’s Spaces, I can put Windows XP into a different window, and press Command-1 or Command-2 to move from Mac OS to Windows XP.

Second, the MacBook is actually not a very light computer, and not a very durable piece of hardware. The less I have to move it around, the less opportunity for it breaking or falling out of my bag.

The iPad is, of course, very light as a mobile computing device, and, in its case, seemingly durable, though I haven’t put it through a rigorous test. I’ve dropped it twice, and no scratches or defects have emerged.

Since typing on the virtual iPad keyboard is fine for limited tasks, but not fine for writing a document, I got Apple’s smallest, lightest bluetooth keyboard. The pairing works quite well. I’m typing this post on the iPad at the same speed I’d work on a post if I were at a laptop or desktop computer.

What is the iPad really good at?

Reading and presenting documents and other information. With Apple’s MobileMe ($99/year) system, I’m able to sync all of my documents on all three devices. And then I’m able to read and view any documents in the iPad. I’m also able to put together presentations with video and documents that can really potential clients, clients, and others (judges, lawyers).

In addition, I have this stuff on the fly without carrying around 100 client files.

The video is gorgeous. Really cool.

With AT&T’s 3G service, the device is “always on” provided I’m not out in the boonies. That’s convenient beyond words. And AT&T’s 3G service is ok. I had had troubles (prompting me to get the Droid) with dropped calls last year. But have had no problems yet with the 3G service.

iPad’s browser – Safari – is pretty awesome, with only a few problems rendering certain pages, including my own at I’ll need to fix that. Also, whereas my iPhone would render a page using its mobile format, the iPad attempts to render the page as you would see it on a full sized computer screen.

The battery is good. I’m really surprised. I’ve been using it for the two hours and it’s gone from about 50 percent to 31 percent on near-constant use.

Powering on and off the device seems to work faster on the iPad than on the iPhone. That means that when it’s not in use, I can power it off and save battery without having to wait a long time for it to power up when I need it.

Anyone using an iPad for a business needs to think about security. The password protection scheme for opening up the device allows you to tell the device to wipe itself if someone fails to enter the proper password 10 times in a row. That’s good.

And MobileMe allows remote wiping of the device if it goes missing.

What is the iPad not really suited for?

Serious computing. Until Apple permits true multi-tasking, this device will be limited. Writing a post like this on the iPad, I’m conscious that the post would be much richer if I were able to add links to various other websites etc. But while the iPad does allow cut-and-pasting across applications, there’s no multitasking, so opening up a browser requires shutting down this WordPress application.

Also, the lack of flash is annoying. Look, I know Steve Jobs is a genius. I know he can see far into the future to a Flash-free world. But right now some absurdly high percentage of websites (I’d get the real number if I could multitask and open Safari to google this) use flash. The iPad should support it.

Also there’s some bugginess. I haven’t figured out why, but at certain times Safari will crash, or other apps will crash. This introduces general insecurity about the stability of the device, and makes me avoid writing any mission critical documents on a time crunch with the device.

Some great apps include: The New York Times (gloriously renders the newspaper), NewsRack (an RSS reader that integrates with Google Reader), Twitterific (Twitter Feed Reader), Pages (Apple’s WordProcessor).

Summing up (but not a final word)

I’m still certain this device (or a future iteration thereof) can be awesome. Multitasking would help a great deal. Also, the screen-rotation-lock feature is great, but I do miss the mute switch for added security that the device will not start playing music in my bag in court.

Also, Apple must must must improve MobileMe’s iDisk application. Right now I’m using the iPhone app on the iPad and it’s pretty awful. The documents can’t be easily shared across applications on the iPad. Basically I can view them and read them, which is ok, but not super helpful.

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