July 17, 2013, 6:00 AM —
Today I want to talk about the gadgets we collect and how sometimes it pays to take a second look at them. It was a bit of a slow news day yesterday and I've really been wanting to tell this story.
I was a relatively early adopter of the current generation of tablets, running out and purchasing the original iPad the first week they were available. I was immediately attracted to the form factor of the iPad for when I was in the mood to have fun. I played games on it, browsed the web, and did some reading.
I later upgraded to a 3rd generation iPad but actually found myself using it less and less. The novelty of playing games on a tablet had long-since worn off, and I'd added a Kindle to my gadget collection for reading. I was also finding I wanted less and less to do with the Apple way of life. When I bought a Nexus 7 the iPad really started to collect dust; the smaller, lighter N7 was often a preferable experience for anything but games and video.
A couple of weeks back, almost on a whim, I decided to purchase a keyboard for the iPad. I asked around and one product kept being mentioned and that was Logitech's Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad. It was expensive (it lists for $99 but Amazon has it for $75) but I kept hearing about issues with cheaper alternatives.
This product is both a bluetooth keyboard, a cover, and a stand. It's a flat slab with the keyboard towards the front and a groove behind it, about 75% of the way towards the back. The iPad sits in that groove and is held at a nice angle for viewing. When you're done, you pull the iPad out of the groove and slide it back to the far edge where magnets snap keyboard and iPad together, at which point the keyboard acts as a cover.
Let me tell you, this peripheral changed the way I look at the iPad. Instead of a toy it now feels like a lightweight laptop. Instead of playing Angry Birds I'm writing blog posts or even doing some coding via Diet Coda.
I've gone back to using the iPad for browsing the web thanks to the 'stand' feature (I don't have to hold that heavy tablet anymore) and the fact that it's so much easier to type in URLs, comments, or fill out forms using the actual keyboard rather than the iPad's on-screen keyboard.
I only have two complaints. The first is that it adds weight and thickness to the iPad. The keyboard cover weighs .78 lbs and is 9.96 mm thick. My second, more minor complaint is that when I don't want to use it, like if I'm reading while lying down in bed, I have a separate piece of gear I have to put somewhere. But really that's a minor nit to pick.
Now an iPad starts at $500 and once you add on this cover you're almost at $600. For $600 you could get a really nice laptop, a not-so-nice ultrabook, or buy a Chromebook and have a few hundred left over. So my point isn't that everyone should run out and purchase an iPad and a Logitech cover and start using them as a laptop.
This post is more a parable about taking a look at the gadgets and tech you've shoved aside and seeing if maybe there's a way to breathe new life into them. (And if you do already own an iPad, maybe check one of these covers out.)
Oh, but what about my inherent anti-Apple bias? I went to Stickerboy and got matching decals for the iPad and the Logitech cover. When I carry my iPad around now, you wouldn't immediately recognize it as an iPad (that's a picture of it at the top of this post). It looks more like a slate-gray ultrabook, at least until I open it and start using it. Hey, it's a start.
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.