GERMANTOWN, Md.--For the last couple weeks, I've been carrying around the iPad Apple lent me for Road Trip 2010, trying to figure out how it can best be used as a traveling computer of sorts.
I've read lots of commentary on the question of whether the iPad replaces other devices--be they iPhones or laptops--and so far, I'm really not sure. On the one hand, the iPad is terrific for things like loading a quick Web page or playing a game of Marble Mixer or looking up a driving route. On the other hand, it certainly doesn't meet my needs for posting blog entries or photo galleries--since CNET's publishing tool doesn't work on it--and that means it's not suitable as a full replacement for the MacBook Pro I'm also carrying with me.
Of course, no one ever said it would be. But as I was planning for my fifth-annual journey around a region of the U.S. in search of the best geek-friendly destinations, I had started to think I could use the iPad for many of my tasks, at least the ones that require being online.
So far, I've been so busy trying to get Road Trip going I haven't had a chance to spend time getting organized enough to transition much of my Internet usage--Twittering, posting to Facebook, looking things up, figuring out how to get from point A to point B and so on--to the iPad. And so I've been relying mainly on the MacBook Pro. But I do want to give the iPad its shot as a primary device.
One thing that makes me think this won't work too well is the fact that I rely heavily on email, and I've got thousands of archived messages in a client on the laptop. I know people say it's easy to use Gmail on the iPad, but because it wouldn't work--I think--to transfer my archives to Gmail, I don't see how this would fly. And if I'm turning the laptop on all the time to check for new messages, and look up old ones, I figure that's going to dissuade me from using the iPad.
But maybe that's not true. I know I can do a lot of my social media tasks on the iPad, as well as much of the research about my destinations, a lot of my general Web browsing, book reading, movie watching, writing, and much more. And Apple lent me many of the best iPad accessories: a wireless keyboard, a media uploader, and so on. It's those essential computing operations that require the laptop that have kept me from pulling the iPad out of my backpack.
But I'd love your thoughts: For those of you that have iPads and take them on the road, what are your strategies for getting the most out of them? Do they keep you from booting your laptops? Or are they better for new kinds of tasks that you didn't really do before? I'd love to hear your ideas on how best to incorporate the iPad into my travels, and how to make it work as a serious tool.
Please send your ideas to me at daniel--dot--terdiman--at--cnet--dot--com.
For the next few weeks, Geek Gestalt will be on Road Trip 2010. After driving more than 18,000 miles in the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest and the Southeast over the last four years, I'll be looking for the best in technology, science, military, nature, aviation, and more throughout the American northeast. If you have a suggestion for a place to visit, drop me a line. In the meantime, you can follow my progress on Twitter @GreeterDan and @RoadTrip and find the project on Facebook. And you can also test your knowledge of the U.S. and try to win a prize in the Road Trip Picture of the Day challenge.