How the iPad 2 Became My Favorite Computer

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I was just getting started with this challenge when I hopped on a plane to fly to Berlin, where I was attending the IFA electronics show. I took my iPad 2, the ZaggFolio and my MacBook Air. It was during this trip that the iPad became my primary computing device, even though I was still learning how to be productive with it.

And it was one specific thing about the iPad that made it so useful on the trip: I could use it for 10 hours at a pop without worrying about plugging it in.

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I can’t overemphasize how important this is to my particular workdays. Even when I’m not traveling, I spend a lot of time bopping around San Francisco and the Bay Area, attending conferences, visiting tech companies, working out of hotel lobbies, and generally having spotty access to power outlets. With the Air, or almost any other portable computer I’ve ever used, I’m lucky to get three or four hours of life out of a charge, and therefore have to bring my power brick and obsess about plugging in whenever possible. It’s an enormous hassle, and sometimes I simply run out of juice.

With the iPad, I didn’t even bother to bring the power adapter to the IFA show: I worked all day, going online as much as I wanted, without fully draining the battery. I ended up only using the MacBook Air in my hotel room.

Beyond the jaw-droppingly good battery life, my iPad 2 has one other hardware attribute that’s a huge upgrade over the Air: it has AT&T wireless broadband built in. There are PCs with embedded wireless, of course, but not Macs. And even though I’ve used both the Air and iPads with MiFi mobile routers in the past, I like the built-in wireless on my particular iPad much, much better than any external connectivity solution. I don’t have to worry about toting another device (or draining my phone’s battery, as I would if I tethered it to the iPad). I don’t have to futz with wi-fi hotspots. I’m just online — and it makes me so much more productive that I don’t object a bit to paying AT&T for the service. (I even happily forked over a stiff fee for international roaming in Berlin and during a later trip I took to Tokyo.)

O.K., the Zagg keyboards are good. The iPad’s battery life is good. Its built-in broadband is good. I quickly discovered yet another simple joy of using the iPad as a blogging/writing tool: its utter predictability and simplicity.

When you use a Windows PC — and, to a somewhat lesser extent, a Mac — you get dragged down by the responsibilities and obligations of using a computer. Even if you’re very familiar with a program, you need to bob and weave your way around icons and menu items you don’t require at the moment to get to the ones you do need. Programs other than the one you’re using may vie for your attention, possibly alerting you, for instance, that they need to be updated. You might have to rummage around in folders to find documents. When you multitask between apps, you need to juggle their windows, maximizing or minimizing them as you go. If a program stalls, you’ll likely need to kill it manually.

With the iPad, all that goes away. You can devote nearly every second of your time to the task at hand, rather than babysitting a balky computer. I don’t feel like I’m using an iPad to write. I’m just writing. It’s a far more tranquil, focused experience than using a PC or Mac. It’s also easier to dive in, do a bit of work as time allows, then dive out — especially since the iPad’s instant-on feature is more reliably instant than the alleged instant-on capabilities of traditional computers.

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