Blog Post

Steve Rubel Faces the iPad-Only Challenge

It wasn’t that long ago when I actually used an ultra-mobile PC or a netbook as my primary machine. For my meager computing needs — I tend to live in a browser and don’t often use third-party apps for work — the scenario worked out reasonably well. I haven’t repeated the experiment with the iPad I purchased, but Steve Rubel has. In fact, he already has a week of “iPad only” under the belt for both personal and work life at Edelman and he’s sharing the experience.

“In short, it’s going really really well. I believe that when this experiment ends I will continue to use the iPad as my primary computer, though I may use my PC more than I do now, especially when I am in the office. I am also looking forward to trying out other slates, like HP’s (an Edelman client.)”

One advantage I see with the iPad (s aapl) over my UMPCs is the display size — any smaller and it becomes a challenge to use in a full-time role. When using my 7″ touchscreen tablets or  10″ netbooks, I often attached them to a larger, external display. You can’t do that while mobile, so I’m finding the 9.7″ iPad screen to be better in that regard, even if the resolution is only marginally better. There’s the keyboard factor with both the iPad and other slates, but I’ve never had an issue carrying a Bluetooth keyboard in the past. Steve notes the ergonomic and keyboard challenges as well:

“One important observation is that the iPad’s ergonomics really are not ideal. If you use it without an external keyboard you’re basically looking straight down all the time. It reminds me of when I wrote papers in college on electronic typewriters. It’s ok for shorter writings but not longer ones.”

Obviously, the same constraints I had when using a UMPC for a primary device apply equally to using an iPad in a similar role. The only possible way such a setup can work is if you don’t require heavy-duty computing apps, can use the web for most of your work and find additional apps to fill in any workflow gaps. This last point is key, and in my opinion, the most interesting aspect of the challenge. Steve is routinely seeking, finding and evaluating software to help meet his needs. I’d even argue that the maturity and scope of apps is better suited to this challenge than when I last took it.

While I wouldn’t recommend the iPad as a notebook replacement for many, the journey to see if it’s viable can actually be more enjoyable than the final destination. I doubt most readers are following in Steve’s footsteps — which I fully understand — but if anyone is, I’d be curious to hear your observations. I’m betting Steve would too.

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Image credit: The Steve Rubel Stream

9 Responses to “Steve Rubel Faces the iPad-Only Challenge”

  1. I’m trying to use the iPad as the only machine I carry outside the office. Most of the limitations I’ve encountered have been balanced by the astonishing battery life. So far, the biggest limitation has been that I prefer to keep an ssh window open to a server while looking at pdfs. That’s a problem because the ssh clients for iPad can not run in the background (at least not yet). The solution for now may be to use one of the browser-based ssh clients in one safari window and open pdfs in another safari window. The external vga connector has made a big difference, although I have only used it for presentations so far. Evidently it is available to any app that codes it in, so I can only hope that others do.

  2. Looking at that photo, I fail to see the logic behind using it for productivity work, as both the hardware and software are so constrained. It’s like a dumb terminal. It may be fine for light, specific, simple tasks, but if you’re still reaching for a real computer to finish off your work, it just makes the iPad a novelty. I also don’t see carrying around a two-piece arrangement like that when a netbook travels so much easier.

    Being able to remote into a real PC for getting work done could be a lucrative app, as would access to a NAS for file streaming, but again those are things a netbook can already handle. File saves obviously require cloud access along with specific app support, and printing would require some sort of hybrid connection if you wanted a hard-copy of what you were doing.

    Folks that are finding uses for the device are obviously happy and have found ways to harness it’s potential. For me the iPad is just way too limited versus an equally-priced netbook. Sorry to sound like a broken record Kevin. :)

  3. I’m testing it at work for a primary machine and I’d say it will do the trick for about 85% of my needs. I’m a heavy reader of content and a light producer. The mobile keyboard is very nice and I like it a lot better than my Fujitsu laptop. I also use a Mophie battery on my iPhone and it is great. However, the battery life on the iPad is super. It easily gets me through the day without recharging so I wouldn’t buy an extended battery just yet.

    The iPad is really nice for reading content, surfing, carrying to meetings etc. I still like taking notes with paper (just my preference) but I take a picture of them, dump them into Evernote and they’re available on my iPad. Pretty slick and easy. The iPad is very easy to carry, comfortable etc. which is conducive to hauling around wherever I go. Quite nice to read all of those reports wherever you want without worrying about a laptop, cables, power supply etc.

    Wi-fi is the only limit so far, and that goes away soon. I’m a happy camper so far.

  4. Alslayer

    Personally I love the ipad but it can’t replace my programming work. I learned that I love 7 inch devices when I had my Samsung Q1. So I am just waiting for a 7 inch ipad then I will be happy. The Archos 7 looks great.

  5. To be honest, i do 80% of my daily tasks using only my iPhone 3GS and works perfectly. As you said, most freelancers works over the web and for me is not different. The iPhone fits my web-needs and keeps me up time all the day, the only thing is that the battery is not as good as it should be, but my trusty Mophie keeps me running even longer.

    As for sure, a Mophie for the iPad is a must, hope they release it sooner.