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Building a Case for the iPad

No, not this kind of case, although it’s pretty cool, and I will happily accept one as a gift or promotional opportunity.

I mean a use case. A real-world practical here’s-why-I’m-buying-this-thing kind of case. Do you need one? Probably not. But I’m a special case, and that’s why this case needs to make a use case for that iPad thing. Since posting a quick replacing my Kindle when the iPad comes” tweet, I got a ton (well, 6) e-mails telling me I shouldn’t spend this much money on a locked down device I haven’t touched yet. And most people shouldn’t. But I should. Why? Because A. I don’t think it’s an untested device, It uses the same OS as 40 million iPhones and iPod touches out there. It’s just got a bigger screen, and some interface tweaks to take advantage of that screen acreage. And B. I already have a use for it. I’m not buying it because it’s pretty and cool, I’m buying it because I will use the living hell out of this machine.

First, who needs this, and why?

Who should pre-order the iPad? Tech journalists and bloggers who review new gadgets for a living. Other than that, there are very few people who NEED an iPad on Day 1. The iPad, and other tablets like it, will be a boon for vertical markets that are currently using Windows-based PC tablets. Those are heavy, clunky battery hogs. There is no need for a full-on convertible laptop/tablet Voltron wannabe when all you’re doing is some data entry. Doctors, students, warehouse workers, and mobile entertainment professionals like me need this. Eventually, once the sofware is there. Sure, Apple will sell millions of these things and they will sit on the coffee table, waiting for sofa-surfing while watching the game, or Twittering your thoughts on American Idol. But the real value for this machine will be for mobile data entry and media consumption.

My Use Case:

I’m a FileMaker whore. I love FileMaker Pro, and use it for things I probably shouldn’t. It’s seriously overkill for a simple mailing list or movie collection, but I have it, so I use it. My main use is for Don’t Sweat It, where I not only co-host the show, but do all the behind-the-scenes making-the-sausage project planning. I have to keep project files that consist of family info, a list of tools, a list of materials, and a step-by-step breakdown of everything. I include pictures and maps and all the bells and whistles. This would be a nightmare in a word processor. Now, I have a table of tools that I can choose from by clicking in a form. I also keep a materials table of often-used materials with updated prices. I can just type the first couple letters and the material, description, price, and department are all filled in automatically. FMP also just makes a Google Map of whatever address is in the address field. It’s kind of amazing what it does, with very little help from me.

After all that input, I can output nicely formatted reports to the production team, the network, and I can even create a shopping list that covers several projects, all in one list separated by department. It really is the only way to go.

Then came FM Touch. (iTunes link) FM touch is FileMaker for the iPhone/iPod Touch. Instead of creating a form that fits your screen, you create a form that fits the iPhone screen, and FMTouch’s website even has a nice little style guide to give you all the info you need. If you follow the guide and spend a couple hours tweaking your design, your FMTouch screen looks like a native iPhone App. Except this App syncs to your FileMaker database! It really is incredible, and saves me tons of repeat-data entry. I used to write it all down during the site visit, then type it into FileMaker at night. Now, it goes into the database on site, before I forget what my scribbles mean.

Why the long, boring exposition into my workflow? Because that’s the whole point.

Imagine FMTouch on a 10″ screen instead of a 3″ screen. It’s like switching from an index card to a sheet of paper. I can design multiple columns of information, just like the desktop version. FM Touch allows related records and calculated fields! It’s like Heaven on a Stick. I haven’t contacted FM Touch personally, but a quick Google search tells me they’re working on an iPad version, with more interface tweaks and the like. Once my related tables are in pop-up lists, and I can export PDFs (please, please, please) directly to e-mail, it will be a complete solution.

But even if none of that happens, and I’m just using a blown-up version of the iPhone App, typing on it will (presumably) be much faster and more comfy than the iPhone, and I can tweak my form designs easily to fit an iPad resolution.

Long story short (I know, too late.) if you don’t need an iPad, just wait. They’re making 4-5 million of these things this year, so I don’t see them running out. I’ll be there in line on Day 1 to pick up my (already reserved) 32 GB WiFi iPad so I can get my stuff on it and working before we get into Season 9 too heavily. If I didn’t need it working on Monday, I’d just get it shipped, or wait a couple weeks.

I think the iPad (and Android devices like it) are the future. You don’t always need everything with you all the time. I’ll post about that later…

🗓️ March 18, 2010 🏷️ iPad
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