My iPad 180

Its been almost a year since I wrote about why an iPad probably isn’t right for me and I am probably going to do a complete 180. I’ve been thinking quite a bit about whether an iPad would fit into my workflows and my business generally or whether I am caught in the Apple reality distortion field. Having had my iPhone 4 for about 6 months or so and looking at Apple’s recent iOS5, iCloud and even the Mac OS Lion announcements (not to mention my habits when I go to meetings), I think an iPad may just have value for me after all.

A big part of my thinking has been which device would be a better choice if I was going to choose one device to add to my technology mix. I have a few devices to bear in mind:

  • an aging black MacBook;
  • a Kindle DX; and
  • my iPhone 4.

I use my MacBook for most of my work. I create documents on it, surf the Web, tweet, update Facebook … the usual. I tend to use my MacBook less since I switched first to an Android phone last year and especially since getting my iPhone 4 because I do a lot of the casual stuff with my smartphone and I can leave the bigger and bulkier laptop behind. I have even started taking notes at meetings on my iPhone and while it looks like I am not really paying attention (I am, really) or like I am tweeting, playing a game or something like that (I’m not), taking notes in Evernote or Simplenote is making it easier to get meeting notes and other thoughts into my workflows than writing stuff down (I find it a little difficult to write lately after using a keyboard or touchscreen most of the time).

The MacBook Pro option

What I have been thinking is that a new MacBook Pro to replace my aging MacBook would give me an update to my core workhorse but wouldn’t address my growing desire for a lightweight device to take to meetings, home with me in the evenings and on trips. The 13″ MacBook Pro would be my weapon of choice. I like the size and the current generation version is powerful, sleek and not that bulky.

Unlike an iPad, a MacBook Pro will run all my apps and full apps to boot. It will do pretty much whatever I need it to do and do it pretty quickly at that. Given its relative size, a MacBook Air may address my slim form factor desire but the current generation MacBook Air is rumoured to be due for a refresh soon and it could use it. Newer Macs have higher end processors and new technologies like Thunderbolt which will make a huge difference in the coming years. I have a theory about the MacBook Air and how they will likely become the common choice for anyone who doesn’t need a high performance machine and I can see a MacBook Air becoming my MacBook’s replacement down the line. For the time being, though, my MacBook works pretty well. It is big and heavy but it handles my common work tasks well. I don’t need to update it just yet so I am inclined to see what the next MacBook Air rev looks like.

The iPad option

What I would really like to have is a device which I can use for my books (Kindle app for one), magazines, feeds, Instapaper (nevermind Apple’s new Safari-based Reading List, Instapaper is awesome and worth the nominal payment for the app and the premium subscription) and even comics (I used to read comics in my younger years and I am itching to get back into them, just not that keen on buying more paper). I also love the idea of a tablet for meetings and lighter weight work tasks. I don’t see myself ever preparing agreements and other legal documents on an iPad so a MacBook of some description remains an essential device but an iPad would be perfect for meetings and general reference work, not to mention virtually all my reading and media consumption needs.

The other day I asked whether anyone regretted buying an iPad. For the most part the answer was “no” with the implicit qualification from people like Tony Seifart that the iPad doesn’t handle some document related tasks very well, even with Pages. I had a conversation with Rich Mulholland a little while ago about his iPad and he found that it wasn’t as useful and he thought it may have been. He flies quite a bit and found it tended to take up unnecessary space in his bag. He made a good point and I would hate to get an iPad only to find myself leaving it at home more often than not. I suspect that it would become a more constant companion than my MacBook, though, just based on my current habits.

There is definitely a place for a lightweight device that can handle a lot of my day to day activities (this is the 180 I mentioned above). Developments like iMaverick make an iPad even more appealing to me. I don’t want to deal with paper anymore and shifting my books, news materials and other content to digital formats is all possible on an iPad 2.

Android tablet option?

The elephant in the room is Android and its tablets but that isn’t really an option for me. The main reason is apps. I rely on a couple apps (OmniFocus, Instapaper, iTunes and the prospect of using OmniOutliner on the iPad too) which I have on my iPhone and will have on an iPad which are not available for Android and probably won’t be. Those apps are core apps for me and it would cost me more time and hassle to switch to Android-based alternatives to make the transition worthwhile. The one big reason I switched to my iPhone was because I want my devices to fit into an effective set of workflows and just work for me.

Android is definitely going to be the dominant mobile platform in the near future but, for the time being, Apple has me in a nice big puffy cloud of productivity and joy.

iPad for lawyers?

I noticed this article on the NY Times titled “The Rise of the Legal iPad” which sort of clinched it for me. Proskauer Rose isn’t the first firm which has issued iPads to its lawyers and it won’t be the last. iPads aren’t quite the powerhouses MacBooks and iMacs are but they do seem to fit nicely into a business environment.

Bottom line for me? I think I am going to go for an iPad 2 and keep an eye on the MacBook Air as a possible replacement for my MacBook when it can no longer do what I need it to do.







  1. Cat Juggles avatar

    I had a chat the other day with our IT consultant – he travels a lot between clients and has had his ipad even before available in SA and is of the opinion that a small net book would have worked better for him for off site support as his iphone use and the ipad overlaps so much. He did admit that for me an ipad will be a better option as I want to load drawings and walk around with it.  So I guess it depends on your specific use.

  2. pauljacobson avatar

    I do see the point although if it were a matter of looking at a netbook, I’d rather go with a Macbook Air.  I find there are a couple things I do on my iPhone which would be better on an iPad with the larger screen but there is a good reason why some people refer to the iPhone 4 as an iPad mini.

  3. AJ avatar

    Paul – My iPad with Evernote has become my constant companion to my Macbook Pro (yes the 13″ model is the one to have – easy to travel with and loaded with enough horsepower).  Nice and seamless, without any compatibility issues. The rise of iPad magazines will only enhance the value of the device – the Kindle app already offers superb alternative  to the actual Kindle device (although I prefer the Kindle’s screen in daylight).
    The iPhone is just a bonus for availability of info and notes when you have no access to your other toys….

  4. Minnaar Pieters avatar

    Very cool post Paul. Here is my experience having all of the devices you are talking about. I have Macbook Pro 13, and I love it to bits. Its powerful, elegant and the battery lasts quite long.

    But then the iPad came along and I thought its the best thing ever, and my Macbook Pro has never gone on a trip with me since. You just seem to notice the weight of a MBP in your backpack, which is not the case with the iPad. Weirdly my Kindle also started gathering dust, because reading on the iPad is more comfortable than I expected. And the battery is phenomenal.

    But then the iPhone 4 arrived, and suddenly my iPad was not used a lot – maybe once or twice a week, and for conferences (where the iPads battery is great). The iPhone4 does most simple computational tasks, and definately does everything the iPad does. Sure, the large screen of the iPad is nice, but the iPhone is always with me.

    I also spent some time with the Xoom recently, and I can honestly say it is not an iPad competitor yet. Sure, the OS has a lot potential, but the ease of use is just not up to scratch yet compared to the “your grandma can use it” iPad.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that the iPhone 4 has become my favourite computer. If I had to slim down my choice of gadgets I would say go for the Sandy Bridge refreshed MB Air (which can hopefully use more than 4GB of RAM), plus iPhone. You wont miss the iPad.

  5. pauljacobson avatar

    Interesting perspective there Minnaar.  I’m starting with my iPhone and what I find myself wanting more and more is a bigger screen for many of the apps.  My iPhone is great when I am out and don’t want to or need to haul out my laptop but when it comes to reading (I have the larger DX and I like the screen size), browsing and using apps like Evernote, the bigger screen feels more comfortable to me.  That said, the iPhone does a great job with all of that stuff too.

  6. Peter du Toit avatar
    Peter du Toit

    I started with iPad 2 and only upgraded to iPhone 4 last week when I was due for an upgrade. The iPad has been one of the best investments I’ve made. Portability and size of screen is a winner for me. I find the iPhone just a little too small for me.

    The iPad is the perfect productivity device for me. I consume and create more content with this than with any other device I have owned. A few weeks ago on a trip to France I went iPad only and it was flawless. It’s the perfect size. We’re investing in a second one as soon as stocks become available again 🙂

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