My iPad at Work

Slalom Consultant Brett Hovenkotter

Slalom Consultant Brett Hovenkotter has extensive experience as a Development Team Lead across a broad range of methodologies, technologies and architectures.

When the iPad was first announced last year I was tempted to pony up some cash for Apple’s latest object of geek lust. But when I tried to imagine this new gadget in my day-to-day life as a technology consultant it didn’t seem justifiable.

The iPad is a “tweener” device, it sits somewhere between your laptop and your smartphone. There are activities where the iPad works better than both, but there really isn’t anything that it can do that these other devices can’t.

At the time of the iPad 2 announcement it was already clear that tablet computing is here to stay. Sales of the iPad were beyond anyone’s expectations and several of Apple’s competitors had come out with their own tablets. As a result, developers and businesses have been taking these post-PC devices seriously.

After about a month I formed a rationalized argument for why I needed one and pitched it to my wife, who as usual rolled her eyes and then told me to go for it (how could I not love her?).

After three weeks now I’ve had the opportunity to integrate the iPad into my daily life both at home and at work. Obviously the iPad supports Exchange out of the box, so it does a wonderful job of managing my email and calendar. However I didn’t quite feel comfortable enough with my iPad to leave my laptop at my desk in favor of it.

The app that changed all that is called Jump Desktop. Quite simply it is a remote desktop app that supports both VNC (Mac) and RDP (Windows). This allows me to run from meeting to meeting (which for better or worse I’ve been doing a lot of lately) with my far more totable tablet, but still have the full power of Outlook, Communicator and all of my other desktop apps with me.

There are several different remote desktop apps in the App Store and I haven’t tried any of the others, but Jump Desktop has been very intuitive. I can pinch to zoom anywhere on my desktop, tap with two fingers to right-click, and drag two fingers across the screen to scroll.

I typically take notes at meetings using Evernote, which has an excellent iPad app. When a meeting results in a whiteboard drawing I can take a picture of it from within the Evernote app (or by using the iPhone, which has a much better camera). All of this data is kept in sync automatically via the cloud.

Thus far I have resisted getting a physical keyboard for my iPad because I don’t usually need to type anything long-form on it and I want to keep it as light and portable as possible. iPad screen typing speed is somewhere in-between keyboard typing and iPhone typing. I’m hoping that given enough practice I’ll get my words-per-minute closer to my keyboard rate, but time will tell.

By the way, I wrote this post entirely on my iPad.

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About Brett Hovenkotter
Slalom Consultant Brett Hovenkotter has extensive experience as a Development Team Lead across a broad range of methodologies, technologies and architectures.

6 Responses to My iPad at Work

  1. Cindy McWilliams says:

    I do the same. It’s a challenge, but I attempt to do as little as possible on the desktop anymore or at least not glued to a desk. I hope this leads to more flexible workspaces in the future. Creativity needs space and movement.

    • Brett Hovenkotter says:

      The iPad is dramatically more portable than my 15″ laptop. Also I can use it all day without worrying about the battery.

  2. We have an iPad (v1) that my wife and children use quite a bit at the house. I still have a hard time justifying one for myself…I can definitely see the use of bringing a more mobile device to meetings, however, if the bulk of your use is RDP, I think I rather just be on my laptop.

    On the flip side, I don’t like bringing my laptop to meetings as it seems very intrusive and especially when talking with a client forms a physical wall. I know it sounds silly, but I prefer a notepad so the boundaries are removed. The iPad would be a great middle ground if I could type or write fast enough. I think I’d do great with a Stylus believe it or not, then I could free hand my notes in One…er EverNote.

    • Brett Hovenkotter says:

      If you’re using an iPad connected to Exchange that obviates the need to remote into your laptop. FYI when remoting over the Internet there is a substantial lag, I only recommend it when you’re on the same network.

      My WPM on the iPad is still pretty slow, in the 20s, but I’ll get better with experience. If you expect to type a lot of notes then a physical keyboard is definitely better though it creates more of a boundary. Microsoft offers a free version of OneNote for iPad, so you can stick with that if that’s your comfort zone. There are a number of other apps that support drawing/writing with a stylus.

  3. Jeff Bilman says:

    I am an iPad and iPhone owner and really like the combination. I use a new app I heard about on CNet called TeamViewer for remote access to my PC and Mac desktops. I also use it from time to time on my laptop to get to my desktops. It is free for non-commercial use. I agree Evernote is great and I can’t live without it.

    I have another use case that has been great for me. I have spent lot of time in airline seats and not all flights offer in-flight entertainment. I load up my iPad (64GB) with new TV shows, movies, and podcasts. My laptop battery world never last through a cross country flight! If I can get WiFi onboard I can do check email and work fairly comfortably in cramped coach seats. Getting a case which can prop up the iPad to a comfortable viewing angle also helps.

    • Brett Hovenkotter says:

      After upgrading my Mac to Lion, Jump Desktop wasn’t working and I tried TeamViewer, which worked fine but the constant reminders that I was using a free version were getting irritating. Jump just released a fix so I have switched back to it.

      The iPad’s battery life is wonderful. I can make it through an entire work day on a single charge with juice left over.

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