I’ve been a proponent of the iPad as a tool of productivity since my first Bluetooth Keyboard (paired with an iPad 2). The Zagg Folio keyboard/case combo made for a great laptop replacement, offering the same touch typing experience coupled with the iPad’s slim form and great battery life. While the experience isn’t the same as a full fledged laptop, using iWork (Numbers and Pages primarily) I’ve been able to do most of the tasks my role at work required, often quicker than if I had stayed with one of the Dell workstation PCs and Microsoft Office my employer uses. Having my own personal device had other bonuses- access to media (you can’t install third party applications like Pandora desktop on work computers), better access to communication (instant messaging over multiple platforms via IM+ and iMessage without having to pull my iPhone out of my pocket), and best of all portability.
While some workflows had to be altered to accommodate the iPad’s single focus approach to applications (I don’t consider the fast app switching iOS uses to be full multitasking) and there have been some issues with cross-platform compatibility (iWork and Office don’t always play well together). The document sharing I love in the Apple ecosystem has been hampered as well by my choice of device; USB drives and SD cards aren’t an option, my workstations are limited to an older version of IE for legacy software, and access to third party cloud storage like Google Drive and Dropbox can be problematic. Still, old school emailing of important files worked, even if it lacked elegance.
Sadly, due to changes in software platforms relying on my iPad isn’t an optimal choice in the near future. My employer embarked on several projects, changing/upgrading several systems including our supply and payroll platforms in order to be compliant with our parent organization. None of these systems are iPad friendly, so for me to better be able to take advantage of our new portals I’ll have to transition from my iPad to an actual laptop.
On the positive side, Apple still offers the best of all possible worlds for what I want and need out of a device. The 11 inch MacBook Air is my laptop of choice; it’s the perfect blend of size, weight, power, and flexibility. I owned one of the original Air models a few years ago and enjoyed it, although the limited ports and underpowered internals hampered my enthusiasm somewhat. The updated models have benchmarks that rival (and often surpass) any ultraportable, and offer something the iPad just can’t- a full OS experience. No more reconfiguring workflows or searching for the best app to accomplish a task; I can simply take the road more travelled (although I will still choose iWork over Office when possible).
Best of all, the Air is the most affordable of the MacBooks. I chose a model with the upgraded 2.0 GHz processor via Apple’s refurbished outlet for a far lower price than I had thought. Apple’s refurbished outlet has been a great resource; the devices are indistinguishable from non-refurbs and have the same warranty and customer support but can offer a considerable savings. I’ve bought several items and have yet to be disappointed in my purchases, from less expensive devices like a Time Capsule router to my soon-t0-be-delivered Air.
There are still some things the iPad outperforms all comers in, such as media consumption. Reading books just isn’t enjoyable on a laptop, regardless of how light and portable. While the unibody aluminum chassis of the Air does a good job of keeping the device cool, it does still require ventilation making some situations (like lying in bed) less than optimal. The iPad will remain my primary portal for news and information, as well- RSS via your method of choice (web portal or app) and dedicated iOS apps provide the best experience for staying in the know.
While I’m a little disappointed that I’ll have to move beyond relying solely on my iPad as my portable computing platform, the tech geek in me is still reveling in the knowledge that a new toy is in the mail.