Three Questions You Should Ask Before You Buy an iPad 2

The iPad 2 goes on sale at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, March 11. If Apple’s other product launches are any indication, there will be long lines of eager consumers eager to snatch up Apple’s latest electronic candy. But do you really need one?

Apple iPad 2

I bought the original iPad. Admittedly, I am a sucker for new gadgets—especially those from Apple. While I initially took the iPad everywhere with me, I found myself leaving it behind more and more. Part of the problem was that I still needed my laptop to do the work I couldn’t easily do on my iPad.

I eventually stopped using my iPad. My laptop could do everything the iPad could, but the iPad could not do everything my laptop could. I eventually gave the iPad to a colleague at Thomas Nelson. (I since picked up an Amazon Kindle 3, which I love. I like a dedicated e-reader for reading rather than a multi-function device. I don’t need more distractions to keep me from reading.)

Should you buy the new iPad 2? Maybe. But not before you answer three questions:

  1. What kind of computer user are you? It seems to me that computer users fall into three categories:
    • Media Consumer: These are users who mostly consume media. The iPad is a fantastic device for this kind of user. You can consume media of all types: movies, books, web surfing, etc. If this describes you, the iPad may be the perfect device.
    • Digital Contributor: These are users who are more than consumers. They also contribute and collaborate via the web. They read and respond to email, blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. The iPad is a decent device for this. The software keyboard is more clumsy than a physical one, and it doesn’t have all the features I have grown accustomed to. I especially miss my keyboard shortcuts and special typographic characters.
    • Content Creator: These are users who create content. In addition to consuming media and collaborating via the web, they also create content. This includes serious bloggers, book authors, graphic artists, videographers, etc. Yes, there are applications to do all these things. (Heck, you can do most of these things on your iPhone.) But, in my experience, it requires way more work.
  2. Do you have the time to invest in the learning curve? The iPad is super easy to use. The touch interface is elegant. But there is still a learning curve. At the very least your keyboard muscle memory will have to be retrained. And the software is slightly different, even for familiar applications. You will likely take a step back in productivity before you can take a step forward.
  3. Are you willing to change your workflow? This is the key for me. You may not be conscious of it now, but you have a workflow—a way you get your work done with your computer. How will this change with an iPad? Will you use the iPad for certain tasks and your laptop or desktop for others. If you don’t think this through, you will end up adding to your workflow and becoming less efficient.

For now, I will stick with my MacBook Air. It is the best computer I have ever owned. It’s not that much bigger than an iPad 2, and it does everything I need a computer to do.

How about you?

Question: Do you plan to buy an iPad? If so why? If not, why not? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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