By now, most business travelers have come into contact with an iPad. Even if not, you're almost certainly familiar with the product and the concept. It's a sleek, highly mobile computing device, and increasingly, consumers are opting for an iPad instead of a laptop when the time comes to replace the latter.
I've spent entirely too much time on both laptops and iPads over the past few years, and I fully understand how daunting the idea of swapping one for the other truly is. After all, the iPad doesn't run a "real" operating system, doesn't have a USB expansion port, and lacks a conventional keyboard. At a glance, it seems as if attempting to use an iPad in place of a laptop may be a recipe for frustration and disappointment. Thankfully, that's not the case.
There's no question that using an iPad instead of a laptop will result in compromise, but some of that is positive. For instance, you'll gain portability and battery life, and you'll be able to leave your iPad in your briefcase when passing through the TSA (it's the minor victories that cause so much joy!). On the other hand, you lose a proper file system and a physical keyboard, but I've got a few tips for tricking your iPad into thinking its an actual computer.
Before you spring for one of those snazzy Smart Cases from Apple, I'd recommend sinking that investment into a keyboard case. The $100 ZAGGfolio is a folding case that includes a physical keyboard. You'll still have to tap the screen, as the iPad won't accept mouse input, but pecking away at your inbox becomes a lot easier. For the same price, Logitech's Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad offers similar functionality, but its case adds a battery pack for boosting your run time by some six hours. In either case, you'll end up with a device that is far more usable in a coach airline seat, and Gogo in-flight internet service works perfectly with iPads.
As for managing work and pleasure on a device with no "desktop" or file structure, I've got a few tips there as well. For starters, I'd opt for Apple's built-in Mail app or the $2.99 Sparrow app. Both of these will allow you to download your e-mail messages while you have a connection, and then respond even if you're offline. Once you reconnect, anything you've composed will be shot out at once.
Beyond that, it's worth setting up your files at home to save on a cloud storage platform. I'd recommend Dropbox or Google Drive, simply because both of these options are available across operating systems. You can save a file into your online Google Drive repository on your work PC, and then access that file on your iPad, iPhone, or Android device.
No doubt, there will be some cases where an actual computer is necessary to complete specific tasks or use certain complex programs. But for managing e-mail, communications, and social networking, the iPad will suffice. And, it'll make your load that much lighter, too.