No laptop, will travel

19Jun11

I’ve just returned from my third trip without a laptop – the longest so far, with a whole week in the US. Mostly this has worked out very well.

Power to weight ratio

Just like with fast cars/bikes, this is the key to success. I’m finding that the iPad 2 can make it through a whole day of emailing and browsing without needing to be plugged in, which is great if you find yourself at one of those venues where they’ve not taken care of providing power strips. My iPad ran to less than 10% battery for the first time on Wednesday, but that was after a whole day at a conference followed by a long train ride from DC back to NY. I could have plugged it in on the Accela, but didn’t bother as I knew I’d make the hotel before it ran out. It’s liberating going around not having to look for a power outlet all the time.

Travel weight is also a major advantage, and my shoulders and back are thanking me for not having the extra pounds/kilos in the bag for a laptop and its charger.

At the security checkpoint

I’m starting to feel quite smug about saying ‘no’ to ‘do you have a laptop in that bag’. I must look like the kind of guy that usually would have a laptop in their bag. I did hit some trouble on Friday at EWR, where I was told that I must ‘separate my electronics’ in a way that implied that I was expected to know this already. The guy operating the X-ray machine pulled out every device in my bag (except the iPad and bag of chargers) and places them in a tray before sending everything back through again.

Keyboard

I’m getting better at pecking away on my iPad’s on screen keyboard, but I still prefer Swype on my Galaxy Tab, and for serious text input I still need a proper keyboard. I bought a Freedom i-Connex Bluetooth keyboard a little while ago, which serves the purpose [1].

Initially I found the i-Connex a little clumsy, but I must have adjusted as I can now touch type fine on it. I also expected that leaving bluetooth on might drain the battery on my iPad, but it doesn’t.

Laptop users do however have an advantage when there’s no table, as it’s fiddly to use a standalone keyboard and tablet on your lap.

Limitations

I’ve not found anything yet that I can’t do on the iPad, but some things are tougher than they should be. A combination of native apps and remote access to my home machine(s) and work stuff covers most bases, but isn’t always perfect. The most common annoyance is an inability to copy text from areas/apps that would be OK on a desktop/laptop.

The gotcha last week was Eventbrite. I was trying to publish a new event, which involves pasting a bunch of stuff into a text box. This stubbornly refused to work in the browsers of either tablet I had with me, and in the end I did it on a desktop machine at work.

Connectivity

In addition to avoiding the size/weight of a laptop I’ve also been avoiding paid WiFi by using my Galaxy Tab (as a hotspot). I’m surprised that I only used 160MB of data last week (according to AT&T), but it was great to have data whenever and wherever I needed it for $25.

Overall

I’d have to have a very specific reason to take my laptop with me in the future – the pattern of not having it seems to work too well. I’m not alone on this – I was at an event a couple of weeks back where there wasn’t a single laptop around the table. I generally agree that tablets are consumption devices rather than ‘creative’, but having a bluetooth keyboard tips that balance, and Fred Wilson’s 100/10/1 rule of thumb – ‘1% will create content, 10% will engage with it, and 100% will consume it’ should also be borne in mind. I’m happy that I can do the creation I need to when on the road using a tablet (even as I type these words on my laptop – at home).

[1] I wanted an iGo Stowaway keyboard, as recommended by Charles Stross, but these are impossible to get hold of these days. Prices have gone insane on eBay, and I’m left wondering why iGo haven’t released this product afresh to the eager new audience of tablet users.



4 Responses to “No laptop, will travel”

  1. 1 Correy

    Like you I have been experimenting with going with my laptop. Mostly I can live with just an iPad but one thing I still need and have found no real substitute for is Visio. I still need my laptop for soon Visio diagrams or reading them. But thankfully that is becoming rarer. I also had an iGo Stowaway mobile keyboard that I had from my iPaq days but it finally broke last year and I’m left with a Freedom Pro who I hate so I’m waiting for my Apple keyboard to arrive.

  2. 2 Si Gair

    Just done a 10 day business trip with an Ipad 2 and apple bluetooth keyboard…fantastic. No more travelling with laptops for me.

  3. 3 Eddie's Dad

    AFAIK, the battery problem is caused by Micro$oft’s OS. Buy a MacBook!!

    • Then how do you explain all of those MacBook users huddling near power outlets? If the MacBook Air could manage a whole day as well as the iPad then I’d be sorely tempted; maybe the rumoured ARM version will do that.


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