iPad Air in the office: Better than you think

The race to get iPads in the office has become a focus for Apple with the alliance with IBM. What makes this interesting is how well the iPad Air performs in a work environment.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor

My office is not typical by any means, home or otherwise. My work requires me to keep up with current mobile technology, and that’s done by having tablets and laptops everywhere. With all of these systems at my disposal, I find I often use the iPad Air even while sitting at my desk because it works so well.

JK Office
Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet

In the past, working at my desk meant I’d be sitting in front of a MacBook, Chromebook, or a Windows laptop of some kind. I needed heavy lifting and that meant the iPad or Kindle Fire HDX would be turned off. While the mobile systems work fine when I am out and about, at the desk I wanted a “full” computer to get work done.

I need to work with Office documents regularly, but Office for iPad handles that with ease. It’s not full Office, but it’s the best version of Office for handling what I need, by far.

Recently I’ve noticed that has changed. Often I find myself working at my desk, sitting in front of the iPad Air in a keyboard case. I do everything I need without thinking about it, the mark of a great work tool.

This change has crept up on me. Once I realized that my work habits had changed, I thought about why that happened. I determined that it started gradually due to the apps I use for my work. Three in particular are better on the iPad Air than any other system/platform I use to get real work done.

I realize that this is pertinent to the work I do, and in the end that’s all each of us is concerned about. Others won’t find this to fit their needs, and that’s OK.

Covering mobile tech for ZDNet means I must stay plugged into the breaking news in the mobile space. I spend hours online each day checking the happenings in real time in the mobile space. I primarily use two methods to do this.

The main method I use for research is following hundreds of sources through web site RSS feeds. I scan thousands of news items daily to keep up with what’s happening in mobile. I use the Feedly RSS service to do that, as it keeps everything in the cloud so all of my devices are in sync. Once I see a news item anywhere, it’s marked as having been read on all of my devices. This prevents duplicating my efforts when I change devices.

Mr Reader
Mr Reader
Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet

Scanning so many news items a day requires a great tool to streamline this effort. I have apps on every platform to help me do that. On the iPad Air I use Mr Reader, an app that is better than those on other platforms. It is lightning fast, even with the thousands of items it handles for me, and designed to make working with news as easy as possible.

I can scan hundreds of news articles in minutes using Mr Reader, and that’s significant to the way I work. The interface is logically laid out, and the operation of the app is fluid.

That’s not true of the apps I use to work with RSS feeds on other platforms. While those apps work fine, they aren’t as good as Mr Reader on the iPad Air. I like Nextgen Reader on Windows 8, gReader Pro on Android, and ReadKit on the Mac. They are the best apps for working with RSS feeds I’ve tried on those platforms. Even though these apps are good, over time I have come to prefer the iPad solution because it’s better.

Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet

I also use the Zite app heavily for following the mobile segment. I have it customized to provide the news that is important for my work, and the interface on the iPad is wonderful. Zite is only available on iOS and Android, and the Android version is terrible.

Zite does the same thing on Android as it does on the iPad, but the interface is so bad it is embarrassing. I can do the same thing in Zite on the iPad in a fraction of the time it takes on Android. Time is money, so working with Zite on the iPad is much preferred over Android. There’s no web version of Zite, and no apps on Chrome, Windows, nor on the Mac.

Zite has become such an integral part of my work day that I am cringing at the announcement most likely coming at some point that it is going away. The company behind Flipboard, a similar app that I use but don’t find as useful, bought Zite a while back and I’m certain they will kill Zite.

Evernote on iPad
Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet

I do other research for my writing work in a web browser, and that’s fairly even on all the platforms. I do find Safari on the iPad to be faster than browsers on the other platforms. Since I spend hours daily in the browser, over time that’s a significant advantage to me on the iPad.

Evernote is my main app for writing, and it’s available on every device I use no matter the platform. I do find the iPad version of Evernote to be better for my writing work as it's feature rich and tends to get updates before the other platforms.

I also like the single focus nature of iOS. Having a blank slate in front of me facilitates the creative process for writing, and that’s exactly what I get on the iPad. Distractions are removed due to the limitation of iOS, and in this case it’s a good thing.

As for the inevitable argument that you need Windows to run full Microsoft Office, I say that’s not an issue for me. I need to work with Office documents regularly, but Office for iPad handles that with ease. It’s not full Office, but it’s the best version of Office for handling what I need, by far.

That may change soon with rumored versions of touch Office coming for Android and then Windows 8. 

My work is unique, but many of the tasks I regularly perform are likely done by many others. The iPad Air works so well that I often reach for it at my desk over other options.

Due to the good apps I use, a lengthy part of my work is turned into a streamlined process with the iPad Air. This is changing the way I work in the office, for the better.

Yes, I use the iPad Air with a keyboard, usually the ZAGGkeys Folio, but that’s no different than using a bulky laptop, or strapping a Type Cover to a Surface tablet. I still have the option to use the iPad without the keyboard, something I do all the time.

Using an iPad Air may not work for you, and that’s OK. I am only sharing what I do and why it works so well. Use whatever works best for your work and you’ll be happy. That’s the beauty of having so many choices. It’s worth noting that I do what I do even having all of those choices right in front of me in my office.

iPad Air
iPad Air, ZAGGkeys Folio
Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet

I can hear other complaints now, especially that this isn’t real work and that’s why the iPad works so well for me. I would counter that this is real work to me, and I suspect once Apple and IBM get lots of iPads in the enterprise quite a few will find that it works better than expected for them, too. You have to try it to like it, and I believe many will do just that.

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