As cool as it is, I couldn't justify an iPad, if it were only an entertainment device or media player. No, it has to hold its own as a productivity tool, in order to win my vote. I say that, but come to think of it, I did actually buy my first iPad (that's right, my "first" -- read on), sight unseen, hoping I could whip it into a useful productivity tool. I'm not looking for a a laptop replacement; just a good web and email machine with light duty authoring and editing capabilities.
I recently took my iPad to the CMS Expo in Chicago, and it was delightful to be able to leave my laptop and laptop bag back in the hotel room.
May The Best App Win...
So, with this goal in mind, my friends and I have probably spent way more money than any of us care to admit, purchasing, testing and replacing one app for another, trying to determine which apps rule; a Darwinian competition of sorts: Survival of the Fittest iPad Apps.
"Look, folks... No file system!"
As you may may or may not know, there is no file system on the iPad. So, the issue becomes how you get files onto the iPad, how to edit or author files on the iPad and then how to get them off the iPad to share them with the rest of the world. Support for cloud services, such as mobileMe, Dropbox and Google Apps, is key! Currently, most apps that can edit content don't support these and other cloud services, well or at all. And the apps that do, either can't edit or don't support your file formats, or if they do, they simply are not terribly robust. This will, of course, improve over time; but today, it's a reality.
One key app is GoodReader. This app seems to have the most robust email and cloud support and they provide their own pseudo file system. GoodReader recently opened their API to any app developer that wants to support it, so this could become a defacto standard -- why in the world didn't Apple make file sharing easier?
Another brilliant service is Dropbox. This app allows you to share a single desktop folder and it's contents with multiple PC's your iPhone and iPad. It works really well.
The combination of GoodReader and Dropbox is very powerful.
Projecting the Dots,,,
For you Microsoft office users, DocsToGo, can author and edit MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint docs, and they have just added support for cloud services.
Now, before you start thinking, "Great I will use my iPad to author and present projected PowerPoint presentations", you need to know that while Apple does offer a handy VGA adapter to connect your iPad to an external monitor or projector, only a select few apps are actually supported! I'm pretty sure the programmers at Apple had to go out of their way to create this unwelcome feature!
From my experience, Keynote and the built-in iPad Photo app are the only two apps that you can project. Oddly enough, Safari isn't even supported for VGA output. So, that means you cannot include any web content, (or for that matter, any Google apps content) projected from an iPad.
Keynote has its own shared desktop folder interface, for pushing files to the iPad, but keeping files synced, will likely pose challenges for some.
Another thing, that blows my mind is that you cannot organize photos, once they are on the iPad. You have to dock with your PC and re-sync.
I just bought the camera interface for the iPad ($29.00). It includes a USB dongle and SD card reader dongle. I'm hoping this hardware will mysteriously unlock some phantom functionality for organizing photo albums on the iPad. Probably not, but I can dream, right?
Other Accessories I Recommend:
An additional 10W power adapter($29.00). It comes with an AC power cord, which the power adapter that ships with the iPad does not include. This is the only way to get a 6' power cord, for the iPad. Believe it or not, the iPhone/iPad data cable that ships with the iPad is actually feels shorter than my iPhone data cable. Net/net: without the 6ft AC power cord, you havevto station your iPad within 30" of the AC outlet.
Speaking of power adapters, you may already know that you cannot charge an iPad from a computer USB port or from an iPhone power adapter.
You can however, safely charge an iPhone from an iPad power adapter, faster than it would otherwise charge from an iPhone power adapter.
Griffen has some of the best iPad accessories. I like their leather PadFolio ($49.95); much better IMHO than Apple's flocked cardboard version. I use this in combination with the Belkin clear rubberized plastic clam-shell back cover ($49.99).
When I'm at home I take off the leather PadFolio<, and just go with the clamshell, which gives the iPad a great "no-slip" feel, as you carry it around the house.
Griffen also offers an anti-glare screen film, ($29.99) which greatly reduces fingerprints. The combination of the Belkin shell and the Griffen screen film completely encloses and protects the iPad from scratches and dust; important for resale value.
The Griffen industrial aluminum desk stand for iPad ($49.99) is another great accessory; ultra rugged and versatile.
Of course, I have already mentioned the VGA adaptor($29.00); a must have.
One interesting point about any of the 3rd party protective covers, it that they are generally not compatible with the generic Apple accessories; i.e. any of the docking solutions. All you iPhone users, are already familiar with this issue. Personally, I don't recommend the Apple dock. It's not a great stand, and as I just stated, you can only dock a naked iPad. Some folks may not care about this, but something to be aware of, before you shell out the cash for these peripherals.
Another thing, I learned, is that most ear bud/headphone mini-adapters are not long enough to extend through a clamshell enclosure and still make proper contact in the headphone receptacle. The solution I found is an adapter made by Monster Labs, which I had previously purchased for my original iPhone, which had a similar problem.
I'll stop here, for now.Look for more about my favorite iPad apps in a future blog.
Regarding that second iPad, I mentioned... I've come to the conclusion that for the iPad to be truly useful, it has to be reliable, and given the importance of cloud services, described above, that means reliable access to the Internet. So, I ordered my second iPad with 3GS and additional memory.
Turns out, this also solved a couple of other problems: I no longer have to wrestle my iPad away from my business major, college-graduating son... I gave him my original iPad as a college graduation gift ;-)
Please let me know if any of this was interesting or helpful. SL