Windows 8, My Take Fast and Fluid

•September 19, 2011 • Leave a Comment

First of all, I was excited and relieved to see the touch interface responsiveness.  I’m running on an Acer W500 tablet and performance is remarkable.  This is a netbook league tablet and Windows 8 responsiveness blows away Windows 7.  Having said that, I think Windows 8 is more of a “base hit” versus “a knock out of the (tablet) ballpark”.  A home run would have been releasing this 2 years ago.  They’re obviously targeting the average consumer therefore so much rides on the innovation and availability of metro apps.  Microsoft has significantly lowered the bar for metro app development but they’re competing against a platform that already has 100,000+ apps.  I don’t want to discount Bluestacks which is running Android apps on Windows but that will undoubtedly run in dreaded “desktop mode” and not the new tile slickness.

I estimate that Windows 8 will have limited impact in the enterprise for the short-term (2 years perhaps).  I could see Sales and Marketing teams and business users on-the-go being early adopters for the beautiful metro interface and portability.  Otherwise, there seems to be little incentive to upgrade.   Although there are some work arounds, disincentives to upgrading include:

  • Once you develop a metro app, it ONLY runs on Windows 8.
  • The Start screen is a little akward with a mouse and keyboard.
  • The desktop mode has changed – some menus have been rearranged or taken away all together (I hope “Shutdown” makes it back onto the desktop in the final version!).
  • The Start button has been replaced with the Start screen and search features.

For the average consumer, I can see some potential stumbling blocks:

  • TOUCH:  Some touch features in Windows 8 are unintuitive.  Swiping to select tiles, left swipe for app changes, right for charms, bottom/top for options, removal of second-finger-right-click for example.  Granted I ain’t the sharpest tool the shed but I had to look up some of these features instead of just discovering them.  This was not the case in iOS or Android.
  • MODES:  Metro versus Desktop mode can be confusing.  Additionally, I dislike desktop mode mainly because metro mode is so cool.  It’s jolting and disappointing to launch a Win32 app in metro mode.  Touch has dramatically improved in desktop mode but more innovative integration with metro may lessen the transitions.
  • BROWSERS:  There are two browsers, desktop mode IE 9 (supports plugins) and metro mode IE 10 (no plugin support).  Users are expected to know the difference and when to use which browser.  My wife certainly didn’t and she gave up in 5 minutes after a Flash stream would not work.
  • APPS, apps, apps.  Gotta have them beeeeautiful metro apps that light up your start screen.
  • HARDWARE:  iPad 1 kicks the crud out of the current Windows tablets, including the Samsung tablet showcased.  Hopefully ARM hardware will catch up but if they rip out Win32 apps, users will probably still opt for 100,000+ apps on iOS.
  • DEVELOPMENT:  Being a Windows Developer is FATIGUING.  .NET 3.5, .NET 4.5, Silverlight, SharePoint, WPF, WWF, WCF, WinRT, WinForms, ASP.NET, HTML/JavaScript/CSS.  They’ve made the ecosystem more complex with Windows 8 in efforts to draw in more developers (HTML/JavaScript/CSS script kiddies).
  • CUSTOMIZATION: In desktop mode, the ability to modify buttons, menus and etc are missing or I can’t find them.  Sure, the touch experience has improved DRASTICALLY, but even the smallest of fingers will have issues still with little checkboxes, scrollbars and buttons.
  • HYBRIDS: The idea of being productive on a 10.1” or 11.1” device is all but dead in my mind.  We have large monitors for a reason when we’re in productive mode.  Therefore Win32 consuming apps will not give the hybrid Windows 8 tablet any advantages.  Desktop mode stinks so it better be metro.

Finally, here are some interesting notables for developers:

  • All I/O calls in WinRT are asynchronous.  Includes local File.Create.
  • Metro apps don’t close, they “Suspend” when not on screen.  Background processes will have to be “rethunk” for apps that need them (ie. Seismic).
  • There is only ONE CLR.  There will be multiple app instances in the CLR with a WinRT or Win32 flavor.  Similar to an “app pool” in IIS.
  • WinRT uses APIs created in C++ that sit on top of the kernel.  The result, C# is now as performant as C++ (there is a advtage to C++ I think).
  • Memory management is still taken care of in WinRT C#.
  • You can call WinRT from .NET Win32 but NOT vice versa.  If you attempt to call a library not available in WinRT, the Windows App Store will most likely reject your app.
  • WinRT provides a subset of APIs available in Win32.
  • Silverlight on the desktop (.NET Win32) still lacks touch features – drag scrolling, multi-gestures and etc.  Big disappointment.
  • XAML on .NET WinRT appears to have huge improvements in touch features that Silverlight lacked.
  • (BS warning) Win32 apps may or may not run on ARM processors.
  • (BS warning) I may not have it configured correctly but Windows 8 did not improve my battery life.  I’ll look more into this.

Application redistribution considerations:

  • Silverlight:  Web Browser and Out-of-Browser
  • WPF:  Executables or Click-Once over the net
  • WinRT:  Windows App Store

Deployment platform comparison:

  • Silverlight:  Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Phone 7 (modified), Macintosh
  • WinRT:  Windows 8

For this developer, I’ll not be cracking hard into WinRT or Windows 8 development any time soon.  There’s just very little incentive at this point as my focus is Enterprise.  I hope others don’t feel the same cause I WANT MORE METRO APPS!

Good References:

Tweaking Windows 8 NOW:


Windows 7 Slate Touch Optimizations

•May 31, 2011 • Leave a Comment

The following will assist in making the Windows 7 Slate more touch friendly and tablet oriented.  Southeast Productivity is a great resource for configuring and utilization of your Slate.  
Essential Touch Optimizations
Increase Screen Resolution

  • Screen resolution -> Make text and other items larger or smaller -> Set text to 125%

Titles, Icons, Menus and SCROLLBARS

  • Left Click Desktop -> Personalize -> Window Color ->Advanced Appearance Setting:
  • Active Title Bar – Size = 50, Font 16
  • Caption buttons – 50
  • Icons – 32
  • Inactive Title – 40
  • Menus – 40
  • Scrollbar – 40


  • Folder navigation – minimized
  • Double click on tab – lock it opened or unopened
  • Place delete button on upper left of screen for easy thumb deletion

Single Click Folders/Icons on Desktop to Open
  1 – Double-Click on my computer.
  2 – Left-Click on view.
  3 – Left-Click on folder options.
  4 – Left-Click on settings.
  5 – On the click items as follow section, Left-Click on the single click to open an item category.
  6 – Left-Click ok.
 You should now be able to single click on icons.
Essential Apps to Download
Grab and Go Screen Lock

  • screen lock which is useful for quickly enabling and disabling the touch interface.
  • Download
  • Anchor the icon to the bottom taskbar

Opera Web Browser MOBILE for Windows 7

  • Download latest – Choose Opera Mobile (Windows 7) 
  • Best keyboard
  • Best load times and touch interface especially on Windows 7 tablets.  You can scroll while page loads!
  • Be sure to install BEFORE you install Silverlight

Bing Bar for Internet Explorer

  • News, Email (GMail), Weather, Built-In Translator (tranlate site on the fly)


  • WeatherBug
  • Gmail Reader

Apps for Slates

  • Kindle/Nook
  • Evernote
  • USA Today

Dropbox – ESSENTIAL for sharing between PC and other devices!

Windows Touch Pack

  • Go to Start -> All Programs -> Accessories -> Ease of Access
  • Use a Bluetooth headset (noise cancelling for best results) 


  • Created an Android virtualization app for Windows 7.  This will enable you to run Android apps on your Windows 7 Slate.
  • Beta release this summer
  • ViewSonic Tablet is already available.

Improving Space with an SD Card

1. Go to Control Panel -> System and Security -> Admin Tools
  – Computer management -> Disk Management
2.  Under More Actions to the right choose -> Create a VHD
3.  Browse to your SD card – Give it a file name
  – Set the size
  – Choose Fixed Size
  – OK
4.  Click on new Disk created and choose -> Initialize
5.  Choose More Actions – > Create Simple Volume – assign drive letter.  After completing, you need to create a script and task to remount the VHD after a reboot.  Look here for simple instructions.

SharePoint and the iPad – A Detailed Look

•March 24, 2011 • 6 Comments

For those whose glass is half full, whose grass is quite green and whose life is full of lollipops and roads to candy mountain, I’m afraid this post may indeed rain on your iPad productivity parade.

Lets all say it together, “THE iPAD IS NOT A LAPTOP REPLACEMENT.”  Repeat that 10 times a day before turning on your iPad and you’ll be fine.

I love my iPad.  I’ve never used a mobile device more and it’s turned my wife and I into a consuming maniacs.  However, while being liberated to true mobility, it’s as though I’ve been locked out of my day to day Office productivity.  When the powers that be (Mr. Softy and Apple) decide to release an Office Suite and a decent browser for the iPad, a Tablet Productivity Renaissance will surely ensue.  Until then, we must fend off the idealogues and take a pragmatic approach to integrating this into the business workspace.  Woe to those who embark on this treacherous journey for disappointment and garbled Excel files are around every corner.

Office Purgatory
The iPad is not very good at displaying Office documents.  It’s much worse at editing.  Even having the wrong colors, table configurations, images or margins can render your documents undisplayable.  Forget macros or complex Excel workbooks.  You’re doomed if you rely on PowerPoint – test very thoroughly before trying to impress colleagues.  I’ve spent well over $200 in apps to make the business case work to include Quick Office, Numbers, Keynote, and DocsToGo.  The latter is your best bet and it’s not a very good one.  By the way, PDF is the way to consume on the iPad.  Check out GoodReader to manage your files.

SharePoint Problems on the Web
The SharePoint web experience is very dismal as well.  It is best to say that it is NOT supported and let users be pleasantly surprised if content appears correctly.  Trust me, there are lots of pitfalls for the casual user navigating the troubled waters in the SLOW, LEAKY, anathema of a browser known as Mobile Safari.  You think I’m being a little hard?  Try reading this.  By the way, save your money on purchasing other iOS browsers.  They all seem to use the same web toolkit.  Here’s a brief list of unsupported features:

  • Unbelievably slow in what content it does render.
  • Modal window support is sketchy.  I’ve had it try to open Modal windows in a new browser window.  Modal windows are iFrames that SharePoint uses to keep you from transitioning to another page when pulling up a settings page for example.  The background greys out and a what appears to be a window will popup.  Very convenient if you’re NOT on iOS.
  • “Tags & Notes” is a modal that does manage to open but it takes about 3-5 minutes to render.  Basically, it’s unusable.  I gave up trying to post to it.
  • No SQL Server Reporting Service Web Parts due to plugin reliance.
  • No People Picker – even on InfoPath.
  • No Rich Text Editor support – therefore no editing web content.
  • No Silverlight (no Performance Point and PowerPivot Gallery).
  • No RSS feed web part support.  Mobile view is supported.
  • No upload.
  • BCS External List would not load in my tests.
  • Twitter widget in a Content Editor Web Part would not render.
  • Two finger scrolling required as frames do not render properly
  • See the DESKTOP Safari limitations for a more comprehensive list.  Just keep in mind that Mobile Safari has far more problems.

Essential Apps to Keep Your Sanity Online (while taking your work offline)

Apps to the rescue and actually the story is much better here.  They allow you take many of your documents offline and even sync later (if you dare to edit).  Having tried a few devices, the SharePoint story on iOS is actually the best out there when it comes to app support.  This includes Windows Phone 7 and it’s Office hub.

  • SharePlus – online and offline list and library browsing for both SharePoint 2007 and 2010.  This by far is the best app out there for SharePoint and well worth the money if you’ve got it deployed.
  • Filamente – similar to SharePlus – sketchy offline browsing.  Has better view/sorting support than SharePlus.
  • ReportsPro – an expensive way to view SSRS reports.  You can point it at a library in SharePoint 2010 and it will render a PDF version of the report.
  • DocumentToGo – good for viewing Office docs and some features for editing.
  • GoodReader – good for PDF viewing.
  • SkyFire – for displaying some flash files
  • HootSuite
  • Flipboard
  • AppAdvice
  • Kindle/Nook
  • DisplayLink – Extending your desktop on your iPad
  • Citrix and iTap – using your iPad as a remote client to desktop.  Remoting into your Windows client may seem like a good idea but in practice, it’s horrible.  Unless you’ve got tiny-pointy fingures, you’ll struggle with navigation.  Windows 7 is made for a mouse or stencil.  NOT the iPad stincil which is a waste of money due to lack of fidelity.

Prophet of Doom (or is that Xoom?)

I don’t see Microsoft catching up with Apple’s momentum in the tablet market.  With 60,000 apps targeted at the iPad,  it will take more than a fancy new Windows OS and hardware to make up the ground.  Just ask Android as it spins a new OS every quarter now but still offers a paltry assortment of tablet applications.  I also don’t see Apple making much headway into the Enterprise without significantly strengthening both the business consuming and productivity story.  I had high hopes for Android but it seems to be off to a bumbling start with malware and security problems.  The chance of Office integration on the Android seems remote as Google has been rather upfront in trying to kill Microsoft’s Golden Goose.  I think it’s far more likely that Microsoft begins selling Office on iOS – although this may spell certain doom for them in breaking into the mobile tablet market any time soon.

So here we stand…in limbo.  Like an awful episode of LOST, I feel both tortured and extremely pleased with my iPad.  My hope is that the combination of Apple losing market share to Android and Microsoft FINALLY realizing their tech-lag is outrageous will create an opportunity for an Apple-Microsoft partnership that the consumer will ultimately benefit from.  I guess I’ll go ride my Unicorn home now…CHARLIE??!

SharePoint 2010 Upgrade Presentation

•November 18, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Here are the slides outlining some tips and tools for upgrading SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010. 


Windows Phone 7 Takes a Bite Outta Apple’s SharePoint Integration

•November 17, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Over the past couple months I’ve been the proud owner of an iPhone, iPad, Droid 2 and now Windows Phone 7 (WP7). I have to admit that I still really enjoy and utilize my iPad the most mainly for data consumption. However, the business story on the iPad has been a miserable and frusterating revelation, fraught with productivity limitations as the discovery that this is NOT a laptop replacement came the hard way – blog to come soon.  Having said that, I’m very excited about Windows Phone 7’s (WP7) ability to do one thing my iPad cannot – integrate with SharePoint through the web browser.

I digress for a moment on the business case.  By far WP7’s strongest selling point is the uniqueness, simplicity and utilization of the interface.  It’s intuitive and provides the best presentation of information on any phone.  The phone literally puts “YOU” as the showcase feature by dynmically displaying pics and data of things you care about – family, friends, music, appointments and etc.  This fusion of personality into technology nearly guarantees that no two phones will look alike.  Additionally, the apps GET OUTTA THE WAY.  I often have my data surfaced without clicking an APP.  If you’ve ever had a Droid, the difference is striking.  No more maintenance of apps, processes and obsessive paranoia on battery life.

What’s really interesting is that it’s probably going to be casual phone user adoption that propels the WP7 platform rather than the Enterprise space.

What I Like:

  • Best interface presentation of any mobile device.
    • Incredibly responsive and performant
    • Social site integration (Facebook, LinkedIn and etc)
    • Tiles surfacing your data and pictures dynamically – this definitely passed the wife test.  She loves seeing her contact picture in the upper right corner as well as the random Facebook pics that float through the People Hub.
    • Hubs – intuitive grouping of applications presented splendidly
  • Application “Back” button
  • Xbox Live Integration
  • Zune Pass integration – to include downloading music directly to my phone (disconnected from PC)
  • Office Hub
  • Battery life for the Samsung Focus is good
  • WP7 IE7 support for SharePoint
  • Combining contacts from Exchange and Facebook (to include Facebook pics)
  • Wireless Sync between my phone and laptop!
  • AT&T network is MUCH better than my experience with Verizon.

What I Don’t Like:

  • Social notifications are missing – COME ON, REALLY?  It’s a tile driven phone and a developer couldn’t figure out how to surface a tweet?
  • Authentication requirements for SharePoint 2010 Workspace integration.  We’ve tried and it still does not work.  See business section below.
  • No dynamic way to update my podcasts – this is available for Droid as “Listen” and OOB for Apple platforms.
  • Browsing and clicking a link can be frustrating.  I often have to zoom to a specific level to click the link.
  • Lack of horizontal orientation on some views
  • I sometimes end up initiating a call when I didn’t mean to
  • Limited tethering:  USB only
  • Integration with social sites can require significant setup and configuration – some customers will be turned off by Windows Live account dependencies.
  • I had to brute-force install the driver to get my pc to recognize my phone in Zune.  This was after an hour on the phone with support (which failed me badly).
  • 2000 apps in MS Marketplace compared to better than 60,000 in each of the Apple and Android market
  • Multi-tasking is missing.  Not that big of a deal to me.
  • The following are rumored to be coming soon:
    • Flash
    • Cut & Paste

Ok, So What About Business?

This section is a work in progress as I have not thoroughly tested all features.  Excel, Word and PowerPoint on WP7 are a subset of the functionality available on the PC.  And in some cases, the “subset” is worse than apps that are available on the Apple platforms from preliminary testing.  Here are the advantages of the Apple platform over the WP7 platform:

  • SharePlus application provides the following for SharePoint:
    • Offline synchronization with SP2007 and SP2010
    • Support for both FBA and Windows Auth
    • Some search
    • Integration with other Apple Office Apps (in case one doesn’t display well) – Docs 2 Go, Numbers, Pages, Good Reader
  • I can annotate and modify PDFs on Apple’s platform
  • Reporting Services application for SSRS Reports
  • I can provide limited featured ppt presentations from KeyNote (at least on iPad)
  • Multiple email, including Exchange, can be combined into one client on Apple platforms (iOS 4.2 for iPad)
  • A plethora of business application mashups are available which enable creative ways to work around limitations

WP7 has two main SharePoint integration features – the Office Hub and IE7 browser.  In the Office Hub are the bread-and-butter business applications to include One Note, Excel, PowerPoint, Word and SharePoint 2010 Workspace.  Unfortunately, I have been unable to get Workspace to work even though we configured FBA.  Here’s an article detailing some of the authentication problems.  However, WP7 does have a major advantage in browsing SharePoint and probably other sites with the mobile browser based on IE7.  Not that the competition was very good as you can’t get much worse than Mobile Safari – which I’m convinced is Apple’s attempt to KILL web applications.  Here’s a list of unsupported and supported features for WP7 IE7:

  • Can upload pictures from phone using the Upload on a document library.  Perhaps can upload other content directly off the phone?
  • Can edit content in SharePoint – supports the Rich Text Editor.
  • Office Web App is supported (at least in Word).  Was able to edit a document but it was a little slow.  Also received a warning about downloading Silverlight.
  • Able to view and click in PowerPivot workbook in SharePoint.
  • No support for SSRS reports (Active X)
  • No support for Datasheet View (Active X)
  • Not all Silverlight is supported
    • PowerPivot Gallery failed to load.  Prompted to download Silverlight.
    • Performance Point Silverlight loaded

WP7 Tips:

  • To date, the Samsung Focus is the phone to buy.
  • Use Bing Visual Search for App Shopping
  • Go to to link social services with windows live.  This will personalize your phone upon first login.
  • Wireless sync must be configured.  Then your phone must be plugged into a charger for 10 minutes for syncs will occur.
  • Paul Thurrott is a great resource on phone setup and tips.

Overall, I love this phone.  The personalization is striking and unique to the smartphone market.  The people at Zune KNOW interfaces and have obviously worked very hard to make the WP7 owner look good.  I think this connection with the end user will go a long way in making up for any business feature shortcomings.  I hope that a tablet is in the near future for the Zune developers.

Overcoming iPad 3G and AT&T Screwage

•September 28, 2010 • 1 Comment

If you’re like me, your jaw hit the floor when you realized you’d have to pay at least $25 extra a month to use the 3G features on your iPad.  That was already on top of your $30 data plan with your phone.  Well, there are some OTHER options thankfully and we’ll explore them with this blog. 

If you haven’t decided on an iPad yet, this blog will help you significantly in making an informed decision.  When deciding on the type of iPad to get I chose the cheapest one I could find which would be a refurbished, 16GB, Wi-Fi only for the following reasons:

  • The refurbished was $50 less and came with the same warranty
  • I use my phone as my MP3 and podcast player so that saves quite a bit space
  • Applications typically don’t take up that much space
  • Samsung Galaxy (Android) and HP Slate (Win 7) are coming out along with a slew of other iPad-like devices. Competition and prices are sure to be volatile.
  • I saved $120 on not getting the 3G iPad (which I quickly blew on all manner of applications and accessories)
  • I can use a portable hotspot to make up for the 3G!

There are a variety of options when choosing the portable hotspot to replace the built-in 3G. What a typical hotspot will enable you to do is share a 3G/4G network with any number of devices (usually 4-8). Therefore your laptop, phone and iPad can benefit rather than just locking in with the 3G iPad. The devices and the monthly plans are EXPENSIVE in my opinion so choose wisely.

Option 1: Smart Phone or “Droid” Phone

Personally, I chose to go with a Verizon Droid 2 and saved quite a bit of money as well as obtained the ability to:

  • Connect multiple Wi-Fi devices to Verizon’s 3G network (2GB limitation) for $20 a month.  Compare that to the $50-60 range of option 3 below.
  • Upgrade my internal RAM via a SIM card.
  • Unlimited data plan for your phone is $30 – unlike AT&T’s new $25 2GB limited plan.
  • Display and stream flash technology.
  • Take advantage of some 60,000 FREE applications. (But who has that kind of time?)
  • Take pictures with 5 megapixle camera.
  • Synch to iTunes via Media Link application. (No DRM support)
  • Huge increase in functionality and significant decrease in eye candy when compared to the iPhone.

Option 2: AT&T iPhone Customer

AT&T just announced their new tethering service and data plans:

  • Unlimited data plans are being replaced with limited 2GB plans for $25 a month.  You can automatically purchase 1 GB for $10 if you go over.
  • Tethering is an additional $20 (so $45 total over standard phone service).  But you cannot tether from your iPhone to your iPad.
  • In Europe, it appears iPads may have the ability to tether soon. 
  • iPad 3G owners will have the option to switch to $25 – 2GB limited plan.  No tethering stateside with this plan yet. 

So stacked against the Droid option you have the following:

Scenario Data Plan Total Monthly Comments
  • iPhone + Tethering
  • iPad 3G
  • $25 2GB iPhone
  • $25 2GB iPad
  • $20 Tethering
$70 No iPad tethering supported. USB/Bluetooth is slower and shorter range
  • iPhone
  • iPad 3G
  • $25 2GB iPhone
  • $25 2GB iPad
$50 No tethering.
  •  iPad 3G Tethering


  • $25 2GB
~$45 Europe only (maybe).  Most convenient given different employee phone plans.
  • Droid
  • iPad WiFi
  • $30 Unlimited
  • $20 2GB Hotpot
$50 OPTIMAL.  Unlimited phone data plan.  WiFi is faster, longer range and supports multiple devices.

Finally, I would resist the urge to Jail Break + MyWi. Although it’s now legal to Jail Break, it’s probably not legal to circumvent AT&T’s tethering plan. You may risk getting shutdown or legal action.

Option 3: Wi-Fi Hotspot Device

With this option you can choose from any number of mobile hotpot devices like Spint’s Overdrive, Verizon’s MiFi and Clear’s iSpot. Usually they’ll let you connect multiple devices to take advantage of the 3G/4G network. Be careful on your choice as some have major GOTCHAS:

  • Clear’s iSpot is for iOS devices only – iPad, iPhone and etc.
  • Sprint’s Overdrive is EXPENSIVE because of the 4G most likely. However, there’s a ton of reviews complaining about how spotty/scarce the 4G network is. $60 for 3G access is terrible in my opinion.
  • Some devices are really expensive, ranging from $100-300.
  • Battery life on the phone hotspots is pretty low – around 2 hours for some and it depends on the number of devices you connect.

The information below is probably not 100% accurate for pricing. I provided a link to my source where possible but please do your own research.






Sprint Overdrive




Mobile device

Clear iSpot




iOS Only.
Mobile device, Coverage is very spotty.


Clear Spot 4G+




Mobile device, 2 year
contract. Also has $6 lease plan
instead of purchasing device. Any
Wi-Fi device.


Sprint Evo
Smart Phone (Android)




$30 for wifi

$? For unlimited data plan


Verizon MiFi




Mobile Device


Verizon Android Phone




$20 for wifi

$30 for unlimited data plan

iPad 3G via AT&T



$100+ over WiFi model

$15 250MB plan available


MyWi + Jailbreaking


iPhone data plan


Legal to jail break. Probably not legal to tether.


iPad for Gamers, Consultants and CIOs?

•September 27, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I’ll admit that I’ve been a huge skeptic of the iPad. From my lofty tower of techno-ego, I scoffed at the latest innovation from Apple. It seemed a step back or even a stumble from the great leap of progress that was the iPhone. As many blogs and reviews indicated, what the iPad did NOT do seemed more striking then what it did. No multi-tasking, no flash, no Silverlight, no CD/DVD drive, no significant HD capacity, no web cam, no Skype, no printing/scanning…just a larger iPod Touch that can browse the web, entertain with clever apps and provide Kindle-like experiences for the masses.  Not good for an ultra-power user/developer/consultant like myself however.

That is until I bought one for my wife on our anniversary. Actually, the real catalyst was watching a CIO of a client I currently work for enthusiastically buying a few for his company. As I preloaded the iPad with all the applications and tweaks I know my wife would love, I started to experiment with possible mashups that would help me with work and play.  Soon I was installing all manner of geek and productivity apps trying to find the pessimistic boundaries my preconceived notions had so confidently predicted. 

What I did find was amazing.  I was just blown away at how it boldly challenges you to think beyond the time-proven keyboard and mouse for productivity. How it makes getting at the information I need not only faster but more interesting and entertaining via a jaw-dropping presentation. It really makes some of the bleeding-edge interactive web sites out there look archaic and old-hat. The applications themselves are feature rich due to their fat-client integration and obvious liberation from HTTP/HTML. This adds an element of entertainment and appreciation for the aesthetics that are nigh-impossible with the web.  In my opinion, web apps have just as much to fear from the advent of the iPad as that of laptops.  This could definitely mean a revival of fat-client development like that of the 90’s but with dynamic web service backends. 

So rather than try to document what I’ve discovered empirically and that only after a few days of use, I’ll present a challenge for the Casual User, Consultant and CIO.

For the casual user (facebook user, tweeter, gamer, just news article reader), you merely have to give it a try. For you, I recommend the following applications:

  • Flipboard
  • Fluent News
  • USA Today
  • NPR
  • Loopt Pulse (local restaurants and events)
  • Epicurious (recipes)
  • Kindle or iBook
  • Free Wi-Fi Finder
  • The Weather Channel
  • WikiPanion
  • ABC Player
  • Netflix – yes, you can stream Netflix to your iPad
  • Pandora
  • NASA App HD
  • World Atlas HD
  • Splashtop – requires iPad and computer install

USA Today and Flipboard in particular have managed to make web news more discoverable while maintaining a traditional newspaper article feel that we all grew up with. You’ll undoubtedly be charmed by this nostalgic mix of magazine format along with the interactive videos sprinkled throughout. The presentation is just amazing and would be very difficult/rare/expensive to replicate on the web.

Also notice I included “Splashtop”. With this little app, you can stream flash, Silverlight, video and audio from any computer via a remote desktop interface. That means you could also play World of Warcraft (casually) or watch a DVD on your iPad if you’re on the same network as your beefy remote gaming machine. The iPad puts out far less heat and is obviously less bulky than both laptops and netbooks.  There may or may not be some lag here depending on your wireless network.  Invest in the Wireless N capabilities to optimize.

For the consultant, I’d recommend only the following applications:

  • Desktop Connect
  • Air Display – requires iPad and computer install
  • Documents to Go
  • SharePlus Office Mobile Client – SharePoint 2007/2010 synchronizer for iPad

Imagine going to a client brief with only your sleek iPad. You give your presentation using a PowerPoint you created on your laptop but synched with Documents to Go or SharePlus. You also use this app to display your presentation throughout an iPad-to-VGA connector. Part of your presentation is over configuration, so you remote into a demo server via Desktop Connect. Using your iPad features, you’re able to zoom into various aspects of the desktop by mere finger gestures. Bring a blue tooth keyboard if you’d like. The presentation was so successful that more requirements emerged with you quickly took down using Word or your favorite notes utility. You synch the notes back to your laptop and then go back to the cramped little cube the client provided you. Rather than ask for a much needed dual display, you use “Air Display” to wirelessly extend your laptop desktop onto your iPad. Additionally, with SharePlus Office Mobile Client, you can readily synch and search document libraries and lists from your iPad – online as well as offline.

For the CIO, I leave you with one thought that occurred to me during this brief experiment – anticipatory problem solving. As part of my consulting firm, we’re encouraged to keep up on blogs, twitter and other sources for the latest in the ever changing landscape of technology. Often we’ll find solutions way before we hit the problem which dramatically enhances our problem solving and productivity. I assert that the company which figures out how to encourage their employees to consistently do this AND provides them the most efficient tools to do so, will have a significant edge when grappling with the dynamic arenas like information technology, R&D, Sales and Marketing and etc.

Other tid-bits I found useful:

  • The iPad will not charge from USB 2.0 with the screen on.  With it off, you might get 60% off of 8 hours.  It requires 10W for the charge so plan to plug it into the wall.
  • Wireless N is supported.
  • When choosing the case, you might want to start with the cheap apple black case.  It’s the thinnest and provides some very useful configurations.  The Apple reps say it’s the most popular despite being the standard.
  • Don’t feel you have to buy the blue-tooth keyboard.  Try to use the onscreen key board.  It’s a decent match for home row in my opinion.
  • Bluetooth is supported so wireless headsets are nice.

So for the next month, the challenge to myself will be putting my money where my mouth is. I will attempt to eat my own dog food and rely significantly on my iPad for my day-to-day consultant gigs. I’ll write a follow-up blog in one month with my findings.  Of course I’ll have to wait until mine arrives in the mail. My wife has banned me from even looking at hers.

Btw – I did a ton of research on finding the best Wi-Fi Hotspot solution here.  May be worth the read if you want to save some bucks.