In 1985, our company launched a print magazine about the new 9-pound HP 110 Portable PC— the first clamshell DOS laptop. The HP 110 was designed by the HP division that invented the calculator. Hewlett-Packard applied its considerable knowledge of small computing devices and created the HP Portable. The Portable featured instant-on, a suite of built-in software, long battery life, light weight (for the time), and solid-state storage (i.e., no mechanical hard drive).
Unfortunately, after the HP Portable, laptops were designed to be miniaturized desktops with the full desktop operating system, the ability to install software, and a mechanical hard drive.
Meanwhile, designers of PDAs and Smartphones took a similar approach as the HP calculator division, building the operating system and apps right into solid-state memory.
Finally in 2010, Apple returned to the 1985 strategy of the HP Calculator division. They started small with the iPhone and its operating system and enhanced it to create the lightweight, instant-on iPad, a mobile device with long battery life and great built-in apps.
Been waiting for the iPad
The iPad is the device I have wanted for all these years. For my business travels, it will mean no awkward laptop to carry around, no looking for an AC outlet between flights, no struggles with a desktop OS and its long boot up time, and not scrunching in coach when opening the laptop. It will mean instant connectivity for e-mail and the Web at any airport, hotel room, or coffee shop thanks to the affordable $15 AT&T iPad 3G monthly plan.
Can it really replace a laptop?
On the road, I spend my time doing e-mail, Web browsing, some word processing, spreadsheet work, and mind mapping. All this I can do on my iPad. The clincher is that I can use remote control software to access my desktop software, files, and company network.
To test the concept, I used LogMeIn Ignition ($29.99; app2.me/2425) to access and remotely control my desktop PC from my iPad. I was reasonably satisfied but need more time—and some actual on-the-road experience—to evaluate the strength of the solution. For mind mapping, I successfully transferred some of my desktop Mindjet mind maps to the highly rated iThoughts app on the iPad ($7.99; app2.me/2424).
I am writing this article on the iPad using the Pages app from Apple ($9.99; app2.me/2412). In doing so, I have tried three keyboard options, the built-in soft keyboard, the Apple wireless keyboard, and the Apple dock-keyboard combo.
I wrote most of this article with the Apple dock/keyboard that docks the iPad in portrait mode. As a PC user, I am still getting used to the layout of the Apple keyboard. However, the solution should be acceptable in a hotel room. The keyboard, heavier than the iPad and awkward with its protruding dock, will go in my suitcase.
I tried using both the wireless keyboard and the built-in soft keyboard in the passenger seat as my wife drove. Both keyboard solutions worked, neither was great, but no worse than using a laptop in the seat. The main problem in the car was the difficulty reading the iPad screen in the sunlight. Furthermore, fingerprints, an ongoing concern, makes viewing worse in the sunlight. Overall, I found the soft keyboard in landscape mode surprisingly useable. It worked as well as the light, portable, wireless keyboard, which without a dock is clumsy to use.
What don't I like
In the hotel room, I will miss my laptop's larger screen and keyboard. The docked keyboard solution still requires touching, which is more awkward then using a mouse. The lack of straightforward file access on the iPad will probably be the most significant software limitation. It means, for example, I will need to use LogMeIn and my work desktop to upload a graphics file when posting to our iPhoneLife.com blog.
Traveling means lots of down time, and the iPad is an awesome entertainment device. With my iPad, I will listen to audio, watch video, read books, play games, and share photos. And, of course, I will read iPhone Life on my iPad with the Zinio Magazine Newsstand & Reader app (free; app2.me/2402)!
I'll be interested in hearing about your experience on the road with only your iPad. E-mail me at