The DorobekINSIDER iPad review: Will you see them in government?

Tuesday - 4/6/2010, 2:00am EDT

There has been a ton written about the Apple iPad, of course — and I’ve pulled some of the better stories about the iPad together below… but yes, I was one of the 300,000 people who got an iPad on day one.

Apple iPadRegular readers know I’m a gadget guy — and Apple has done a pretty remarkable job at being innovative and transformational. (Fortune magazine late last year named Steve Jobs as the CEO of the decade — and it is difficult to argue with their assessment after reading the article.)

Of course, the iPod was remarkable because it created a market. None of us dreamed of carrying thousands of songs around with us — and now we can’t imagine being without our playlist. But even more, he created a way to sell music digitally in a way that other organizations have failed.

And the iPhone was transformational for scores of reasons… because it put the power of a computer in your palm… because of the remarkable applications, including, of course, the Federal News Radio app.

So I was there Saturday — not first thing in the morning, but by late in the day.

The CJD first impression of the iPad: It is a remarkable device, but I’m not sure its revolutionary in the way the iPod and iPhone were.

One of the better discussions was on the PBS NewsHour. On that program, the WSJ’s Walt Mossberg and Stanford University’s Paul Saffo discussed what I think is the core question: Where does this fit in the computing marketplace.

Mossberg: I think people have to perceive it as something that allows them to leave their laptop home or not open it around the house for, you know, maybe not 100 percent of the things they do on their laptop, but for more than half a lot of the time. I know those are vague terms, but that’s the way I kind of think about it.

So, if you use your laptop for mostly surfing the Web, consuming media, you know, doing e-mail, and then doing maybe a little light content creation, say, a school paper or something, and you decide that you’re comfortable doing it on this, this thing will take off the way Paul says.

And if not enough people feel that way, and just think it’s an extra burden to carry, then I — that’s the risk Apple is taking. But, as he points out, Apple is a little different than some of these other companies. It takes really big risks. And many of them that he listed have paid off. A few haven’t. And we’re going to see.

And I think that is true for government agencies as well. I can imagine Census workers using an iPad like device in 2020… or law enforcement personnel… jobs that are very mobile… But for most of us who use a laptop, will it do away with the laptop? My first impression is… probably not. At least for me right now, the keyboard simply isn’t usable enough to replace my laptop. (The return key ends up being right at my right pinkie finger, so I end up hitting the return key over and over again.)

Apple does have a keyboard doc that might help me make that step toward replacing my laptop. We’ll see…

The other issue: WiFi… I’d get a 3G wireless version. The device is much less usable without an Internet connection — and there are still just not enough WiFi hot spots out there.

How might government use these devices?

There are two ways. One, of course, is externally — reaching out to citizens. There are a number of government iPhone applications — OhMyGov has their 11 favorites — and, of course, there is the WhiteHouse.gov iPhone app. FastCompany reports that eGovernment developing firm NIC is the first company to develop government focused iPad applications.

The other way government can use these devices is internally… and this might be where the Census could use these devices. Imagine if Census could just develop an iPad application rather then failing to develop their own handheld.

And, by the way, the TSA blog has a post about whether you need to take your iPad or Kindle out of your bag when you go through airport security. In short — you don’t.