7 days with an iPad (and only an iPad)

Can Apple's tablet replace all other computing devices for a solid week?

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Thursday: The biggest problem with the iPad

I will now reveal a personal obsession of mine: I love watching Le Tour de France. In July, my family pretty much knows that I will be hogging the TV and my computer with coverage of the 21-stage bicycle race. This year would be no exception: even though I had forsaken my PC, I had the iPad Tour de France app (which is awesome, by the way.)

Multimedia is great, but forget multitasking

But this leads me to the most frustrating thing about using the iPad, in any context: there is only one window at a time. Yes, there is multi-app capability that lets you run more than one app at a time (which is cool for listening to music and working), but visually you can only see one app at a time, period.

While I was researching material for articles and having to switch back and forth between each app's full-screen display, it got old in a hurry. I managed. But ultimately, working and watching the Tour (or any video content) was impossible. I longed for a picture-in-picture or split-screen functionality. This was particularly maddening because my deadlines are all in the morning, and the Tour's live broadcasts are all in the morning in the US.

Thursday, thank Lance, the app was updated, and I gained the ability to go back and watch all of the stages in their entirety. So, once I got my work done, I could at least catch up with the events of the race later in the day.

Hobbies aside, the one-window limitation is the one thing that I think holds the iPad back as a serious content production device. I get the design goal of the interface, I really do; but simplicity can go too far, and there are times when you need to see more than one document at the same time.

Friday: Navigation limitations

Today it was time to go back to camp and retrieve my youngest daughter from the wilds of northern Indiana. I had lost the written directions (of course), so I reprinted them using the iPad's AirPrint capability, without sweat.

On a whim, I decided to call up the directions in the Maps app (instead of Safari, which is the only way you can print directions) and see how the onboard GPS handled navigation. In a couple of words: not well. My location was always exact, but without a turn-by-turn navigation aid, Maps is useless. Only after I got back did I realize like an idiot that I should have bought something like MotionX GPS Drive HD, which would have done the job. Thank goodness I'd printed out the directions.

Saturday: Relaxing

The strength of the iPad right now is the consumption of content, and there is no doubt that it can do that well. After a long week, I watched some remastered Star Trek episodes on Netflix and started reading 1776 on the Kindle app.

This is what the iPad is best at, to be sure. It's not that it can't do real work, though. You just have to have the right apps, the right hardware, and be willing to work around the interface's limitations as you go. It can be slower than a PC platform to input content, but not to the point where you go crazy. IN the end, a week with the iPad turned out to be a pretty productive week that enabled me to do everything I needed to accomplish, and get some entertainment in as well.

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