Actually, the end is now. The time has come to wrap up this experiment; it’s hard to believe I’ve been using my iPad for nearly a year -- and that alone should tell you something about how well it’s gone. I could be cruel and make you read to the end before sharing my conclusion, but this isn’t a mystery novel. And anyway, it’s probably no mystery to anyone that’s already spoken to me recently.
For me, it’s been a success. I’ve said it to anyone that would listen. I’d be hard pressed to work without my iPad now. As I wrote in a previous blog, the few times I have not had it with me it’s felt awkward to go back to paper and pencil. When I don’t have it, I get that same feeling in the pit of my stomach when I realize that I forgot my wallet or keys on the table at home.
Small is Beautiful
I think the biggest success factor for me has been the size and portability of the iPad. There’s more to it than that, of course (and I’ll get to that), but in a way I feel that everything else flows from there -- no matter how good the apps are, they’re not going to be useful if I don’t have them with me. And if the size and portability didn’t feel right, this experiment would have been over a long time ago. This is where I feel the real advantage lies over just using my laptop.
I just find (and maybe it’s just me) that spending five or ten minutes unlocking the security cable, disconnecting from the port replicator, finding my spare mouse (I dislike the touchpad, which is an odd thing to say since the entire iPad is one big touchpad), and then hoping the laptop wakes from sleep properly when I get to my meeting is inconvenient. I’m sure that some of the world’s smallest violins are playing right now, and maybe I’m exaggerating a little for dramatic effect, but it’s enough to make me think twice about whether I really need to take my laptop to a meeting, whereas with the iPad, I never give it a second thought.
This Wasn’t About Laptop versus Tablet
Part of the original premise stated that it wasn’t about pitting these two devices against one another. And that’s still true – when I’m sitting at my desk I still make predominant use of my laptop, albeit plugged into my port replicator and hooked up to a larger secondary display, which really means that its raison d’être is rendered moot as I’m using it primarily as a desktop computer.
Here an App, There an App, Everywhere an App-App
Another big part of the premise was that the application marketplace had matured to a point where there was a sufficient supply of productivity apps that would make the iPad a solid consulting tool.
And that’s true -- there are countless numbers of apps out there. I feel like I’ve looked at quite a few of them and have still barely scratched the surface. For now, I’ve settled on a few staples, although I’ve always got my eyes and ears open to something new.
Of course, I use the basics that come with the iPad out of the box (email, calendar, contact list) that anyone with a smartphone also uses. Are there better basics out there? Honestly, I don’t know. I haven’t looked for any because the integration of these with Microsoft Exchange is quite seamless and provide me with what I need.
My other staple is called UPAD -- it’s the handwriting app that I’ve used quite consistently over the past few months: it has good writing recognition, it allows me to organize my notes into various categories, I can create notes that are entirely handwritten, or I can import PDF versions of other documents that I can then either view or annotate with my handwriting. Any of these documents can be synched back to my laptop, in case I need them as part of my client stored files. Many of the documents stay with my iPad (much the way they would if I was carrying a regular pen and paper notebook) until I’m done with them.
Speaking of workflow diagrams, I’m still on the fence about how formal an app I need on my iPad for this purpose. In most cases, any formal diagram that I’m going to keep and manage will likely be in Visio. During a meeting, I’m more likely to use UPAD to create a sketch that will be turned into a formal diagram, than to use a workflow tool. This isn’t necessarily a function of how good of a workflow app I can find, but more related to the situation of a meeting. In most cases there isn’t enough time in a meeting with a client to create the formal diagram on the fly, and to me it wouldn’t be the best use of that time anyway. To date, I’ve only ever observed one person that I worked with who was so proficient with Visio that he could create reasonably usable diagrams as he worked with a client.
Part of me feels like I ought to be using way more apps than I do, but the truth is that you tend to stick with what you know works. As I said, I’m always looking, but now it’s more like an election where it’s usually harder to unseat the incumbent -- unless my apps really mess up, they’re likely to stay in office for a long time.
The iPad’s Not the Only Game in Town
More than one person has asked me whether it’s got to be an iPad; I’ve even asked myself that question. There are, of course, other tablets on the market: the Google Nexus, the ASUS Transformer Pad, and the Microsoft Surface to name just a few. I haven’t really worked with any of these products, and the Transformer Pad is the only one that I had a chance to play with briefly.
I have no doubt that all sorts of arguments could be made for going one way or the other, all depending on what was important to you as a user. I admit that I’m partially biased towards the iPad, not just because it’s the tablet I’ve been using extensively, but my own experience with the Apple products in general has been good -- for me they’ve worked well, and I think Apple has done a good job of keeping the technical stuff under the covers where it belongs. Sure, you can still open a terminal window and mess around with Unix commands on the Mac if you want to, but in about six years of using primarily Apple products, I’ve only ever had one occasion to do that (and it had nothing to do with jail breaking my Apple TV <wink> <wink>). Anyway, this isn’t an Apple fanboy versus the world blog, and I’ve probably already said enough to cause some Android and Microsoft blood to start boiling.
The Bottom Line - It Works
It’s worked well for me so far and I have no reason to believe that it won’t continue to do so. Will it work for you? I hate to give the cliché consulting answer of it depends, but it really does. If you’re not well organized enough to make a regular pen and paper notebook work for you at least in some fashion, then don’t buy an iPad and expect magic to happen. But it’s been my experience that a lot of consultants (certainly all the Online consultants) tend to be a reasonably well-organized bunch, so I don’t mind going out on a limb and saying: yes, this can work for you, too.
And although this will bring my formal experiment to a close, I think it’s safe to say that this isn’t the last you’ll hear from me on the subject. As always, if you have any thoughts, questions or comments, feel free to get in touch. I’d love to hear from you.
Read all the posts in this series:
Conclusion - http://ig.obsglobal.com/2013/03/the-end-is-near/