A couple of weeks ago I travelled to Melbourne over night for  focus groups.  I would normally bring my laptop with me on these types of trips – I am my only staff member, and work needs to be done when I’m not in the office.  What made this trip special was I decided to take a bit of a walk on the wildside…

…Instead of the shoulder breaking, security screening nightmare that is travel with a laptop, I decided to see if I could cope with just an iPad…

It was a mixed result – connectivity wise I was fine – through the combination of iPhone and iPad I had email, web, calls, text covered – but productivity wise, a slightly different story.

So for those contemplating taking the leap – this is what I found worked well, not so well and where I’m still looking for a better solution (suggestions welcome!!)

What worked well?
  • Connection – email, phone, web access (as long as flash isn’t required!)
  • Scheduling – iPad calendar had me in the right place at the right time
  • Moderating – in theory, one could use your iPad as a discussion guide (and I have done so on one occasion when I got to an interview and had misplaced my hard copy discussion guide!).  I’ve also found it an impressive way to show stimulus in a one-on-one setting – but I think it is important to consider your audience for this (iPad stimulus impressive in a B2B context but could be intimidating with older/ less tech savvy types)
  • Note-taking – combine SoundNote with my blue tooth keyboard and I’m a note-taking machine!  This app records the conversation as you type and when you go back through your notes, if you touch on a particular word, it will take you to that part of the recording.  Genius for note-taking in focus groups (from the other side of the glass!)
  • Entertainment – videos, music, podcasts and kindle had me covered here (ok, not so work related, but still important!).
  • Reading / accessing documents – cloud computing services like DropBox and (the near defunct) MobileMe mean I can access important documents from my iPad over the net. Keynote, Pages, Numbers & PDF viewers mean that I can open them, read them, and potentially edit them….  very handy in theory
Where things fell down?
  • Editing / formatting – I’m a formatting freak – I like things neat and tidy and ordered. So editing and formatting documents using Keynote, Pages and Numbers is a not cutting it for me.  These apps do not have the same formatting functionality as the computer based programs – despite how pretty the templates look!  So when operating on iPad alone, I will be limited to very simple text based documents I think.
  • Accounting – I currently run MYOB, which is installed on my laptop.  I’m not aware of an iPad friendly accounting app yet – but this could be important for longer trips (a girl still needs to be paid!)
I’m heading OS for two weeks in October and I don’t want to take the laptop – however I think a few more trial runs will be necessary before I am comfortable running my little business from the iPad alone.  So if you have any tips or tricks of things that have worked well for you when travelling – I’d love to hear them!