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Summary:

After iPad announcement day, I provoked a lot of controversy by writing that I felt that the iPad could serve as a travel computer for me. After handling it and trying out its features, I’m now even more convinced that is true.

We didn’t plan to go, but somehow the pull was inexorable. Our Mac-happy family of three ended up at an Apple Store on Saturday, pushing buttons (or rather touching and swiping) on the newest hot computing device. Even our six-year-old tried it out and promptly fell in love with a musical keyboard app.

After iPad announcement day, I provoked a lot of controversy by writing that I felt that the iPad could serve as a travel computer for me. After handling it and trying out its features, I’m now even more convinced that is true.

I’m a writer, more specifically a professional blogger. I’m not doing heavyweight computer tasks when I travel. In fact, I’m usually not even writing when I’m on the road except for brief updates to my web sites. I’m answering email, conducting text-based research on the web, taking notes, and doing other lightweight tasks.

I’m not the only writer or blogger who thinks the iPad can help in their work. After a week with an iPad in hand, the Chicago Sun-Times’ Andy Ihnatko raved about how useful the gadget is for his workflow on TWIT last week. Mashable’s Ben Parr wrote one of his recent posts completely on the iPad, although he admitted that a few things were a pain, like working with images.

The only real processor- or software-heavy task that I did during my last extended business trip was edit photos in Adobe Lightroom on my return flight, which could easily have waited till I got home. It certainly wasn’t worth hauling around a computer that weighs three times as much as an iPad for almost a week just to get a two-hour head start on my photo processing.

The first thing I noticed when getting my hands on an iPad was how big it was. The size was surprising. I had expected the screen to feel smaller than it does. This was good news for its usability for many of the tasks that I do. Many of these tasks, such as web browsing, can also be done on my iPhone but the small screen makes them awkward. The iPad provides the screen real estate to take notes, browse and read without getting a headache from it.

Besides being large, the screen is also gorgeous. The resolution is wonderful and it is just a joy to look at. As spoiled as I am by using my iPhone screen on a daily basis, the iPad screen is even more beautiful, although it obviously gets streaky easily.

Another thing I noticed almost immediately was the speed of the device. It responds to commands lightning-fast compared to my iPhone. This kind of processor power raises interesting possibilities for what the iPad may be able to do in apps that the iPhone can’t, such as in the area of photo editing. There is already at least one photo editor out for the iPad, PhotoGene, that looks to be very robust.

A lot of commenters on my previous iPad article suggested that instead of an iPad I get a netbook for my travel needs. While there is a price penalty for buying the iPad over a netbook, I see the iPad as a better option for me for several reasons:

  • Weight: The iPad is half the weight of most netbooks — an important carrying consideration for someone with arthritis in their back.
  • Compatibility: Since I’m already heavily embedded in the Mac OS ecosystem (I use an iPhone and MacBook with iCal, Contacts and Mobile Me, for instance), all my data will sync natively very easily with another Apple device. I use the iWork suite, so having a device that can use those files is definitely a plus. I can design presentations at home in Keynote and then take them on the road using the iPad. I can take transfer text notes back and forth in Pages.
  • Speed: The tablet format and quick-boot OS will make it much easier to do quickie tasks (such as making a short note in an application like Evernote) than a netbook. Juggling a netbook for such tasks while standing would be awkward at best, and I could be done and have the iPad put away again before the netbook would probably even be booted up.
  • Connectivity: For me, the 3G iPad, with its no contract pay-as-you-go connectivity, is the one to have. To have cellular system access with a netbook, I’d have to pay for a connection device like a MiFi or wireless card, which means paying every month for an expensive service whether I really need it that month or not. With the iPad 3G plan, I can have (and pay for) connectivity only when I need it.
  • Battery Life: Both the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg and Andy Ihnatko are on record as saying the iPad can get 11 hours or more of battery life using power saving settings. This far exceeds the average netbook and is just one more reason the iPad is a superior travel device.

So, how do I imagine utilizing the iPad on my next business trip?

First, I have to gear up. I’ll have an iPad with 3G. I’ll install the following apps: Evernote, iWork (Pages, Numbers and Keynote), Things and WordPress (please see disclosure at the bottom). I’ll take the camera connectivity kit and an external keyboard with me, but the keyboard can stay at the hotel during the day which means I save the weight of hauling it.

Some preparation at home will make my life easier on the road. I’ll add to the iPad’s onboard photo library any photos I think I may want to use from my archives while at the event. I can export my Notebooks from Circus Ponies’ Notebook program to view as web sites in Safari if I think I’ll need them. I’ll also prepare in advance blank draft blog posts that are pre-completed with thumbnail photos (for instance, the event logo) and any advertising banners I intend to use. This will save cutting & pasting and photo editing on the road, and will make posting faster in general. All I’ll have to do is write content and use the camera connection kit or my iPhone camera to add pictures to my posts.

Once on the road, I’ll use Evernote and Pages for taking notes, WordPress or Safari for doing my web posting, Things for editorial planning and Keynote for any presentations. Any contact or calendar changes that I make will be synced to Mobile Me for backup. I can store and pull files that I need from Mobile Me or Dropbox.

I am really looking forward to the day that I can leave my laptop at home when I pack my suitcase.

Disclosure: Automattic, maker of WordPress.com, is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.

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    [...] thinks the iPad could easily replace a laptop for a blogger: I’m a writer, more specifically a professional blogger. I’m not doing heavyweight computer [...]

  2. Did you find typing on the on-screen keyboard to be more-or-less as good as typing on your macbook keyboard?

    1. In landscape mode, the size is pretty good for me (bearing in mind I’m a female with small hands – for my husband it was a bit cramped). The thing that would take getting used to is the idea of “hover typing”, not being able to rest my fingers on the keyboard at all. I figure that would be just an adjustment to learn like using a trackpad was or like it took me to get used to typing on the iPhone keyboard. With practice I could do it. But for heavy duty typing I’d anticipate using an external keyboard anyway.

  3. I found another thing I like about the iPad for travel last night when I read on Forbes.com that their writer was told taking one through airport security that the TSA is classing it with devices like Kindles & iPhones, so it doesn’t have to be taken out of your bag at security like a laptop does. If that continues to be the case, the reduced hassle going through security will be just one more thing to love.

  4. Do you have any recommendation for blog software which does rich text editing. I couldn’t find a good one which saves me from typing HTML. (Specially, when angle brackets are on the second screen of the keyboard).

    1. That is definitely challenging. I haven’t, which is why I plan to do as much of that stuff as I can ahead of time.

    2. There’s WordPress.app for wordpress blog.

      I read on RedSweater forum, the creator of MarsEdit. The programmer of MarsEdit is planning to make iPad version. I hope they do it soon, iPad need a good blogging platform.

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