App of the Week: To iPad or Not to iPad

As I was looking through my iPhone apps this week and potential new apps worth downloading, it struck me the number of iPad apps coming available. It's not surprising. The iPad, particularly since the release of the 2.0 version, has been nothing short of a sensation in the world of computing. 

Like always, the complaints about Apple and it's cool-but-short-on-real-technology platform have rained down. And, as usual, the geeks who love to dish it out to the Cupertino monolith seem to continually ignore the "cool" factor, missing the fact that people like stuff that looks neat and is fun to play with -- shocking, perhaps to technophiles, but not to the rest of society.

Anyway, I started to ask myself, in all seriousness, do I really need/want an iPad? This is a fairly significant step for me because, while I may love my Mac products (I work in both Windows and Apple OS for work -- quiet, Linux fan boys!), the idea of a tablet -- what essentially appeared to me to be a bigger version of my iPhone -- was lost on me, no matter how cool it is (and it is cool).

This is not the first time I've been hesitant to sink my teeth into a new piece of Mac hardware. Years ago, a laptop seemed like a luxury. Then, there I was, ditching my desktop for a MacBook Pro and hauling it with me everywhere. When the iPhone came out, I dismissed it much the way I had thrown out my early Blackberry. Once I really tried it, my iPhone became as important if not more so than my laptop. In short, I'm not an early adopter, but once I'm in, I'm in for good.

The reasons for not being sucked in by the iPad hype, initially, were mainly practical. I spend the better part of my work-based existence on a computer. Between my laptop and my iPhone, not to mention a few shared apps like Evernote and synced contacts, calendar and mail thanks to MobileMe, I felt like I was covered. I openly wondered what the hell I'd even do with an iPad that I couldn't do with my laptop or phone.

Then, it hit me. Virtually any kind of travel -- nearby or far away -- turned the iPad from a novelty to a near necessity. Presentations to clients, reading while on vacation, making quick repairs to servers or projects -- all things that normally require my laptop -- could be handled easily by an iPad with less hassle and, maybe most importantly, while protecting my computer from both theft and breakage.

Granted, it's not a perfect solution. There are still numerous problems that crop up that an iPad can't fix. As a website developer, not having easy access to Dreamweaver, Photoshop or any other of a dozen applications I can't put on an iPad -- nevermind the hundreds of gigs of storage I often use -- does create a hole that can't be easily filled.

But, the more I rely on shared services and apps that work across multiple platforms, the more it appears iPad will a part of my technological future.

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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke