Walking the walk -- the great Post-PC experiment

I am considering leaving the laptop behind and just taking the iPad 2 on an upcoming trip. Will I be able to fully do my job?
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor

The next iPad is expected to be unveiled soon, and the speculation about what we might find inside it is going strong. While excitement over the next tablet from Apple is normal, those using the iPad 2 know it is a capable device that can be used for doing serious work. It has assumed a greater role in my daily work than I believed was possible, in fact I am considering it as my sole travel mate on an upcoming business trip. Leaving the laptop at home and taking the iPad 2 with a keyboard case would be solid proof that I have fully entered the post-PC era.


My work is important, though, my family has gotten used to eating regularly so I don't fool around with it. While I think the iPad 2 will suffice as my only computer on this trip, I'm not willing to risk being able to fully do my job with it. That's the purpose behind my Great Post-PC Experiment. I intend to use the iPad 2 as my sole computer for the next few days to simulate a business trip where I leave the laptop at home.

The gear

What I will be using for this experiment is my iPad 2 (32GB) and the ZAGGfolio keyboard case. This case turns the iPad and keyboard into a single device for transport, an important criteria for travel. The iPad 2 is easily slipped out of the case for use as a tablet, and slipped back in to become a laptop replacement. There is no laptop on the market as thin, light, and portable as this combo.

Related: iPad 2 keyboard case shootout

I also have the Logitech Fold-up Keyboard Case, which is a little bit bigger than the ZAGGfolio but has the advantage of unfolding into a full keyboard. I typically write 1,000 - 3,000 words a day so the keyboard is a very important part of my toolkit. This keyboard without compromises in size like the ZAGGfolio, minor as those are, may end up being a better companion for my iPad for extended periods. I intend to replace the ZAGGfolio with the Logitech for a full day during the experiment to gauge which one would be better for me to carry on trips.

I do all of my work online, and depending on finding Wi-Fi hotspots for this work is not sufficient. I will have my iPhone 4S for 3G tethering when needed, to make sure I always have connectivity no matter where I may be working. I take my work seriously, and always have reduncancy when it comes to connectivity. For that reason I will also be carrying my Verizon 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot along for those times when the slower 3G tethering is not sufficient. I take this on trips with my laptop, and this experiment will be no different.

The apps

I already know how well the iPad/ keyboard combo works for what I do, so the key to the success of the experiment will lie in the apps that I use. I have proven that 85 - 90 percent of my work can easily be done with the iPad so the real test is in doing the remaining tasks I will have to do.

The ZDNet blogging system is a sophisticated browser-based system, and Mobile Safari goes a long way to handling it. It falls short in some key areas, though, that I need to work for every article I publish. This requires a solution on the iPad that will be a big test to make this work.

The newly launched OnLive Desktop Plus service could very well be a big part of that solution, and I will be testing this heavily. This will let me access a Windows 7 computer on my iPad so I can run Internet Explorer as if it is running on the iPad. This may be all I need to handle the part of my job that Mobile Safari won't handle, and it is self-contained on the iPad.

Reduncancy in apps is just as important as in connectivity, so in case OnLive Desktop is not up to the task I will be falling back on LogMeIn. This iPad app is similar to OnLive as it involved remotely accessing either a Mac or a Windows PC, to handle any task the iPad cannot tackle. Experience tells me this works well for what I need, but it requires me to have the Mac or Windows PC running in my home office for remote access. While this is easy to do, it is open to problems on trips that I can't easily deal with. If there is a power outage, for example, the computers in my office may go offline and become unavailable for remote access. The OnLive solution avoids that since it uses their servers online.

The Evernote app will play a big role in the experiment as it does in my daily work. I do most of my writing in the app and simply copy/paste it into the ZDNet editor when ready for publication. This works well for me and I expect it to do just as well during this test.

Skitch will also be a big performer, as it provides simple image editing on the iPad. It works with Evernote to allow me to get images ready for publishing with my articles.

Other apps that will be used heavily for my writing research are Reeder, Zite, and FlipBoard. I use them heavily on the iPad and find them to be a good way to keep up with news of the day, along with my social networks.

Speaking of Twitter, Tweetbot will be front and center for keeping up with my Twitter friends. I am off and on Twitter all day, and it won't be any different without a "real" laptop at my disposal.

Working with these apps on the iPad 2 couldn't be easier due to the gestures. Four finger swiping left and right make switching back and forth between apps nice and quick which negates the windowing advantage a laptop has over the iPad.

The experiment

I will be publishing a daily summary of observations during the experiment, detailing what works and what doesn't. I will share any tips and tricks I develop for getting around any hardships, along with my thoughts on the process.

I expect to hear from those who wonder why I would even do this instead of just using a laptop. My answer is simple: I already have an iPad and keyboard so there is no investment involved. I also find the 10 -12 hour of battery life I get on the iPad, no matter how hard I use it, to be a tremendous advantage on trips when power outlets may be hard to find. Lastly, I have proven to myself that the single app nature of the iPad is a positive influence on my writing. It makes me more productive to focus on the particular task at hand and its window on the screen, than getting caught up in constant multitasking as confronts me using a laptop.

I am not sure if this experiment will be successful, but I think it may work for me. I certainly don't advocate everyone leave the laptop at home on trips, but my particular situation makes it a distinct possibility. See also:

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