The iPad…that magical device that can turn the drudgery of PC use into a gentle touch and smooth animation opening a life-changing app that instantly makes your life easier.  Why would anyone want to haul around a clunky laptop that takes minutes to boot when you can have an instant-on experience that basically does the same thing?  Why should I sit in a dreary office surrounded by cubical walls working on a computer when I can sit out on my back deck with this ultra-sleek window into my working world that can do everything I need?  The short answer is because it doesn’t.  Despite what Apple would lead the world to believe, the iPad is not a replacement for your work PC…

With that being said, I am completely enjoying using my iPad for work.  Confused yet?  Part of my job is to evaluate technology and see how it can be effectively applied to our client’s business (this is also one of the most fun parts about it).  I started to wonder what kind of impression I was giving by speaking to clients about cool new technology while still using my trusty note pad and pen in these meetings.  Since I am the impatient type and didn’t feel like waiting a year to get a Windows 8 tablet, I decided to pick up an iPad and find out exactly what I can do with it.

Let’s take a little time and talk about the device itself.  I picked up an iPad 3 (or ‘The New iPad’ for the marketing folks), 16GB of storage and Wi-Fi only.  The base model if you will.  It’s lightweight and easy to carry with me to meetings but feels solid and not ‘cheap’.  Its responsive to inputs, the applications I have used are designed well, and the Retina Display is BEAUTIFUL.  Battery life was not the greatest until I tweaked some setting (screen brightness, disabled push notifications, etc.) but has been fine since those changes.

Ok, on to the main show.  The key thing to keep in mind when using an iPad is that, as our CTO Jamie Mathy is fond of saying, is it is great for consumption of information, but not so great for creation.  I’m going to talk about how I use it, and why I’m happy with how it works for me, your mileage may vary.  I again want to repeat that the iPad is not going to work as a total replacement for a PC/Laptop, and if you purchase one with that intent, you will become quickly frustrated and very unhappy.

E-mail:  This works just fine.  I can send and receive work messages.  I can view (not edit) attachments, I can also click on links and get to websites from the e-mail.

Web browsing:  I do a lot of reading and research online, so using Safari to look things up and also news applications like Pulse work great to deliver the information I need and want to consume.

RDP Access:  This is the type of thing that most people I talk to think of as the option to get rid of their laptops.  Does it work?  Yes.  Does it work well?  No.  I rarely use this feature.  I use it only if I have to, and only to look up something I need that I can’t get through a different app or e-mail.  Using this to actually “create” requires a lot of zooming and panning, miss touches and back tracking.  I find my productivity working this way is around 30-40% vs. a PC simply due to fighting the interface.

One Note:  The crown jewel of productivity apps and the one I use 90% of the time for work (yes, even more than email!).  One Note is wonderful.  We use it to for pretty much everything that requires documentation and collaboration at our office.  Getting it to work with the iPad requires a small extra step but it is worth it.  Before I go meet with a client, I create a One Note document for that meeting.  I can add screenshots, pictures, other office documents, and just general notes with check boxes of discussion points.  I have my Microsoft SkyDrive linked to my One Note on my PC, so I copy the meeting One Note page into my SkyDrive notebook and then synch that to the One Note app on my iPad.  Now I have all my meeting notes available even without an internet connection.  I can go to the meeting and go through the topics and update the One Note page with what was discussed and the takeaways I need to work on.  When I get back to the office and connect back to Wi-Fi, I synch the One Note on the iPad again and my meeting notes show up in the One Note on my desktop.  From there I can copy the One Note page into the specific client file without having to re-type everything.

I’m sure I will come across some more productivity apps that I can use for specific tasks, but without One Note, and the fact that Mavidea heavily uses this program, the iPad would still just be a fancy toy, and definitely not a workstation replacement tool.

Are you thinking about getting a laptop, but you really just need something that will let you check e-mail and reference some pre-created documentation as you run from meeting to meeting or client to client?  The iPad will most likely be a viable alternative.  Do you actually need to produce documentation on the run, or utilize the capabilities of specific line of business software?  The iPad is probably not the best idea if you truly wish to be productive.