Hooked on Tablet Computing

Hooked on my PlayBook

Hooked on my PlayBook

As I was skimming through my regular list of blogs in my news reader I came across an article by Brian Hopkins of Forrester entitled “Are Your Employees Doing This?” where Brian describes his coffee shop interactions with a young woman. The young woman was using a 5×7 tablet and a smartphone feverishly. Feel free to read Brian’s article for the full details of the exchange, but what struck me is how quickly I identified with the notion that as tablet computing improves, the need for traditional laptops loaded with productivity software will rapidly diminish. I already find myself leaving my netbook in my laptop bag for days at a time in favor of my tablet rather than booting that netbook at the start of every day.

As I posted a few weeks back here, I finally made the leap into tablet computing. I picked up a Blackberry PlayBook tablet and linked it with my Blackberry Curve 9330 phone and put it through its paces. I then described my positive initial setup experience prior here. Now that I have been using it for a few weeks, I thought I would expand upon my initial thoughts on how the introduction of tablet computing into my daily routine is panning out.

In a phrase: I am completely hooked and would be hard pressed to give up my PlayBook.

I am very surprised at how quickly I’ve adopted tablet computing into my daily routine. I pretty much take my tablet everywhere. As I mentioned prior[], I have a brief train ride as part of my primary office compute. That train ride now flies by as I am reading and watching all sorts of Internet content while crammed in my seat. Time passes so quickly that I need to force myself to check what station the train is arriving at in order to make sure I don’t miss my stop. The Internet tethering speed at 3G isn’t blazing fast, but reading web content is quick enough that I don’t particularly mind.

Beyond the daily commute, I now take the tablet with me to all meetings and take all notes on the tablet rather than carry my paper notepad portfolio I’ve used years. I have completely switched to full on digital note taking plus secure remotely accessing company email and calendar viewing without any negatives thus far. I still carry my old portfolio “corporate pacifier” in my laptop bag to and from work but I don’t take it out of the bag. I still take my netbook in my bag but instead of using it daily, I now only use it when I need to access data I haven’t yet converted to tablet accessibility.

Productivity-wise, I’m very impressed with the “apps” I’ve been able to add to my PlayBook to make it so useful. As you can probably tell from my blog posts, I’m a pretty basic user of computing resources and have yet to feel compelled to install any games or pure entertainment “apps”. Below are the primary additions to the basic tablet functionality that I’ve found have made the PlayBook such a useful device for me:

VNC

I found the free IMTVNC application to deliver exactly what I need when it comes to quickly remotely connecting to one of my home systems, seeing the screen display and supporting basic keyboard and mouse interactions. A touch device trying to emulate a keyboard and mouse device is clunky no matter what the device or remote program, but for basic checking in on a system and issuing a few simple commands, it does the job.

SSH

With the addition of the Telnet/SSH application, I am able to use my all time favorite, simple open source ssh client putty. It appears as if all of the functions of putty have been replicated in this app. I am even able to connect over the Internet to my home Ubuntu server and tunnel in VNC and web browser requests for complete, secure remote access to my home systems. Once connected, the Telnet/SSH app runs in the background and maintains those secure port to port tunnels just like putty does on a regular desktop/laptop system.

RSS

After experimenting with multiple web based and native application based RSS news feed readers, I’ve found WebReader to be the excellent. The native application very much takes advantage of the touch based tablet user experience. The complete synchronization with Google Reader allows me to move between WebReader on the PlayBook and Google Reader on any laptop/PC and manage subscriptions as well as what I’ve read, not read yet and flagged for later reading. The article reading is highly optimized for the low bandwidth tethered connection on the moving train. The app is highly responsive to my near spastic finger touches on the tablet as I skim articles and quickly navigate through marking the status of the flood of messages coming at me.

Twitter – Blaq

I haven’t settled on a native Twitter client for the long hall. I’ve tried quite a few and currently am finding that Blaq is exceptionally well done for following a single twitter account. The only current complaint is the near real-time Twitter updates are great when I am caught up and ready to read the newest tweets. But, if I step away or navigate away from the app, upon returning, I seem to get stuck with no additional time-line updates. There is a good chance, as a user, I am doing something wrong, but I frequently find myself closing the program in order to re-open it to get caught up on missed and arriving tweets. I need a client that keeps your current place in the time-line, collects new tweets periodically and allows scrolling up/down through the time-line. I’m still using Blaq in the hope I will discover my user error, but if anyone can suggest another simple native client, I’d like to keep trying for Twitter utopia.

AIR Browser

For simple file navigation such as managing uploaded videos, music and podcast file, I’ve found the AIR Browser to be exceptionally clean and effective. It starts file navigation at the “media” shared folder level and doesn’t allow you to go into native system files. Yet, for simple file management, the clean interface and completely intuitive navigation makes this a must have for my file management needs.

I’ve tried a number of different apps but so far, those above are the main apps I’ve come to rely on for making my tablet computing so effective. As you can tell, I’m a very basic tablet user. I’m looking forward to the release of the PlayBook OS v2.0 in hopes that RIM has used their almost full year of development to significantly improve the PlayBook which I’ve come to rely on already as a must have, daily computing device.

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