Monday, April 26, 2010

The iPad as a Conference Laptop

I went to the Voices That Matter -- iPhone conference this weekend here in Seattle. I intend to talk more about the event itself later, but for now I want to talk about what I put in my bag -- and what I didn't.

This is the first conference I haven't taken my laptop to. I relied on my iPad and iPhone, and I would say the experiment was very successful.

Battery life would have been a total non-issue if I'd remembered to re-charge my battery Saturday night. While I was charging it at the conference Sunday, I wished for a slightly longer charging cable, but maybe that would have created a tripping hazard.

Typing was a little slow, but with all the slides posted online, I really only needed to type a few phrases when the speaker went beyond the slides or to jog my memory later. If I expected to do more iPad typing, I could have slipped my Apple bluetooth keyboard in my messenger bag and still kept it smaller and lighter than my laptop bag. I saw a few other people with folding keyboards, probably from the PDA era.

The iPad was quicker to setup and teardown when I moved from one room to the other. I could even pull it out to reference my notes between sessions. The iPad played nicely with the conference center wi-fi (though maybe that's more a review of Bell Harbor Conference Center?).

But what about Xcode? This is a developer's conference and the iPad doesn't have dev tools on it. Technically true. Only one session really encouraged you to follow along in Xcode. The others were more presentations, and I think scrambling to keep up with the demos in Xcode would have been more of a distraction than a learning tool.

I tried two different cases. On Saturday, I used Apple's folio-style case. There's a slot in the back that lets you prop the ipad up at an angle for typing. I've found this very handy and reasonably comfortable for typing on my lap. But when I sat at a table, it felt a little too high, so I mostly left it flat, or used the beveled edge of the table for tilt. It worked fine. On Sunday, I used a homemade sleeve. I enjoyed having a case with a little personality. And it's a way to show off my knitting hobby without being obnoxious. ("Look what I made!") The soft yarn gives the iPad some padding and doubles as a smudge-removing cloth. I tried using this case, folded up a bit, to prop up my iPad for typing, but it didn't work so well. I found myself typing less on Sunday, so maybe the wedge of Apple's case really is valuable, or maybe I was just lazier on the second day of the conference.

Will my laptop go to WWDC? Yes. Will it leave my hotel room? Maybe not.