It’s three weeks since I got my iPad, and it sure has garnered a lot of my time and attention during this time. I don’t think anyone doubts this is a game changing device for many applications: email; casual web browsing (as long as you avoid sites with heavy Flash use); reading books, newspapers, and magazines; listening to music; playing games; looking at pictures; and doing most data consumption types of activities. Considering the price, form factor, and great user experience, the iPad is really unparalleled among mobile computing devices. But what about those of us that are not just consumers of data, how does the iPad hold up as a device for the creation/production of data? So that’s what I’ve been looking at this last week or so.
For my day job as vice president for technology and education outreach at Berklee College of Music, I spend most of my time on email, calendar, reading and writing reports and proposals, looking at budgets, and creating and giving presentations. I also look at lots of technology, watch for trends, analyze and predict where things may be headed. I also make music: I compose, record, perform, and produce music using technology (synthesizers, sequencers, digital audio workstations, etc.) and play guitar, both acoustic and electric.
I use a 13″ MacBook Pro at my desk at Berklee and when traveling, and have a Mac Pro with tons of external devices attached in my home studio. I was wondering how much of my work could really be done on the iPad. After all, it’s small, lightweight, and wireless, so it sure would save my body some stress if I could transfer more of my work to this thing, and leave all the other stuff behind.
Well, what I have found – much to my amazement, is that for most of my work and travel (except where music is involved), the iPad really does provide me acceptable, and even enjoyable tools. As a word processing device, it works admirably. Ok I admit, I’m not a touch typist, I hunt and peck. But I am typing this entire blog on the onscreen keyboard, and am writing just as fast as I do on my laptop. Would I want to write a really long proposal or report on this, probably not. But in the usual short chunks of writing I am able to fit in between meetings and presentations, this is just fine.
Pages works great for moving files between my laptop and the iPad, so I can work on one device, sync, and continue working on the other. Some issues that bug me: the iPad is missing most of the fonts I regularly use, including the official fonts that Berklee uses. I assume this will change, there’s no real technical limitation here, especially with the larger memory models. Moving files to and from the device using iTunes works seamlessly if not sluggishly. I hate that iTunes wants to sync the iPad every time you do anything, rather than letting you cue up a bunch of files, and then press sync to do it all at once. An iTunes software rev will no doubt fix this in the near future.
Numbers works great for working on spreadsheets, and both Pages and Numbers do a great job at translating between their desktop counterparts, and Microsoft Office documents as well. I have to admit I spend most of my time looking at and editing spreadsheets, and not actually creating them, but I worked through Numbers’ features and it does a pretty good job at most routine tasks.
Keynote works well at playing slide shows, be they from Keynote Mac or from PowerPoint. But I don’t see myself building presentations from scratch on the iPad. I use a lot of graphics, downloading pics from the web, editing them, before bringing them into my slides, and without multitasking this would be too painful a process for me. But OS 4 is on it’s way, we have a beta installed on an iPhone for our development work, and this will eventually make it to the iPad. But for now, I’ll leave the creation of new slide shows to my laptop and desktop machines. But for carrying to a meeting and presenting, the iPad fits the bill nicely, even with big shows with video and audio.
Making music at a professional level, is just not possible on the iPad alone right now, but there is great software for controlling DAW software on my macs, so the iPad already has a home in my studio and I will be trying it on stage for my next gig.
So at least for my work, the iPad is a winner! I can do about 95% of my business work on it, and have already made one business trip without a laptop, and am planning another next week. I will trade up for the 3G model (it should arrive next week) so that I’ll have Internet access at all times. WiFi is still spotty at best. It only AT&T would let you share 3G and GPS from the iPhone! Tethering would be great! Some day, please?!?!
I am hoping that a few music production packages like Reason, Record, GarageBand, and maybe even a Logic Player might show up sometime. Seems that with the power available with the A4 processor and the OSX underpinnings of the iPhone/iPad OS, it should be possible to run some of these apps on the iPad. Now that would be cool. I understand there is a problem with getting data in and out in realtime, but since the iPad still assumes a Mac as the hub of our digital lifestyle, it would be great to be able to work and sync between devices as we can right now with office apps.
Next topic: 3 weeks of iPad app testing. What’s cool, what’s hot, and what’s not…