Working with the iPad

It’s now two months since the iPad was launched in the UK, and so it’s timely that people are starting to comment on how they and others are using it. Inspired by these and other posts I thought I would jot down my own thoughts on how the iPad fits into my toolset.
The first time I took the iPad out, my laptop came along too as I couldn’t quite convince myself that the iPad would do everything I needed. Since then unless I know that I will specifically need it (such as for development work) the laptop has stayed at home; the iPad has quickly become my main portable device for business. I regularly travel up to London, and previously my bag would contain my laptop, its power supply, a paper notebook and usually whatever book I happen to be reading. Now all I take is the iPad. It really does have a battery that lasts all day, and combine that with no wait to boot up, and it really is just such a convenient device for accessing… well, everything.
I work at home, so the line between work and non-work activity has a tendency to blur, but the iPad somehow makes that less intrusive. I think perhaps because it’s so quick and easy to access things, activity like checking for an important email you’re waiting for is less likely to open the door to doing other things. In fact, one of the things I like most about it is the way it forces you to be focussed, because although background multitasking is on its way you can only ever be in one app at a time so there’s far less opportunity for distraction.
Some people have commented that at 16, 32 or 64GB it doesn’t have the capacity for serious work, but that hasn’t been a problem for me. All of my content lives in the cloud in one of three places – DropBox, Evernote or Google Docs, so if I want access to something I just open it via WiFi or 3G. The days of carrying your actual data around with you are pretty much gone, even if we don’t quite have ubiquitous access to the net yet. For the curious, my 32GB iPad currently has 26GB free, although I suppose I should mention that I don’t keep any music on it as that all lives on my iPod Classic.
Irrespective of location it has become my favourite tool for online communication, whether that’s via email, Twitter or other social networking tools. That has had the knock on benefit of keeping those things off my desktop when I’m working. I’ve also found that I manage my RSS consumption much more efficiently on the iPad, although that may be more down to the app I use (Reeder) rather than the iPad itself.
I guess you can’t talk about the iPad without mentioning its lack of support for Flash, but for me that’s really been a non-issue as it’s yet to stop me doing anything.
Despite having reasonably large hands I’ve found the on screen keyboard to be surprisingly good, but then I can’t touch type anyway so I don’t have a great typing speed to start with. If I know that I’m going to be doing a lot of typing I will take my Apple wireless keyboard with me too.
At Onlignment we’re all about working virtually, and the iPad is proving its worth as my portable virtual office. Apps from Skype, Webex and Adobe Connect mean I can be connected with the rest of the team wherever I am. I’ve no regrets about buying the first generation iPad, but I’m excited by the opportunities that future versions will bring.
Image Source: Apple UK

Interoperability Matters

Despite the increasing use of web conferencing, instant messaging, and social media tools in the workplace, email shows no sign of disappearing. There are plenty of arguments for and against email, but it has one very big plus that most other systems don’t have; no matter which email system you’re using, you know it’s interoperable with everyone else’s email system.

Imagine if GMail users could only email other GMail users, or if you could only email other people inside your organisation. Of course, it would take away most of the benefits of using email. It works because everyone adopted the same set of standards, and although there may sometimes be inconsistencies with style and formatting, you know you can usually rely on the message being delivered.

The same can’t be said for web conferencing and telepresence platforms, and it’s easy to understand why the platform vendors like to keep things closed; they usually work on a per seat licence basis that wouldn’t stand up to a more open model. It’s hard to imagine email (or the telephone, mobile phones or text messaging) becoming as commonplace as they have, if the user was tied to a particular vendor, software, hardware or network.

I’d like to see this same open approach to standards applied to web conferencing, because I’m sure that it would increase overall adoption. It seems to me that the budget decision to invest in this kind of platform must be easier to justify if you can demonstrate more opportunities to use it.

Things may be heading in the right direction. When Cisco aquired Tandberg, they announced that they would be adopting their own Telepresence Interoperability Protocol (TIP) and that they would open source it, a commitment that they recently delivered on. It allows interoperability between Cisco and Tandberg telepresence systems, as well as any third party system that supports it. At the moment that’s limited to Cisco’s own Webex Meeting Centre, and Microsoft Office Communicator, but let’s hope that other vendors adopt the same standard, rather than introducing their own.

Tandberg Shareholders Hold Out For More From Cisco

We recently reported on the news that Cisco had acquired Tandberg, the Norway based video communication business, but it seems they may decide to drop their bid.
Less than 10% of Tandberg’s shareholders accepted Cisco’s $3 billion offer. Cisco have now extended the deadline to 18th November, but have said that if its offer is not accepted by the required 90% of Tandberg’s shareholders, it will withdraw.
This may just be sabre rattling on both sides, but considering that the current offer is a premium of nearly 40% on the current share price, it’s a remarkable show of confidence by Tandberg’s shareholders.
Cisco CEO John Chambers has expressed confidence that the deal will go through, and has reminded Tandberg’s shareholders that they have already walked away from other deals this year where they couldn’t get the pricing right. Bearing in mind that one of the deals they walked away from was with LifeSize, recently acquired by Logitech, and that Tandberg has a 40% share of the video conferencing market, they may not find it so easy to walk away from this deal.

Logitech buys LifeSize

It was announced today that consumer peripherals maker Logitech has bought LifeSize, a video conferencing business based in Austin, Texas.
Logitech is one of the biggest players in the PC peripherals market, producing a wide range of webcams, headsets and microphones, as well as mice, keyboards, and music and gaming equipment.
This is definitely one to watch. If Logitech employs their consumer knowhow to make video conferencing a more affordable option, it has the potential to turn it into a more mainstream tool. Indeed, in their press release they suggest that it is their intention to make video communication as common as voice only communication.
The full press release can be read here.

Cisco Acquires Tandberg

Cisco today announced the acquisition of Tandberg, a Norwegian video communications company. Tandberg offer a range of hardware and software solutions from personal video conferencing through to high end Telepresence solutions, as well as network and content infrastructure tools and professional services.
According to their press release “This proposed acquisition would combine TANDBERG’s best-in-class telepresence and video conferencing portfolio with Cisco’s world-class collaboration architecture and network capabilities.”
This is a significant acquisition for Cisco, that clearly indicates a belief that there is a growing market for virtual communication technologies.

Virtual meetings in your pocket?

We all know that setting up the environment for virtual meetings or training sessions involves a commitment in terms of hardware, software or both. Or does it? Genius Room hope to persuade us otherwise, with the launch of their new PocketMeeting service.
The premise is pretty simple. You go to their website, enter your credit card details and for $5.00 you get 24 hours of access to your own screen sharing environment. It doesn’t feature voice or chat, or in fact anything other than screensharing, but that’s the beauty of it really. No big learning curve, no complex tool to remember, no vendor specific plug ins (although it does rely on you having Java installed).
If you occasionally have the need to share presentations or other desktop materials, and are happy to use conference calling or VoIP for the audio, PocketMeeting is certainly worth investigating.