My trip to San Francisco that just ended was a short one, and a very successful one. It is always good to see the great team of GigaOM get together, easily the brightest bunch in the tech world (myself excluded). Now that I have time to reflect on this trip, I have come to realize that a tablet would have made the trip much easier. In the world of mobile tech, easier translates into more fun, and I believe that tablets like the iPad have a big role to play in our lives going forward. They are more fun to use than other computers.
I have a long history of using tablets, so I don’t need to be convinced about the utility they provide in a mobile setting. I was able to make a decent living for years as a consultant with a tablet in my hands for note-taking and other tasks. The iPad challenges that history, however, as it is a pure slate with no keyboard other than an onscreen keyboard. This becomes the biggest factor to consider when trying to decide if a tablet like the iPad can meet the user’s needs. My reflections of this recent trip convince me the keyboard would not have been a that big a factor.
This trip to SF I decided to leave the tablet at home and brought the MacBook. I have traveled with the MacBook many times so I knew it would meet my needs on this short trip. It certainly worked OK, but I must admit I was constantly wishing I had the tablet with me. I have traveled with a tablet many times in the past, and reflecting back on this trip I realize the tablet would have made things easier. A tablet would have been more fun, too, and it is important to not overlook that fact.
I can remember a at least dozen times over the course of this short business trip that I wished I had the tablet with me. I wanted to jump online and check some things, as I had a few minutes free and wanted a bigger screen than that on my phone. I could do those things on a notebook, but I repeatedly found myself considering if a quick session was worth the effort. Without the tablet I had to find a place to sit down, pull out the notebook, turn on the 3G modem, do my quick online work and then put it all back in the bag. Many times I felt it was not worth the effort and blew it off. A tablet would have changed all that, as I could have simply pulled it out of the bag, jumped online, and then put it back when done.
I didn’t even pull out the notebook at the airport on the return trip as it was too crowded at the gate, and there was not enough free room to even balance the notebook on my lap. I saw the same “notebook balancing” act in the airport performed by several travelers. I saw one guy drop his notebook off his lap as he struggled to use it. It hit me that a tablet would have been the perfect tool for this situation, and it drove home how many times over the course of this trip a tablet would have made a positive difference.
I should point out that I didn’t have to do a lot of writing during the trip, which would have been a factor had I only brought a slate without a keyboard. That’s certainly something to consider, but many times the lack of a keyboard is not that big an issue. That’s when a slate like the iPad will make a big impression on those not familiar with using a tablet. An onscreen keyboard is sufficient for a lot of things, whether we like them or not.
I had an amusing situation during the trip which points out the power of Apple with mainstream consumers. I was eating a sandwich in the hotel restaurant, reading an e-book on my Kindle. My waiter seemed to be watching me the entire time, and he finally approached me with a question. He asked me if the Kindle was “the iPad, and do you like it.” This was impressive since the iPad is not even available yet, but this non-techie guy was already looking for them. I explained that it was a Kindle, and he kindly informed me that the iPad could also read e-books but do “so much more.” Yes, Apple is going to sell a lot of iPads.
Image courtesy Apple
Related research: Web Tablet Survey: Apple’s iPad Hits Right Notes (sub req’d)