Life with iPad: Part 1

<p>I&rsquo;ll be honest, this post is mostly a complaint. &nbsp;Seeing as I&rsquo;m quite the Apple fanboy, those of you who know me might be shocked by this post. &nbsp;If you don&rsquo;t yet own an iPad and are looking for the final reason to head up to the Apple Store and swipe that credit card, this isn&rsquo;t the post for you. &nbsp;Now, if you&rsquo;re looking for reasons to hold out until the hardware and software evolve a bit more, then please allow me to reinforce that desire.<!--more--></p>

Transition from Mac to iPad.

I had high hopes when I bought my iPad.  Not only do I run the Mac Instructor, but I’m also in grad school.  I lug around my 5.5 lb. MacBook Pro constantly between home, work, class, work, and then back home again.  Sometimes I feel like a pack mule with all the books in my bag, and the fifteen-inch laptop is the chief load.  The list of things I use the Mac for is long: email, web surfing, taking notes in class, biblical & theological research, writing papers, maintaining client notes, maintaining my website, creating marketing materials, listening to music, photo editing, and video chatting with family.

After buying my iPad, I purchased a Bluetooth keyboard for easy typing, a fantastic stand called the Compass from TwelveSouth, and a stylus called the Pogo Stick.

Like I said, I had high hopes for my iPad.  I didn’t expect it to do everything my Mac does, however I wanted to at least leave the weighty computer at home.  Who knows, I thought, maybe my MacBook Pro would be the last laptop I even own?  Unfortunately, there are some serious shortcomings to the iPad that make me wonder if I should have saved the $599 for the next revision.  Here are three reasons.

1. Multi-tasking is a Myth.

Yes, Steve Jobs said that iOS 4.2 is coming to the iPad in November, which will bring “multi-tasking” to the iPad.  However, I would argue a different definition for “multi-tasking” than Steve.  Currently, Apple defines multi-tasking as running multiple apps in the background.  The quintessential example is streaming internet radio while writing an email.  (Apparently, this is very important.)  For me, multi-tasking is the ability to view two apps at the same time.  In other words, the Mac is the only platform which multi-tasks: I can be writing a paper while glancing over at a PDF at the same time.  I can view a spreadsheet while shooting off an email.  I can surf the web while watching my Twitter stream update.

Now, the iPad’s “one window at a time” approach can be super helpful when you need to stay focused on one small project at a time, but for those of us who simultaneously work with different types of data, these situations are rare.  Even a small task as checking my calendar for availability becomes a multi-step process on the iPad, and iOS 4.2 won’t change this.

2. Moving documents is a pain in the neck.

If you own two Macs, you are probably familiar with web-storage services like MobileMe’s iDisk and Dropbox.  Basically, these services are like having a flash-drive on the internet.  All files sync across all devices at all times.  The iPad hardly integrates with these services and instead acts as a dead-end to your workflow.  You’re instead tossed back into the habit of emailing your files back and forth to yourself; a habit which creates clutter in your email inbox and often duplicate versions of your document.  The chances of losing the current version of your file are high.  If the iPad (namely Apple’s word processor, Pages) had a way to open and save files directly to the iDisk, I would be a happy geek.

3. The iPad App ecosystem has not yet matured.

I still can’t find a decent note-taking app, despite the fact dozens of them exist.  Two features I need: web-syncing and an auto-formatting, bulleted list.  Evernote can do the first, Pages can do the latter.  I haven’t found anything that does them both, and in my opinion, this is a deal-breaker for taking notes in a class or meeting.  Do people not make hierarchical lists anymore?

Bible students will notice an absence of user-friendly research tools.  Businesspeople will have a hard time finding easy-to-use, web-syncing contact management software.

There is a way to cheat around this, and that’s to buy iTeleport, which essentially screen shares with your Mac over the internet.  Last month, we went to visit my wife’s family.  All I brought was the iPad and used iTeleport to view my Mac’s Bible software at home.  This solution is hardly worth it though, as it depends on an extremely quick internet connection.

iLight at the end of the tunnel.

As it stands right now, the iPad is closer to a toy than a tool.  My iPad sits close to the couch, where I either surf the web or read ebooks.  My wife will use it to play music in the kitchen.  Our two year-old used it to watch Dora on that recent road trip.  Yes, the iPad is fun to have, but definitely not an essential tool for my particular workflow.

For most people, the iPad will meet their needs.  It does email, surfs the web, and plays videos.  But if you want it to be a complete substitute to your Mac, my advice is to wait.  If we look to the current iPhone 4 as a preview to next year’s iPad, we can assume it will be faster, have a front-facing camera for FaceTime, and a gorgeous Retina Display.  My hope is that software will evolve as well to address the above complaints, and we know Steve probably has a few more tricks up his sleeve that will definitely make this revolutionary product completely irresistible.  At that point, I can delete this complaining post and go back to encouraging people to spend more money at the Apple store.

Rick Stawarz

Minneapolis, MN

I am an Apple Certified Support Professional with over a decade of experience supporting families, schools, and businesses. Tech has always captured my imagination, but it's not my only passion. I'm an ordained Anglican minister;  Aeropress is a daily ritual of mine; I've driven across Mongolia; and I'm the father of three girls. I hope to provide for you a balanced and realistic perspective into the practicality of technology.