The Transformative Power of iPad

OsiriX for iPad

The powerful iPad 2 is tackling anything in its path.

TECHNOLOGY He's a natural-born athlete with speed, acute vision, and great dexterity. All the coaches are courting his attention because they realize that if he's on their team, they'll have a star player.

You are the coach. And the athlete is the iPad. This transformative device negates the need to tout mundane system specifications. After using it for a short time, Gigahertz and Megabits touted by competitors seem arcane. This is about productivity. The iPad can transform user behaviors — freeing one from sitting hours at a desk (perhaps moving to an arguably worse area with Wi-Fi like the sofa, Starbucks, or McDonalds).

Like it's distant forerunner, the iPod, the iPad is transformative in that it becomes a different device for each owner. New cases and covers are popping up each week, but more importantly, through the iTunes App Store, the iPad transforms desires. Use it as a media hub, a business presentation system, an artist's palette, or a life-saving medical device. Frankly, there doesn't appear to be an end to the possibilities. Like the athlete with so much great potential, you provide a bit of coaching to reap the benefits.

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In Case You're Wondering, Size Does Matter

Have you ever tried to show someone your corporate or commerce website on a screen the size of a business card? Yeah, those iPhones broke new ground in Internet connectivity but it takes quite a bit of pinch and zoom to navigate complex pages. This behavior is not very conducive to sharing product information with a customer looking over your shoulder.

I can't imagine how many mockups Jonathan Ive machined to arrive at the ideal size of 7.31" x 9.5" (18.6 cm x 25 cm). Fortunately, the aluminum he chewed through is recyclable. This slimmer iPad 2 is just 0.34" (0.6 cm) thin. It's dimensions are smaller than a standard sheet of paper — even smaller than the typical newsstand magazine. But it feels like an ideal size for portable viewing.

To put the elfin size in perspective, the iPad is totally swallowed up in an old 12" PowerBook neoprene case. That laptop, once coveted for its diminutive dimensions is downright bulky when compared to the iPad. Placing the iPad in the PowerBook case is like carrying a tongue depressor in an eyeglass holder. The iPad is razor thin!

Having said that, it is unlikely you'll find anything laying around from yesteryear's technology that can be adapted to become a satisfactory case. (I did locate an old Day-Timer organizer. After removing the three-ring binder hardware, it is roughly the same dimensions. However, it lacks the ability to secure the iPad inside without resorting to Velcro, rubber bands or careful balancing.) Custom cases for the original iPad may not be snug enough, will lack appropriate cutouts for cameras and can muffle sound from the rear-facing speaker.

So, the first transformation will likely be external. Browse the current crop of iPad cases and choose one worthy of the star that wears it. After all, what top athlete plays a game with no jersey? Some are decorative skins; others are covers to protect the glass, while a few include a BlueTooth keyboard that essentially transforms the iPad to a netbook.

Real-World iPad Use in Healthcare : A plastic surgeon uses the iPad to demonstrate to patients what they might look like after breast reconstructive surgery.

Your initial iPad browsing experience may be disappointing. A limited amount of apps come pre-installed. Many optimized for the iPhone may need to be updated to take advantage of the larger iPad screen. So within a short time of receiving your new iPad, you'll likely find yourself navigating the App Store. This is the transformative moment.

Tempting as it may be to download everything that is popular or free, a bit of restraint is in order. Hopefully, before purchasing the iPad, or at least at this juncture, map out how you plan to use the device. Is it for gaming? If you are a doctor, are there ways it can improve patient interaction or medical research? Are you a musician with a desire to compose songs? Will the iPad be used by a salesperson to present products when away from the office? Once you have a plan, download accordingly. Some custom apps may even be available from the institution with which you are employed. A few app suggestions are included here, but again, your selections will vary based on intended usage. And you don't need to limit yourself to one purpose. The versatile iPad can double as a GPS-enabled travel assistant.

Optimizing Storage Space

With cloud storage available from several sources like MobileMe and Amazon, it is not necessary to store every song and movie ever downloaded to your iPad. The high-end 64 GB is quite roomy. There is still 33.5 GB free after storing 505 songs, 15 movies, 28 TV episodes, 48 podcasts, 1135 photos, 106 apps, and dozens of PDFs on a 64 GB iPad. I have much more media but with the Remote app and Home Sharing, the entire iTunes desktop computer library can be controlled wirelessly.

Clever apps like LogMeIn Ignition ($30) allow remote access to personal computers. This opens up interesting possibilities beyond emailing yourself a forgotten file. Share a screen from different operating systems. Log into a Mac G5 running a Classic (OS 9) application through Tiger (Mac OS X 10.5). Then access a Windows XP application through CodeWeavers CrossOver on an Intel Mac running Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.6). On the same network, screen share with a PC running Windows 7.

With LogMeIn, run applications for which there is no iPad counterpart. With this much versatility at your fingertips, it's possible to view a website with embedded Flash if needed. You can also harness the processing power of multi-core desktop hardware to perform serious number crunching. LogMeIn cleverly switches the screen resolution for the iPad and then automatically switches back after logging off. You can set up a LogMeIn account on virtually any computer, then invite another LogMeIn user to take a peek at your desktop for remote tech support.

Some sites like Hulu.com currently recognize and restrict streaming video content to the iPad. Hulu Plus costs $7.99 per month.

The 3G iPad can be activated virtually anywhere if you have a credit card. It doesn't show up on your phone bill and is billed separately from an iTunes account. By default, 3G is enabled in the iPad Settings. If you take the iPad beyond the Wi-Fi radius, a message is displayed asking whether you wish sign up for month-to-month mobile service (no contract required). The carrier is nice enough to enable network access long enough to register. AT&T offers two plans: 250 MB for $15/mo or 2 GB for $25/mo. Even non-geeks can see the latter is a better bargain with 8x the bandwidth for 1.6x the price. However, if most of your activity will be in a Wi-Fi area, the former may be more appealing. If you prefer to buy the Wi-Fi iPad (no 3G), you can purchase a tethering service, that creates a remote Wi-Fi network between your iPad and smartphone.

Sure, some people will purchase the iPad with minimal system configuration and use the default apps for email and Web surfing. To them an iPad may feel like a small laptop with some missing parts. The vast majority of customers will download apps that match their personality and workflow to witness a transformative experience.

Tags: computers, it professionals, mobile devices, technology, wifi