Mobile Computing – First Weeks With My iPad

by Walt on June 18, 2010

Apple iPad Horizontal with picture of Machu Picchu

Image 1: iPad

It’s only been four weeks with my iPad, and I want to share my first experiences trying to achieve a mobile, digital lifestyle; something many pundits said would happen long ago. Remember the promise of a paperless office? Never quite happened.

With the iPad and its lightweight, large screen, long battery life, and productivity apps, I’m ready to go.  I needed a carry bag for moving around campus and commuting to and from Cal Poly. What size should I get? My decision was to purchase a smaller bag so I couldn’t load it with non-digital things – something I normally do. I have carried a laptop for years, so it is a new experience to travel “light.”

I have been hoping for real mobile computing for many years now, maybe it’s here.

So, what is the iPad good for? What are some limitations? First, having a device that I don’t have to wait to boot is convenient. Plus, having a lightweight device that is media-rich and does much of what I need for day-to-day activities fits my lifestyle well.

For the basics, I have mail, web browser, word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation applications. As we discussed at the “Teaching With Technology Workshop” on June 3rd (see Patrick Kammermeyer’s recent post), there are many interesting and useful apps being developed, but I’m concentrating on the basics for this blog.

All of the productivity apps work well for my Cal Poly work. In fact, this blog entry was produced using Pages on the iPad. I can bring in files created by others, work on them and send them on. Creating new content is quite efficient and sending them to my colleagues works well. Converting from disparate formats has been mostly seamless.

Not having a mouse was an initial concern. Multi-touch works well though, if you keep an open mind and are willing to try something different. I’ve used a mouse since 1983, so although there should be a lot to “unlearn” for me, multi-touch is actually quite natural. Many things seem to work without thinking – a sign of good design.

So far, there are two limitations I’ve found for my workflow. First, moving files to my other computers is not as smooth as it could be. Syncing through iTunes is a bit awkward and so email works the best. I hope in the fall with the first iOS update, there will be smoother options. Second, you are not yet able to label and organize photos in the Photos application. For me, this is very important so I hope it will become a feature soon.

Does it replace my laptop? No, but that is not the intent of the device. Do I still use my laptop? Yes, for applications that have requirements beyond the iPad: multimedia creation, web design, image manipulation, 3D modeling, and GIS, to name a few. Since multi-touch interfaces are in their infancy, I expect a lot of refinements in the near future.

During the first part of summer, I will travel to Europe with the iPad.  When I return, I will share some of my mobile experiences.

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