One unexpected reason why I like my new iPad

3G apple-ipadEvery couple of weeks, in the free hour between my afternoon yoga class and evening men’s group, I head to the local library to work on my laptop.

Until yesterday.

Having just received a new 3G iPad, I left my heavy MacBook Pro behind and brought the iPad for its first test outside the office. I also brought Apple’s Keyboard Dock which combines a solid external keyboard with a convenient stand that holds the iPad upright. The combination was less than a quarter of the weight of my old laptop. Nice!

Here’s what surprised me while working at the library desk. The iPad, like the iPhone and iPod Touch, does one thing at a time. To switch apps you have to press the Home button, which suspends what you’re working on, and pick the next app. Writing an outline in Simplenote for an upcoming presentation and want to check your e-mail? Press Home, touch Mail, read mail, then press Home, touch Simplenote. Annoying, right? After all, any inexpensive netbook can run several programs at once and flip between them with a single mouse click.

Well, actually, I liked using the iPad better because I got more work done.

On the iPad, the app you’re currently using takes up the whole screen, so I wasn’t aware that more email or Tweets or stock price changes or new blog comments or <enter what distracts me here> had arrived. So I was able to concentrate on what I was working on. And the extra press/touch needed to switch apps acted as a small but significant disincentive to frequently multitask—so I stayed in my outline much longer than I would have done if I’d been using my laptop.

Yes, I admit it; I could use my laptop in exactly the same way if I was more disciplined. But, usually, I’m not. So this behavior of the iPad environment works for me in a situation when I want to stay focused on doing one thing.

I should be clear; the iPad isn’t going to be the optimum platform for all my work. When I’m moderating a chat, and need a Twitter client open plus multiple browser windows to research topics that surface, the iPad is not going to be my preferred computing platform (though dedicating it to one app during the session might well be useful). But my brief experiment confirmed that, for much of what I do away from the office, the iPad is a viable, and in one way superior, platform for getting things done.

Would using an iPad help you get things done better? Or would your life benefit more from the continuous availability of a multitasking computing environment?