Saturday, 11 February 2012

The iPad... just a content consumption device?

So, recently I bought myself an iPad. And I love it.

Seriously, the iPad (contrary to my girlfriend's scathing belief) is a serious tool that any techy should own. Vital, in fact. I can read my daily tech news sites (in some really cool ways actually... enter, Flipboard), I can listen to my favourite tech-podcasts and watch my favourite review videos. If I'm on a train, I can catch that movie I keep trying to find time to watch or catch up on my favourite TV show. I can also read my email, read a book, check my Twitter, Facebook, GooglePlus, check the Snooker results... honestly the possibilities are endless.

Actually, I say all of the above with utter sincerity. The iPad, to me, is one of the best ways to consume content. All of the daily content I would usually look at on my laptop, I actually choose to view on my iPad. It's nice, luxurious, and - most of all - has an element of fun about it.

Just the other day, however, (when I was out, killing time, with only my pad) I began to think... when, exactly, will I be persuaded to do things that are not just about consuming content on my iPad.

Could I do any serious work, using nothing else, only my tablet? I'm not just talking about updating my social networking status, or writing a little blog post, I'm not even talking about the odd time when I've taken lecture notes using nothing but the shiny little device (Evernote, by the way - I cannot recommend enough!) I'm talking real work. Could I actually do the same kind of work I could do on my computer, and more importantly - could I still be as productive?

Alongside being a student, I also work in software development. A lot of this development takes place online. At this time (when I was stuck with no laptop) I wanted to make some additions to a PHP script I had been working on... but how? Was it even practically possible?

Enter, Gusto.

Gusto, so I found out, is a fantastic tool for any web developer looking to do some work on the iPad. It's still work in progress of course, but it's really very stable. Packed with loads of great features, it actually allowed me to do what I wanted. It allows the browsing and editing of files. It highlights all code for easier development. Once the code is finished it has a nice "upload" feature, storing all of the connection details for all of servers on which I manage content. One click, choose the server and destination for my script - and I'm done.

So was it as easy? Well, in a lot of ways - yes. Of course, there is always the issue of it not being as easy to type, or as easy to edit script in general (as I cannot see as much of the code as I would be able to on an average sized laptop/monitor). However, the features built into this app meant that it was absolutely possibly to make small edits, and be productive.

This concept makes me very excited for the future of apps for devices such as my iPad. Developers are beginning to get applications out there on which you can actually do work. They are also packing apps such as Gusto with features that somewhat compensate for the harder typing and the limited viewing space. As long as these apps always remember the limitations of the device they are being developed for in terms logistical terms, I can really see people beginning to use them for real work.

So after all that, would I ditch my trusty Macbook? No, definitely not. However I do think that this year is going to be the 'year of productivity' when it comes to tablets. What is stopping, for example, a company developing an app that is completely specific to roles of work that they have? Nothing - and I'm sure there are a lot of them out there already that take advantage of this idea. Maybe, just maybe, the day will come when it is easier to be productive in certain things on an iPad. Exciting stuff.

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