F is for Frère: Is the iPad for People Like Me? My IT-Pro Bro Weighs In

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Janine
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A friend's husband went out for a replacement iPhone and came home with an iPad. "Why did you get that instead of the phone?" she asked. A shrug was her answer. "What does it do that made you buy it instead?" A shrug was her answer. "How is this better for you than the iPhone?" A shrug was her answer. Her husband had no idea how an iPad would work for him; he just had to have it. She had to figure out what it could do to justify the purchase! Luckily, she discovered lots of ways it could work for them.

I've had zero time to do my own research, and I suspect there are others like me (read: tech UNsavvy) in the same sitch. So I turned to my brother Simon, Chief Information Officer of a busy ad agency in Toronto. He knows a little something about techy stuff. What sets him apart from many is his humans-first approach: whereas some might simply throw new equipment at a problem, he really thinks about how folks use their tech and what makes the experience more efficient. Sometimes instead of a pricey investment, the answer to a glitch can be a simple application that streamlines a process and saves an employee work and frustration time.

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I'm sitting at the park writing on my iPad. My beauty-geek sister asked me for an opinion on this device, so I decided to use it to write this for her.

I've had the iPad for several weeks now; it was a birthday gift from my clever wife. I'm a CIO for TAXI, so a tech gift was the perfect choice. Question is, can it be used for more than casual browsing and playing games?

Is there an app for that?

Right now my feeling is that the iPad is more of an entertainment device than a serious work tool, but there are practical uses. You just need to do a little research. For instance, J asked me if she would be able to edit BeautyGeeks on the go. So we signed into her Wordpress.org blog and tried to edit through the online administration tools.

That didn't work well. Without support for java or flash on the iPad, many tools you'd normally access through a browser do not function.We were about to give up on the idea when I thought, hold on, maybe there's an app for that.Sure enough, there was, and a few minutes later we were able to view and edit BeautyGeeks text. The touchpad though, may be awkward for someone who writes a lot. J might benefit from a Bluetooth keyboard.

Size matters

I like the iPad for catching up on email and reading the news during my hour-long commute (I'm lucky to have a carpool buddy for my drive to the office). The size of the unit is perfect for use on your lap in the car or at home, and I prefer it instead of my phone for email.

Both TELUS and Rogers offer plans for the iPad 3G. I selected TELUS as my carrier because they offer double the data Rogers does for only $5 more a month. I've already managed to use over 300mb of download in less than 30 days just on email and browsing news sites with media.

My wife is always right

I haven't said much about the fun factor but if you're curious, visit your local Apple store to try one out. The ability to load your photos, music and video collection make it perfect for sharing pictures and videos with friends at backyard BBQs and parties. It's also really convenient for access to the Internet -- unlike a notebook or desktop, it's an instant-on experience. If my wife and I have a difference of opinion about something, we can simply whip out the iPad and quickly see who's right. So far it hasn't worked in my favour.

So yes, you can use it for more than just entertainment. As to whether or not you really need one, I'd say there's a fit for some but not others. My beauty-geek sister should still evaluate the benefits of a 3G netbook vs the iPad, or a small Mac portable with a 3G stick that runs a complete desktop operating system; with those she'd have the functionality she's used to.

The moral of this story

Two kids kids in the park just came up to me. First boy says, "Wow, check it out, it's the new iPad!" I think he was actually drooling.

Second boy responds, "Ya, so what?" and continues on his way.

Good luck with your tech research, and remember: it's not about the technology, it's about you.

Image courtesy of Apple.com.