I want to just work from my iPad. I’m sick of desktops, laptops, and netbooks. The iPad is lightweight, has great battery life, and I don’t have to take it out of my bag when I’m flying. Most of the work that I do is writing, covering iOS and Android, so it seems appropriate to primarily do this work from mobile devices, right? That’s what I want, but there’s still just so many shortcomings that keep it from being a regular reality.
What I find is that for basic tasks, the iPad is great. I like the focus that the iPad’s limitation of running a single app on screen at a time provides, especially for writing. I use a portable Bluetooth keyboard, and while it’s not full-size, the benefits I get from being forced to focus on what I’m writing is a huge benefit. As well, with the customer support job I work with that uses Zendesk, I discovered that it’s actually quite easy to do it efficiently through Safari and the Zendesk mobile app. I didn’t feel like I was any less productive in working from the iPad than I do when I work from my Mac in this case. But it’s the exception to the rule.
The problems always come in when I have to work with files. For example, when I have to upload images to WordPress, it does not go well. Until iOS 6 hits with the ability to upload images from the browser, I have to upload through the app, which requires that images be placed in the body of text, not in the galleries that are below posts. Adding images to an article from the iPad is problematic as well, as the menu doesn’t display properly unless I’m in portrait.
Thankfully, things are a little better outside of WordPress. An app like GoodReader for iPad helps when trying to work with files and performing basic tasks like unzipping archives or just saving photos to the Camera Roll, but it feels like a workaround to a real solution, and it’s ultimately more time-consuming. Android is better-equipped to deal with files, but it’s still a clunkier experience than working from just a computer.
Now, what about remote computing apps? These either require having a computer set up and running somewhere, like with LogMeIn, or using something like OnLive Desktop, which requires a good enough low-latency wifi connection, which can be hard to get while mobile. Clear’s mobile WiMax hotspot worked well enough for me on a recent trip to Chicago, but most publicly-available wifi spots struggled with it. This isn’t even considering the key problem with all remote computing apps: the touch screen is not a mouse, and trying to use it as one is awkward.
Really, that’s the problem with the iPad as a work device. It may be a post-PC device, but work is still caught in a PC state of mind. I am at a point where I can do most of my work if absolutely necessary from my iPad, especially writing and answering emails. But I still hit a bottleneck where it’s woefully inefficient. Until the necessary services adapt to the needs of tablet users like myself, I will still have to fight through that bottleneck.