June 07, 2010
iPad on the Road -- Part II
Back from a 3-1/2-day intercontinental trip that included a 17-hour trip to and a 22-hour trip back from Stockholm, Sweden. I checked what I'd usually consider a carry-on (the airlines don't charge for a checked bag on international routes, yet) and simply took along a shoulder bag just large enough for my MacBook Pro, camera, the usual assortment of cables and chargers, and my iPad.
I usually take the MacBook as my main machine, but this time it came along as backup to the iPad. And how did that work out for me?
Amazingly well. Of the many hours I used a computer during this whirlwind trip, it was 95% iPad and 5% Macbook, if that. The only time I really used the MacBook was while waiting for a connection at Chicago O'Hare's International Terminal where AT&T simply had no usable signal. Else, the iPad was my computer on this trip.
I had initially been asked to submit my presentation in Microsoft PowerPoint format to the conference organizers ahead of time. Unfortunately, I had already done it in Keynote, which is Apple's equivalent of PowerPoint. Keynote has an export function to PowerPoint, but the results aren't pretty. The conversion from iWork to the US$9.95 iPad version of Keynote, however, worked almost flawlessly, and so I had decided to try doing the presentation entirely on my iPad.
Just having become available in Europe a few days prior to my trip, but not yet in Sweden, the iPad was an instant conversation starter wherever I took it. One techie was concerned about the iPad's micro-SIM that he said none of the Swedish telcos uses. Most simply wondered how well it worked.
It worked wondrously well. The one thing that always kept my iPhone from being a true computer substitute (apart from its tiny screen) was that Safari on the iPhone simply isn't a full substitute for a web browser. Sure, it works, but there's just too much scrolling, too many sites that serve up special smartphone versions whether you want them or not, and so on. None of that applies to the iPad. It's simply browsing.
I did note, however, that I missed multitasking. We've all become so used to having numerous windows open, copying snippets and information back and forth, that not having it feels unnatural. It's no real big deal to open and close apps on the iPad, but it definitely interrupts workflow.
There are also little things that can trip you. The brand-new Elite Hotel Marina Tower in Stockholm, for example, had one of those infuriating WiFi sign-up systems business hotels across the globe are using to squeeze a few more dollars from their guests. A wonderful venue for conferences and just simply enjoying Stockholm in every other way, the hotel really blew it with WiFi, handing out Chinese fortune cookie-size snippets of paper with a loooong login and a loooong password good for 3 hours of free WiFi. The login and password both consisted of numerals and upper and lower case alphas, and entering those on the iPad was no fun. Further, the vexing system then brought up a little window with a count-down and log-out, which didn't work on the iPad. So I could not stop the counter when I was done browsing and my precious three hours were gone next time I tried to log on. So I had to buy more WiFi access, at an exorbitant price and was, again, presented with a loooong login and a loooong password which, unable to copy back and forth on the iPad, I jotted down on a piece of paper.
Well, I must have copied something wrong, as there was no access. When I went back to the signup page, the login and password had disappeared, replaced by a message saying I'd get an email with the info. Well, duh... how can I get my email when I first need WiFi?
So I went down to the reception at midnight to ask for another Chinese fortune cookie with three more hours of precious free WiFi access in a business hotel. The desk clerk was entirely unsympathetic to my predicament, practically bristling at my suggestion that WiFi should be free and included instead of making guests jump through hoops.
Anyway, then came the moment of truth. Would the iPad turn out to be able to handle a full presentation on standard projector equipment? The answer was yes.
All I had to do was start Keynote on the iPad, plug it into the projector's VGA cable with the iPad dock-to-VGA adapter and, bingo, the presentation showed up on the big projection screen. The iPad version doesn't have the playback options of the full Mac OS version of Keynote, so I did only see the slide number but not the slides themselves on the iPad. Moving between slides was by simple flick of the finger, and all worked just fine. At times a bit of stage fright made my hands moist, which the iPad's capacitive screen did not like, but I still managed with a firmer touch.
Overall, the iPad was just so much handier than using a big computer like the MacBook. In its highly recommended black portfolio case, the iPad is super-easy to carry and use wherever you are. Its instant on and off beats every conventional computer's sleep and standby and hibernate modes by a mile, and then there's that long lasting battery life!
The iPad's battery life on the road is just phenomenal. I simply never had to worry. I read a book on the iPad virtually the entire 9-hour flight from Stockholm back to Chicago, and still ended the flight with around 40% of battery. I did find that charging while using the iPad is slow going, though. And the glossy, reflective surface of the screen can be a drag. It's also a fingerprint and smudge magnet. Sure, they wipe off very easily, but in bright light the smudges are hugely noticeable and downright embarrassing.
So would I trust the iPad as my sole means of computing on the road? Probably. The iPad can do stuff no notebook can. For now, it was still comforting to have the MacBook as a backup, but next time I may not take it with. I mean, having a big seven pound backup for a sleek 1.5-pound tablet just doesn't make sense.
Else, iPad was a perfect travel companion.
Posted by conradb212 at June 7, 2010 09:01 AM