A Potential Use for the iPad

There’s a lot of hype surrounding the Apple iPad. Some people are proclaiming it’s the end of traditional media like newspapers, magazines, and books. I’m not so sure about that, but I have found one potential use for the iPad that—for me, at least—might be compelling enough to make me go buy one later this year.

One task that I’m finding as a member of EMC’s vSpecialist team is that there is a lot of reading. We’re responsible for reading all sorts of documents. I don’t mind doing this in the evenings, when I’m not writing for one of my upcoming books or studying for a certification exam, but I’d really much rather prefer to do this in a way that makes it possible for me to be with my family. So, having some sort of device that would allow me to review documents while I’m sitting in the den with the kids would be great.

My thought is that I could leverage something like Dropbox to synchronize documents between my MacBook Pro and an iPad. With the documents easily accessible on (or from) the iPad, I could sit on the couch and read or review documents while the kids sit next to me and watch TV or read a book. This would help me stay on top of the document reviewing without pulling me into my office and away from the family.

What do you think? Good idea, or not? Anyone else have any uses for the iPad that you’d like to describe? Speak up in the comments.

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  1. Justin’s avatar

    Scott,
    I think the iPad, as purely an eReader, will have a tough time against eInk screens such as the Kindle or the Nook. No matter which camp you might end up in (both are compelling products), if you’re looking for a device to read books or PDFs on, then I really think the iPad wouldn’t be the wisest choice. Some people are meant to read LCDs all day long, but I’m not one of them, and even the nicest LCD gives you eye strain. These eInk displays are really pretty great, and before you drop $399 on an iPad I highly recommend you check them out. I’m thinking of using my birthday as an excuse to buy one or the other. :)
    That said I think I know the use case where the iPad will be really successful: the Health Care vertical. I see the iPad’s killer app is being able to run Medscape or Epocrates on a real sized screen, plus a remote display app (Wyse PocketCloud perhaps?) for doing office work.

  2. Barry (@virtualisedreal)’s avatar

    This is exactley how we are planning on using the ipad where I work. As well as this it will be fantastic for reading internal kb articles, update / installation checklists on customer sites.

    I think it could also be good for note taking in customer meetings and maybe presentations?

    Guess we will have to wait and see how good it is at release.

  3. GGuglie’s avatar

    I like your idea and I’m looking for something that can be used like you said too.
    I’m not sure that iPad can be the right tool: I’m not sure that reading on its screen will not be tiring.
    I’m looking for the next generation of ebook reader using color e-ink screen that seem to be more relaxing for reading (but not so flexible as iPad).

    Obviously, I’ve not used an iPad yet, so I will be glad to be wrong ;)

    Giuseppe

  4. Mike Groom’s avatar

    At the school I work in we need a lightweight, handheld, touchscreen, wireless device for our sports department to take electronic registration of the students. Unfortunately the registration software, although it uses a browser, requires Flash therefore it won’t work on the iPad. Therefore I want to try the Citrix Receiver on the iPad with XenDesktop Express integrated with our vSphere network to provide a Windows virtual machine and a browser that uses Flash.

  5. Michael Janke’s avatar

    I use a netbook, a lightweight laptop and a Mac Air in that roll, and have largely replaced paper based reading for periodicals and technical information. I’ve also tried using a hi-res phone (HTC diamond) and a hig res, long battery life Nokia N800 in that roll.

    To make it work, you need a good connectivity, a good screen & long battery life. The N800 – even with a 5″ 800×480 screen was too small, but it had great connectivity – I could even mount my phone’s file system via Bluetooth from the N800 GUI.

    I can see the iPad in that roll, but for me, it’d have to be able to access the content directly, without the requirement of being tethered to another computer or being forced to use a specific web portal for access to content. If it can only function if it is docked a couple times per day, or if the only way to add and remove content is via iTunes, then it is not a true portable computing device.

  6. Jay G. Ethridge’s avatar

    I completely agree with your point. I think most people in technology have quite a bit of reading that normally happens at their desk or in the office. The freedom to do some of that reading in more relaxed, or family friendly, environments is exactly why I’m looking forward to adding an iPad to my daily routine.

  7. Tony DiSarro’s avatar

    I would suggest sugarsync for the syncing. It’s free and has a great iphone os client.

  8. DavidWarburton’s avatar

    That was exactly my train of thought too Scott and the one thing that’s stopped me getting a Kindle. Only thing either I’ve used neither in person so can’t make an informed decision….

  9. Ben Thomas’s avatar

    That was exactly my thought about an iPad or an iPad like device. I was thinking about loading all of the docs for the products that I use on it as well as the many computer books that I have. The kicker will be if there is a PDF reader that can search inside or across PDF files. Maybe even get DON’T PANIC painted on the back for good measure ;)

  10. Ryan’s avatar

    Scott,
    I would say that this is an excellent business justification for your finance committee.

    If you don’t mind I may just copy and paste it into an email off to my wife as well. :-)

    Next goal should be to set up the iPad as View client…

  11. Kirk’s avatar

    It’s a good idea if you don’t mind reading on an LCD screen (I don’t mind) and can concentrate on reading while the family watches TV (this is tough for me). I want something with this form factor, but won’t be buying an iPad. Many similar devices will be released soon, some based on Android, so I will be keeping an eye on the competition.

  12. Jaime Lamar’s avatar

    That sounds reasonable. I haven’t seen a lot of demos with the Ipad reading pdf files, but I am assuming (and it better be) possible. The issue may be with dropbox. Without multitasking on the pad (for now anyway), dropbox would not be running in the background. It seems like you would have to run the dropbox app, grab the file and put it on the pad, then open it for reading. As you wont be making changes to the PDFs, this is feasible, but a little more time consuming than just opening the pdf straight out of your dropbox. Am I out in left field here? Also, no multitasking means you cant have the PDF up, and then go reference something on the web for more information, or clarification. To me, it seems like there may be some frustration trying to use this as a real productivity device.

  13. Karl Katzke’s avatar

    I already do this with my iPhone! It also makes a decent minimal RDP and SSH client for those emergencies when you’ve got no hope of getting to the office in time to handle it… or just don’t want to get out of bed at 3am to get a laptop.

  14. James Shelton’s avatar

    I think a lot of people would be served well by the iPad…if they can get past their own insecurities. Certainly the iPad is not as bad as the naysayers would lead one to believe. Let’s go point by point…

    “e-Ink is better on your eyes than an LCD” – Ummm…ok. That must be why I’m totally blind after reading countless hours of material for over 20 years on various flavors of progressively better CRTs and LCDs. Oh wait….I’m not blind nor do I have sight issues. If you read on your iPhone, Droid, Laptop, or other LCD device now and are fine…you’ll be just fine with the iPad. I’ve spent many hours with the Kindle and the limitations of the e-Ink technology (speed, refresh, monochromism) are just too great. Perhaps when Pixel-Qi can get their stuff cheap enough and good enough for prime time…the situation will change…but for now a great LCD > ok e-Ink for my generalized media consumption any day.

    “It doesn’t multi-task” – Yeah…and neither does countless of other consumer devices. How well does the Kindle or Nook multi-task? Not to mention the fact that most people, contrary to popular opinion, are not very effective in their multitasking prowess. More likely than not, they are actually reducing their ability to any one thing extremely well. I’m on Scott’s page here…I can see the iPad being a great PDF, whitepaper, and general reading/consuming device…and when I read, the most I really care to be doing at the same time is listening to some music…and the iPad certainly allows this type of multi-tasking.

    “I don’t want to be locked in to Apple’s paradigm” – Funny…I hear this coming most often from some of the most ardent MS supporters. No one’s locked into Apple any more than they are locked into MS or shopping at Wal-mart. If someone doesn’t want the guided/moderated/simple/ruling-overlord experience that comes with using iTunes and the iPhone/iPad/iPod experience…then by all means they can take their business elsewhere. I’d point to all of the copy-catting going on about Apple products all the way down to the series windows 7 phone Hendrix experience or whatever it’s going to be called as a prime example of why such “lock-in” ain’t so bad anyway…looks like even MS has agreed that sometimes a tightly controlled experience led by a singular vision beats a free-for-all afloat in a sea of sameness experience.

    “It’s only got a 10-hour battery” – Ummm…ok. Well…I manage to do a great deal of reading today on a 13.3 Macbook Pro and it’s got even less…so what’s the point? 10 hours is fine. Every where I turn I’ve got some orifice that I can plug into that leaks electricity…whether it’s a car, Starbucks, the office…unless you’re Daniel Boone and your living off the grid (and why would you even be interested in the iPad or any sort of device like that then…), then 10 hours will most likely get you through your day just fine.

    “It’s just an overgown iPod Touch” – Wow…what a damning comment to make about a product. How terrible to be directly compared to one of the most singularly successful and profitable products ever made in the history of the planet. Please don’t disparage the poor iPad any more. Really folks…even if it is just a large iPod touch…that’s not in and of itself a bad thing. The iPad could be for many…what the concept of WebTV was (snicker all you want…but many folks aren’t ‘puter experts and the WebTV was their only understandable way onto the Internet)…a basic computer without all of the worry about drivers, AV, difficult file and program handling, etc.

    “Maxi-pad, the darn things got wings, insert sophmoric joke here” – I do agree that the name is disappointing…but hey…some really bad names have gone on to great things before. I think a company with micro (tiny) and soft (little) in their name didn’t do too poorly did they?

    Ultimately, my real issues with the product are all around cost. I find it hard to justify an additional $130 for 3G and GPS capabilities…not to mention another $30/month to the AT&T Co-overlords. I’ll be getting one as soon as they are out… Sans 3G of course…

  15. Hari’s avatar

    Another product, probably available earlier than the Adam, is Entourage Edge. This is a dual-book – left side is an e-ink screen and right side is a netbook with LCD screen. It can record audio, play video and allows handwritten notes on the e-ink screen with a stylus.

    http://www.entourageedge.com/

  16. Anders Gregersen’s avatar

    I see a device like the iPad as a great fit for my usage. I do some reading, perhaps watching a movie that the rest of the family don’t want to see, the latest pictures we have taken, a drawingboard for my daughter and I can take it with me in the car so that my daughter can watch movies and draw some more on the road. And I can do my email and rss reading on it to. Covers most of what I do and what my familiy needs.
    It won’t do banking, virtual labs or some of the videos I want to see from different vendors, but that’s ok, I have a laptop too, I just find the ipad idea more couch friendly and more casual.

  17. Jason Ruiz’s avatar

    Only problem(I find it funny that I’M saying this) with Adam is it’s Android based. I have not really seen any good book software compared to what’s available on Windows. I know apples to oranges, but still. Most E-Ink readers are Linux based, if not all AFAIK, I wouldn’t be surprised that someone hasn’t crosscompiled rsync or something similar for the Wi-FI enabled ones. If you want something handy and small, I suggest the Sony PRS-505. Otherwise I’d just end up using a tablet.

  18. Aaron Chaisson’s avatar

    on top of the e-reader use case that i too like the idea of, I can’t wait for Wyse Pocket Cloud on this thing to leverage my Corporate VMware View desktop image. I’m thinking about getting a T-Mobile 3G/4G Wifi hotspot card and as 4G networks roll out over the next 1-2 years, it will be a complete replacement for 80-90% of what I need a laptop for.

  19. Duane Haas’s avatar

    Haven’t formed a strong opinion one way or the other with the IPAD, I’ve been a fan of the amazon kindle. I can say I’m not happy with how it handles pdfs documents, I feel the kindle along with the instapaper.com service is great since it allows me to send all online articles I want to read to the kindle in a clean format.

  20. John Kennedy’s avatar

    iPAD’s will be pervasive in business and home use. My wife wants one. My wife. Older people want them. Younger people want them. People who don’t like computers want them.
    As for your intended use, Scott, a Kindle would work as well except for the lack of color in pictures. Kindle also has some benefits like the networking that uses cellular rather than Wifi. My daughter has one she takes with her everywhere. I’ve used it, and like it.
    Do you have trouble with the family leaving you alone as you read on a laptop?

  21. Mary’s avatar

    The doc reading possibilities was the tipping point for my purchase. I’m on the road most of the time. I do not like squeezing my laptop between me and the seat in front just to open and read industry and corporate software updates. However, I am getting woefully behind & look forward to the iPad for ease of this type of reading. I have the Goodreader app & have transferred PDF files to my iPad. Works like a charm.

  22. Mark Vaughn’s avatar

    Scott, look into GoodReader for docs, especially PDFs. It syncs with DropBox and allows you to both search and bookmark within a PDF. Offline HTML viewing is also nice. Any web page that you have open in safari, just add a “g” to the beginning and it will pull that page into GoodReader (change http://blog.mvaughn.us to ghttp://blog.mvaughn.us).

  23. Ross Pomeroy’s avatar

    @Ben Thomas – I found an iPad case that does right by us hitchhiker’s guide fans. Check it out.
    http://www.mycaseconcepts.com

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