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Marc My Words: iPad Envy

by Marc Rosenberg

May 11, 2010


by Marc Rosenberg

May 11, 2010

“Apple has opened yet another interesting door of possibilities, and you can be sure that others will soon be rushing through it with their own “pads” or “slates” that may address the embedded base of Windows/Office users, a base that seems too large to ignore. But things change all the time …”

I was giving a keynote speech to about 200 people last month when, right in the middle of my talk, I noticed someone in the front row taking notes on her brand-spanking-new iPad. I couldn’t resist. I stopped what I was saying and walked over to her.

“Is that an iPad?” I asked. “Yep,” she replied. I reached out. “May I?” I asked. “Sure,” she said. So I caressed it lovingly and sighed. Fortunately for me, the audience understood and started to laugh.

But it was no laughing matter to me. It was beautiful. I want one. I have iPad envy. I want its virtual weightlessness (lugging around a 7+ pound laptop is not as much fun as it seems). I want ten hours of battery life. I want the ability to play movies on a plane without the person in front of me reclining their seat and crushing my screen (and making my time on the flying cigar tube even less joyful). I want the ability to use this 1.5-pound beauty to write this column using Word, catch up on my e-mail with Outlook, deliver my PowerPoint presentations at my next conference, and then sync it all up with my PC once I got home.

Oops! Apparently, there is no version of PowerPoint or Word or Excel or Outlook for the iPad, as there is for the Mac. The iPad is more iPhone than computer. Seemingly entertainment-focused rather than business-focused. I was crushed. Would I have to compromise with a netbook (so “yesterday”) or one of those new, very small, very light, but very expensive mini-laptops? I decided to drive on over to my nearest Apple Store and belly -up to the Genius Bar to ask them how to make the iPad serve my professional needs. This is how it went (more or less):

Me: “Hi, I want to get an iPad but I need to run my PowerPoint files on it.”

Genius: “Why would you want to do that?”

Me: “I give a lot of presentations and I do my original work on a PC.”

Genius: “Why would you want to do that?”

Me: “I’m comfortable with a PC, and my clients prefer it.”

Genius: “Oh well, if you insist. You can’t run PowerPoint (or Word or Excel) on the iPad. Maybe one day Microsoft will create iPad apps for these programs, but I really don’t know anything more.”

Me: “Great. Is there any other way?”

Genius: “No. Unless you get a Mac.”

Me: “Is there someone else I can talk to?”

Genius: “Sure, just a minute.”

Genius 2: “Hi, can I help you?”

Me: “Is there any way I can show my PowerPoint slides on the iPad?”

Genius 2: “Why would you want to do that?”

Me: “Ok, I get it, Microsoft and PCs are the devil and Apple and Macs represent heaven on earth. Fine, but humor me. Let’s say I was forced, at gunpoint, to run PowerPoint on an iPad. How could I do it?”

Genius 2: “Well, you can convert your PowerPoint file to Keynote (Apple’s presentation software). Or you can convert the presentation to video. Or you can convert the presentation to a series of jpegs. Or you can upload it to “the cloud.” Or you can run it through iTunes. Or …”

Me: “Stop, please. My head hurts. You mean there’s no way to simply sync my slides between my computer and the iPad, or use a USB drive to transfer the file?”

Genius 2: “No.”

Me: “Ok, thanks.”

Genius 2: “Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

OK, so Apple is just being Apple; no surprise there. The company sold one million iPads the first month; you have to admit, that’s impressive. Most impressive though is that Apple has opened yet another interesting door of possibilities, and you can be sure that others will soon be rushing through it with their own “pads” or “slates” that may address the embedded base of Windows/Office users, a base that seems too large to ignore. But things change all the time; for example, HP’s recent purchase of Palm and its WebOS software could point to an entirely new direction, away from Windows. I’m sure Google’s Android and Chrome software will be in the mix. And Microsoft might actually come around to creating apps for these new devices. So, as hard as it will be, I am going to wait and see what happens. I might still go iPad – it’s so gorgeous – but I want to compare.

A game changer

And while I wait, and read the reviews, and make myself crazy, I am certain about one thing: like the iPhone, the iPad is a game-changer, and for us, this is especially important for mobile learning. The “always connected” iPad can be the model for a new, low-cost, portable platform that is truly independent of place and space (and wires), with a large enough screen and the processing power to deliver both formal and informal learning. It could take advantage of cloud computing like nothing else has ever done (R.I.P., DVD). More on this in my next column.

Will abundant content, technological simplicity, office productivity, rich media, interactivity, and “anytime and anyplace” connectedness finally walk hand-in-hand? Let’s hope so. If the iPad and its brethren can make this work reliably for learning, it will really be something to see.

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yesterday I tweeted about this.

There I was on a plane. I opened up my Kindle to read a good book, Cutting for Stone. The woman next to me opened up her Kindle.

My goodness. My Kindle looked drab in comparison. I would rather have been reading on the iPad than on my trusty Kindle.

Beyond that, well, we shall see, won't we?
I create presentations on my iPad with Keynote (and can import/export .ppt). I write documents on my iPad with Pages (and can import/export .doc).

Is it the same as a laptop? No. Is it just a content consumption device? Again, no.

I've taken it now on 3 trips instead of a laptop, and have had no regrets. Yes, I'm a fanboy, but I also have to get things done. There are tradeoffs, but it's also working for me. As well as just way cool ;).
There are a few apps that provide hope that something will be there soon to allow office files on the iPad. There is Documents To Go (DTG) from DataViz. They have a iPhone version now and are working on a iPad update to take advantage of the larger screen size.

Another one to check out is Quickoffice
Like Clark, I took a leap of faith the last few trips and took my iPad only. While I still have a desktop PC in the office, both my netbook and laptop were sacrificed on eBay shortly thereafter.

I live primarily in a PC world with PowerPoint and Word. So I will frequently author my PPTX's on the PC and then when I hit the road transfer to Keynote on the iPad through iTunes.

It's not as convenient as popping in a USB stick for sure. I've also had to learn how to deal with font and SmartArt conversion issues, but on the whole, what the mobility, flexibility and interface of the iPad far outweigh the inconveniences.
There I was on a plane after having tried to read an article on the iPad. I was so grateful that I had my Kindle that I could tirelessly hold and operate with one hand. While the color and glitz of the iPad is appealing, the functionality of my Kindle remains preferable - for me. I wouldn't want to be in the Netbook business which I think is truly endangered by the iPad and like devices but I think we will continue to see Kindles and laptops for the foreseeable future.
I don’t know what Apple Store you went to, but it sounds like those people were complete idiots.

Nonetheless, there is a little more information you could have collected before writing this blog post. First, there is no version of Office for the iPad because Microsoft won’t build it. (They don’t want to give away any edge they might have in the tablet world.) So instead, Apple took it’s three office-type applications (Pages, Keynote, and Numbers) and created versions specifically for the iPad. They cost 10 bucks each. And they all open and save in corresponding Microsoft formats, e.g., Pages will open Word documents; you can edit them, save them as Word documents and email them to colleagues. Keynote will open PowerPoint files, allow you to edit, and even allow you to present them on any digital projector by purchasing the iPad dock to VGA adapter (costs 30 bucks).

Apple is not "just being apple." If they were, they wouldn't even bother to make the iPad available through Windows. They are accommodating Windows users because they know they need to in order to compete in the burgeoning world of mobile computing.

It sounds like you just came into contact with a couple of Genius Bar morons.
What does it do for Mobile Learning ? It hasn't change a thing yet ?

Only 1 million pcs in the whole world of mobile users and more importantly the parts of the world that just required basic access for learning. It's pervasive only to a very few no. of people - and these people uses it not for the same motivation as intended for mobile learning.
The iPad has only been out a couple of months and it seems as if people are expecting instant solutions to everything. Can we give it a little more time? Can we take a look at the potential of a product and how it is forcing other companies to change how they produce their products?

Like the iPhone when it was first introduced, the iPad is a cool device that has great potential. I've easily opened most ppt, doc and xls files in Keynote, pages, and Numbers. And software like QuickOffice will soon have iPad apps.

It's easy for Microsoft and Google to slam the iPad and promise better devices. They are still working on their products, which for now are nothing but "planned" devices. Even HPs tablet device has gotten hammered by critics who've had a chance to play with it. After all, you need to design an OS with a touch interface from the ground up, not just add Windows to a low-level touch screen interface.

The 1st iPhone is far inferior to the iPhone HD being announced next week. Just imagine what the iPad will evolve into. It's a game changer. It has shown the world what we can expect from a mobile computing device. Give it more time and just imagine the possibilities.
In my humble opinion, transfer of files is not an issue when the conversation is mobile learning. The topic should be the use of SWF files. SWF technology is a superior technology. I lament over the now gone Macromedia days, but that doesn't change the fact that the overwhelming amount of potential mobile learning content is in SWF format. Not to mention it is the format the govt is married to. So, again in my opinion until Apple accepts the SWF format, mobile learning is not a real use for this device.
Regards to all in the forum,
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