More thoughts on the iPad…

A colleague who read my iPad posts, asks:

1) Would you use an iPhone as well as an iPad or could you get away with an iPad a simpler smartphone / phone? .

Strange you should ask that. I was wondering it myself the other day. Especially as I have a BlackBerry that is perfectly adequate for most purposes, several Nokia eSeries devices I could use instead, and an Android phone I would really like to find time to play with – so why would I get an iPhone too (especially as I didn’t actually pay for any of those other devices). Yet I still find myself tempted every time I see one.

One challenge is: I don’t always want to carry a bag – and the iPad doesn’t fit in my pocket. If I don’t go out expecting to use the iPad (e.g. going to the coffee shop to catch up with my social network or read the newspaper) then I don’t always want to carry it with me. But there is almost nothing that the iPad doesn’t do better than an iPhone would … well, apart from making calls of course … and taking photographs … and videos … and fitting in my pocket.

So, I would use the iPad for preference when I am carrying both … but I would carry an iPhone when I would not carry an iPad.

Let’s face it … (sacrilegious though it is) … one SmartPhone is pretty much as good as another for most purposes. It’s like deciding whether you want a basic BMW 3-series, or an M3 (or, indeed, my old 840). Who wouldn’t want the M3? But the reason for choosing it instead has nothing to do with getting from A to B.

Image … Brand … Style … and that warm feeling inside that I used to feel when I came round the corner and saw my 840 sitting there waiting for me. It was summed up in the MasterCard advert … Priceless.

Of course, the BlackBerry or Android or some of the Nokia Smartphones have their own brand image too … and it is going to be really interesting to see what RIM can do with the "BlackPad" and Nokia when their Tablet devices appear … as well as what innovative startups can do with Android on Tablets. Each will have its own brand image … and appeal to people wanting another style.

The iPad is really my only Apple device. There is a MacBook sitting on the table … but I bought it for M not me. There is a lifestyle decision to be made – buy into the Apple brand proposition, and then it make sense to be MacBook and iPhone and iPad (and Apple TV and ….) But you need to accept that it is a form of (voluntary) lock-in. An easy life. Devices that just work … and work together.

I don’t mind that – after all, given the choice (and ignoring cost) I would always buy BMW, or a Bang & Olufsen…

But there is a little devil sitting on my shoulder screaming about openness too. I don’t care about that in cars, or Hi-Fi’s – there I am just a user – but I do care (a little) when it comes to IT.

So I probably wont buy 100% into Apple until I retire.

Until then … it is hard to justify investing in an iPhone when I could do 80% of what I would do with it on an iPad plus any of the SmartPhones in my drawer.

So I won’t invest my own money in a work MacBook either (… but if IBM ever offers to buy me one, then I will jump at the chance!)

2) How does the iPad fit in with the IBM LN Traveller? See also IBM iPhone special offer!

Lotus Notes Traveler support the iPad.

It uses the built in e-mail/calendar/contacts client (basically the support Apple built in to talk to Exchange). So the existing support Notes Traveller had for the iPhone exploits the iPad perfectly. Like the iPhone, the iPad supports multiple mail accounts, and these exist separately from (but in parallel to) any private mail accounts. So you can switch between private and business inboxes as you wish.

I am not sure what IBM UK will offer for employees wanting to access their e-mail from a privately owned Apple devices. I am hoping that once the service is up it will be open to everyone, not just people who subscribe to the IBM-Vodafone iPhone scheme. In which case it will just work with the iPad.

You will need to install a security profile on the device to confirm to IBM Security rules (password strength, automatic locking, etc.), and I am not sure how device wipe will work on an iPad. Initially the service will probably be limited to e-mail access, due to some security concerns about allowing generic w3 access (which would allow use of Lotus Connections, Lotus Sametime, etc.) But I am hopeful that we will find a way to relax that over time.

The IBM CIO’s strategy is clearly to allow private Smartphones to be used for business purposes. This is a natural extension of the existing strategy that most IBM employees use home broadband so it does not make sense for IBM to pay for it. Similarly, most employees will want a personal Smartphone, so it makes sense for IBM to allow them to use that instead of dictating and funding a SmartPhone choice. This is already permitted with personally funded Apple laptops.

3) Can you conjugate an APPLE device?

Absolutely (or rather, my son can – he is the Latin expert in the family … I didn’t learn Latin at school).

Hence I am iPadding a blog post now while the lady at the next table iPhones the web to research the MiFi device I told her about, and a few of weeks ago I iPadded this post about my PaddyBag.

The iPod Touch is a but harder to conjugate however (and, I still think, a branding aberration by Apple).

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My iPad, My Way with MiFi

I’ve had my Vodafone MiFi adapter for just over a week now, so I thought it was time to write about it.

(For non-geeks in the audience, MiFi is a like a personal WiFi hot spot. Or like a mobile phone with no keypad/microphone/speaker that can act as a Wireless LAN hot-spot. It uses a SIM Card and 3G connections to provide the Internet connection. So you can connect your iPad to it and get online – without needing any physical connections at all – just wireless).

When I originally got the iPad I decided to go MiFi instead of going for a 3G enabled model. That way, I only need one SIM (and fee) and get WiFi access from my various laptops as well as the iPad (a colleague even accesses his MiFi from his Smartphone as the phone blocks VoIP over 3G – but it works if he goes via the MiFi.,

The Vodafone device is very sleek (in fashionable iPod white), and about the size of a deck of playing cards, as they say (maybe a bit smaller, and not so thick). So ti slips easily in the pocket or bag, and then you can forget about it (as all connections are wireless). As soon as I had recharged it (mini-USB connector, the same as my BlackBerry and Plantronics Bluetooth headset – that is great as with one adapter (from the iPad) and two cables I can recharge (and connect) all my gadgets when on the road, Vodafone claims 4 hours use from one charge (which seems to match my experience). And you can trickle charge it (or keep it charged) with a USB connection to the laptop (and in that case, you can turn wireless off as it connects via the USB using the software provided).

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Having set it up (and defined an SSID and pass phrase), I connected via Wi-Fi from the Ipad, my Tablet PC (Windows XP), my Acer Aspire Netbook (Ubuntu) and even my ThinkPad (Windows XP – that took a PC reboot, but it had been running for quite a while without a reboot and its wireless LAN tends to get confused, in my experience).

It just worked. Without fuss or problems. And has ever since.

I am just as irritated as ever that 3G is not reliable on the train (I have the same problem trying to Twitter from my BlackBerry), but it is great to be able to whip out the iPad and be online. I used Google Maps with Location Services to find my way to the station through Cambridge last week (is that using GPS in the iPad or the MiFi – I am not sure – the thing is, it just works!).

The device also takes a MicroSD (not provided – fortunately I had a spare) and from a browser you can upload files which anyone connected to your hot-spot can then download (I am sure there is a use for that, but the HTTP upload/download process is a bit cumbersome – it is a shame it doesn’t just appear as a USB device on your PC desktop when tethered).

So, overall, 5 stars – it does exactly what I wanted, very simply.

Getting Stuff Done

I just came off a call with Rashik Parmar and a small group of IBM colleagues who are thinking about how we can make our colleagues more effective in the way they collaborate by reducing the volume of e-mail they receive and need to process. Anyone familiar with Luis Suarez and his personal project A World Without E-Mail.

Based on work Rashik has done in this area, we are starting on a personal three part exercise:

  1. Filter: Automatically categorise routine mail and place it in folders suing rules. Unsubscribe from mailing lists you do not need and switch to an RSS Reader where that is more appropriate.

    Automatic categorisation makes perfect sense for me as it mirrors what I already do – manually moving such mail to a “To Read” folder when doing my initial pass through my mail, and going and reading it later (if and when I have time) – even if I know there are many messages I will never go and read, it is simply psychologically easier to file them that to delete them. Automatic filing via a rule is often also easier than unsubscribing.

    Personally, I plan to try categorising this mail into a number of folders – since that is just as easy for the rules, but it makes it easier to differentiate mailing lists that I really should go and read (but not now) vs. lists that are interesting (but I don’t really have to read) vs. those which are on a topic I don’t care about now (but might care about at some point in the future – and may want to catch up with then).

    Note that automatic filing does not reduce mailbox size – but I don’t have a problem with that as a combination of automatic filing of attachments and automatic archiving of old mails keeps my mailbox size under control (if not the archive size!)

    I have to admit, I have never really got on with RSS Readers. Part of the problem is that they become a second inbox – and (for me) needing to check two places is worse than overloading one. The Notes inbox has lots of tools (folders, flags, rules, archiving, free text search, swiftfile, … and even a form of tagging) for handling everything that comes in, and I am dissatisfied with having to cope with another way of doing some of that. So my history is littered with RSS readers I used to subscribe to a bunch of content, and then neglected. But maybe I will try again.

  2. Learn. Think for each e-mail: is an e-mail the right way to respond to this, or should I Sametime or Phone – or Blog and answer and send a link.

    It is important to realise that different people prefer different communications mechanisms. Personally, I don’t like telephone conversations – there is no “click to add to Activity” button, and having to take notes every time just adds to the effort required (thank goodness for my headsets!) Maybe if my memory was better it would be different. But there are people (why is it mostly salesmen?) from whom I never get e-mails, just voice mails (fortunately delivered to me as e-mails!)

    I already try to prune copy lists when I Reply All (and, of course, omit the attachments), and I use Sametime a lot. I will try to increase both of those things, and also try hard to blog responses when that is possible (although it still seems to me that I spend far too much of my time working without an effective network connection – we really need to figure out how to make wireless access work effectively on trains and finally deliver access on planes).

  3. Switch. Use Activities more instead of e-mail threads. Use Connections more for Collaboration overall.

    Yes, that suffers from the Offline problem too… and even more from the “another inbox” problem. I need far better tools to manage the 75 Activities currently on my active list. So I will have another go with taking selected Activities offline (I gave up because Notes 8.0 had definite restrictions in that area – which are hopefully fixed now).

    But there is still a little voice in the back of my head reminding me that the effort required to click on the link in a notification about an updated Activity is definitely a drop in productivity compared to reading an e-mail – especially as, in many cases, it is not clear from the Activities Notification exactly what the sender expects me to do. I think we need to work on promoting best practices for use of Activities too (a reminder that I put that project on a To Do list once, but never got around to doing anything about it).

    Incidentally, if we were inventing Activities now, would we still allow the inclusion of files in Activities – shouldn’t all be in Connections Files and linked from the Activity? What is needed is a dialog to upload a file to Files from the context of Activities.

So: Phase 1, analyse how much e-mail I receive each day during this week (to define the “from” state”. Phase 2, implement the steps above. Phase 3, evangelise the success I have to colleagues and co-workers.

It was really interesting in the discussion that “Getting Things Done” is clearly a great source of ideas for steps to take – although many people (me included) would find it difficult to move over to a structured mechanism like that. It is valuable as a source of inspiration and techniques, but what we need are a series of success stories that can inspire others and role models who can educate their colleagues rather than some sort of formal process to be adopted (Phew! Let’s hope we can avoid someone deciding to build a formal process out of this!)

Maybe I can get some traction around the mre vague concept of “Getting Stuff Done”.