Wednesday, February 29, 2012

iPad Cases For Show and Productivity

Since the introduction of Apple's original iPad, I have been a devout fan of the transformative power of the tablet. I admit that my initial thoughts were quite a bit more skeptical.... Even as I placed the order for delivery in the initial wave of shipments, I was sharing the thoughts of many pundits, "This is little more than a big, glorified, iPhone." This assessment wasn't all bad in many people's minds, but it belied the popularity and functionality which Steve Jobs was so sure would be given voice by this new mobile computing platform. After all, the iPhone changed the cellular phone universe seemingly overnight.

Well, I couldn't have been (more happily) proved wrong! The iPad, largely because of a huge ecostructure of applications which now totals some half million plus (and the number expands daily), has radically changed my life and countless others.  Some with selective short term memories, may not recall that the iPhone itself launched with just a handful of Apple designed Apps-- no third party apps allowed!

As the iPad has continued to evolve, another popular mantra arose from the techy world, "The iPad is a great content consumption device, but it isn't built for content creation (or creators)." This is another maxim which on the surface has a ring of truth. For many, the iPad is indeed a revolutionary, highly convenient, purveyor of content. I don't think anyone would question that this device and the many Android based clones which now have found an audience is an ideal distributor of video, text and music. In fact, sales figures suggest tablets ( iPads in particular) and SmartPhones are rapidly becoming the dominant medium of content consumption in many markets.

But the idea that consumption trumps creation on this device doesn't hold true any longer (if it ever really did). With appropriate Apps, connectivity, and an accessory or two, the iPad can be a compelling mainstream content creation machine. While this device type isn't appropriate for hard core content generators who live in Adobe applications, code HTML5 web apps for a living, or aspire to be serious videographers, it can serve as a more than adequate creation tool for many. Even professional content creators who rely on high end laptops and workstations, find the iPad has a role in their lives for certain tasks. For others, the iPad has relegated their laptop to a corner or closet most days.

Mobility has a price and Gorilla glass, while very strong, isn't indestructible. I know firsthand the cost and hassle of replacing iPad screens. It is no fun. Cases for this device should be a requirement, not an accessory (at least for mobile users such as myself). I have several iPad cases ranging from fashionable to functional, design triumphs to whimsically interesting. Most of the cases I have collected over the past two years are gifts. (My friends and family know that my iPad had become something of an appendage, I rarely leave home without it.)

I purchased Apple's now famous magnetic iPad2 case cover (in faux leather no less) at the time I ordered my iPad2. Immediately prior to its introduction, it spawned as many questions as the iPad2 itself. However novel this cover's design may be, its value as an actual protector for your device is questionable.  Available in a rainbow of colors and doubling as a portrait and landscape stand, it may serve certain iPad owners' needs.

However, if you are going to rely on this solution for protection, you need to at least also pick up a slim case for the back of  your iPad as well. This thin polycarbonite will preserve the iPad's  titanium back in the event of most inadvertent drops and spills. At a cost of around $11, this is "cheap insurance."

Cygnett's Beautiful
iPad2 Folio

I have another case which is made from soft leather which turns heads and gets "five star" customer reviews. Cygnett's handsome design allows for protection and viewing functionality. When I plan on being a content consumer in public, this is stylish yet practical folio is my first choice and if  your iPad use falls into this category, you should consider this design.

However, without question, the Belkin iPad2 Case with keyboard is the most functional, and most noticed iPad2 accessory I use on a regular basis. With all due respect to the late Steve Jobs, there are times when a functional keyboard is desirable and transformative. Increasingly, iPads are indeed content creation devices and as useful and responsive as the virtual keyboard is for many activities, there is no substitute for a physical keyboard for anything beyond cursory text creation and editing. This Belkin case includes a very responsive Bluetooth keyboard which allows the  iPads other strengths-- an excellent screen, superb battery life, wealth of  creative apps and omnipresent connectivity-- to make content creators more productive than ever!

Writing articles for this site serves as an excellent real world case study (pun intended). As a touch typist, I find penning anything beyond a quick paragraph or two with the virtual keyboard to be an exercise in frustration. I need the tactile feedback of a physical keyboard. Through the years, I have grown accustomed to "composing as I type." This is second nature for me and the process is stunted when I rely on the iPad's virtual keyboard.

The Belkin QUERTY keyboard is the best I have used with an iPad. The keyboard is rated for 60 hours of use (and 2,000 hours on standby) between charges. While I haven't performed a scientific verification of these specs, I can tell you that my case goes through weeks of intensive use between charges (it is in fact so efficient, I forget it even needs charging from time to time!). When I use this combination in public, it is almost expected that someone will inquire about the case and ask details.

It is widely assumed that we are on the eve of the announcement of the next generation iPad. (Apple is expected to formally unveil the next generation device during the first week of March. What some people fail to fully appreciate is that the iPad is only now gaining significant traction in the business community. Many individuals use iPads with, and often without, their company's blessing and/or technical and financial support. Acceptance, especially in smaller businesses with which I primarily work, is growing exponentially. I have had several comments to the effect, "My boss thinks an iPad is a toy."  "My boss doesn't think any 'real work' can get done on an iPad."  "Whenever I bring up the iPad, I am told it isn't worthwhile because it doesn't have Microsoft Office and it doesn't have 'a real' keyboard." (For a highly functional and free solution to the objection regarding Microsoft Office, please take a look at this post.)

These conversations are typically relayed to me by sales and marketing people who already KNOW that the iPad would be a significant productivity enhancer. They are in the process of trying to convince gatekeepers in their organizations that the iPad is a worthwhile addition to their productivity. At the conclusion of many of these conversations I am asked where they can learn more and buy this Belkin Bluetooth Keyboard Folio. Armed with this information and a link to Onlive Desktop, which let's "the boss" see Excel and PowerPoint running in native mode on an iPad, they happily head back to the office. If that doesn't get you the go ahead to move forward, feel free to point your boss to this post and tell them, Music Row Tech is ready to help make you the most competitive company in your industry!

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Companies:   Apple, Belkin, Cygnett

This commentary is not meant as an endorsement of any company or to provide financial advice.  If the author has any financial interest in any company mentioned at the time of this article’s posting, it will be explicitly noted. I welcome feedback and comments. 

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