I bought an iPad at the start of this year, out of curiosity and thinking it was time to see what they could do.
I was less than convinced I needed one, having already got a MacBook and a kindle, as well as a Samsung S!! phone running on Gingerbread.
My first impressions were mixed. Whilst very easy to use, and with many great looking apps, what was I supposed to do with it? It quickly became my internet radio player of choice, I added a lot of music and even started watching a little television, which I haven’t done for a long time. I also downloaded a few games, but quickly got bored with those and irritated with the in-game purchasing adverts from so-called free games. The one productivity app I got to like was Keynote, as i allowed me just in time preparation of slides on air flights. I also liked the ability to quickly find web sites and documents in informal meetings (especially in my local pub)! But that was just about as far as it went, although once or twice I ventured out on trips without my kindle, driven mainly by airline weight restrictions forcing me to cut the number of devices I carry.
And so I arrive in Portugal for the PLE 2012 conference with the usual stack of equipment (Portugal being warm, I could carry more gear and still keep under !0 Kilos luggage). MacBook, iPad, Kindle, Phone, Zoom recorder, spare batteries, connectors, cables etc. But, however careful I am something always gets left behind. This time it was the power lead for my MacBook. I guess I could have borrowed a lead. But, given all my files are in Dropbox, I though I would give the iPad a go. And on the whole I liked it.
It feels very different, not having a laptop computer. Almost as if something is missing. But their were three things I really liked. One was just the weight factor. I like whenever possible to walk to conference venues and to try to see a little of the city I am in. the iPad is light enough you do not really notice you are carrying it. The second was the battery life. No more arriving at a venue and searching around for power leads before everyone else gets them.
the third was a session I chaired. There were three speakers. Following a short introduction from each, posing a series of issues arising from their papers, participants were supposed to have short in depth round table discussions to look at those issues. One of the speakers, Arunangsu Chatterjee, had, at the last moment, been unable to travel to Portugal, but had offered to participate remotely. We were able to connect the iPad to a projector to allow him to introduce this paper. And then when we spit into round table groups, we simply used the iPad for him to take part through skype. And strangely it worked. Of course we could have done that with a computer. But somehow he seemed to have more presence on the tablet and when people moved around we simply ‘took him with us’ on the iPad. I can see tablet computers opening up many possibilities sin terms of mobile communications.
And yes, the next time I go to a conference I might even leave the laptop behind!