Steve Rubel Faces the iPad-Only Challenge

It wasn’t that long ago when I actually used an ultra-mobile PC or a netbook as my primary machine. For my meager computing needs — I tend to live in a browser and don’t often use third-party apps for work — the scenario worked out reasonably well. I haven’t repeated the experiment with the iPad I purchased, but Steve Rubel has. In fact, he already has a week of “iPad only” under the belt for both personal and work life at Edelman and he’s sharing the experience.

“In short, it’s going really really well. I believe that when this experiment ends I will continue to use the iPad as my primary computer, though I may use my PC more than I do now, especially when I am in the office. I am also looking forward to trying out other slates, like HP’s (an Edelman client.)”

One advantage I see with the iPad (s aapl) over my UMPCs is the display size — any smaller and it becomes a challenge to use in a full-time role. When using my 7″ touchscreen tablets or  10″ netbooks, I often attached them to a larger, external display. You can’t do that while mobile, so I’m finding the 9.7″ iPad screen to be better in that regard, even if the resolution is only marginally better. There’s the keyboard factor with both the iPad and other slates, but I’ve never had an issue carrying a Bluetooth keyboard in the past. Steve notes the ergonomic and keyboard challenges as well:

“One important observation is that the iPad’s ergonomics really are not ideal. If you use it without an external keyboard you’re basically looking straight down all the time. It reminds me of when I wrote papers in college on electronic typewriters. It’s ok for shorter writings but not longer ones.”

Obviously, the same constraints I had when using a UMPC for a primary device apply equally to using an iPad in a similar role. The only possible way such a setup can work is if you don’t require heavy-duty computing apps, can use the web for most of your work and find additional apps to fill in any workflow gaps. This last point is key, and in my opinion, the most interesting aspect of the challenge. Steve is routinely seeking, finding and evaluating software to help meet his needs. I’d even argue that the maturity and scope of apps is better suited to this challenge than when I last took it.
While I wouldn’t recommend the iPad as a notebook replacement for many, the journey to see if it’s viable can actually be more enjoyable than the final destination. I doubt most readers are following in Steve’s footsteps — which I fully understand — but if anyone is, I’d be curious to hear your observations. I’m betting Steve would too.
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Image credit: The Steve Rubel Stream