"We'll have to send it out to a service facility," said the Apple Store rep. "What kind of turnaround time are we talking about"? I asked. "Probably no more than 5 days." Immediately I began calculating. Let's see, today is Wednesday, so three more work days. What do I have coming up? I need to give a presentation this evening on Internet safety to kids and their parents. Heading to New Jersey tomorrow morning for a meeting, but only need a way to take notes. I will definitely need to edit SharePoint data. And I've got to edit and finish that statement of work for a customer. Okay, could I really do everything I needed to do in my job using only an iPad?
So first things first: use Safari on the iPad to book the Amtrak reservation. Done. No challenge expected there. My presentation for the evening was already loaded into Keynote. Check. Video adapters for the iPad. Check. Using SafeSync, and the SafeSync app for the iPad, I have access to the folder of all the consulting services documents I work with every day. Check. Wait, not so fast. I can access the documents, and read them, but SafeSync doesn't currently have an "Open with.." feature that will allow me to edit in the app of my choice. Need another option.
Chapter 1: Editing Office Docs
I've got a few Word docs that I need to edit, you remember, that statement of work? I've got Pages on the iPad, but it won't handle all the formatting correctly. And since my laptop would be unavailable, none of my VNC apps would help. I decided to try a new service called OnLive Desktop. Essentially the company offers you a virtual Windows desktop preloaded with Microsoft Office apps. Perfect, I thought. I'll just load the docs into that site and off I go. But wait, how can I get to the docs? This is when the first limitation of the iPad reared its head: even though Apple updated the software to allow you to sync without being tethered to a Mac, you still need to use iTunes or wifi to move documents into the apps with which you'd like to edit them (or use a service like DropBox). But even if I had put all the docs I needed to work on somewhere in "the cloud", I still needed to edit them in Microsoft Word, plain and simple. So I "cheated" a little, but don't worry, it won't affect the "experiment" because I could have done this in preparation for being without the laptop.
I took my Time Machine drive, plugged it into my wife's Mac, and copied the files I needed to her machine. Then I logged into my OnLive Desktop account and attempted to upload the files using Safari. No joy. In the middle of the upload I got an empty browser window and no further activity. Checking the OnLive site, the files were there but listed as 0KB and were indeed empty. Using live chat I talked to a support rep for OnLive who suggested I try with another browser. I fired up Firefox and made another attempt. This time I got a message saying the upload was completed successfully. But when I checked the site, the files were again empty. The support rep opened a case, and we hung up.
Just for kicks I decided to download Google Chrome to my wife's laptop and try one more time. This time the upload went very quickly and Chrome showed me the files with their actual sizes, something neitherof the other browsers did. Could this be it? Aboard the Amtrak Acela I fired up the OnLive Desktop app, and attempted to log in. No love. Turns out Amtrak offers free wifi on board, but with restrictions. The OnLive service must count as a streaming service, which is blocked. When I got home, I fired up OnLive Desktop, and viola! The files were there. I am now working on a virtual desktop, editing the statement of work I needed to finish in Microsoft Word. Of course, the requirement is that I'm connected to the Internet. If I were not, then apps like QuickOffice HD might have worked, but I like the idea of having "the real thing" available to me.
Chapter 2: Calendar Invites - To accept or not to accept...
While on board the train, I received some meeting invites. Here's another area for improvement in the iOS. Your choices for meeting invites in iCal are Accept, Maybe, and Decline. But none of the choices allow you to add comments. Many times I want to add comments to my selection, but I cannot. So usually I either wait until I'm back at my laptop to process the invite or I send back the response on my iGadget and follow it up with an email to the inviter explaining my response. Not ideal.
Chapter 3: SharePoint
My team keeps its data in SharePoint and accessing it requires being connected to the company VPN. Two apps do the trick: Junos Pulse for the VPN connection (also not allowed aboard Amtrak), and SharePlus Pro for SharePoint access and editing of data. So I can view, sort, edit, all good. Except I can't upload a document to a record without that document already being attached to the app. And where do you do that? iTunes of course, on the laptop that is at the Apple Store Hospital getting new innards. There is another option, you can transfer files via WiFi, but you have to transfer them from your computer. Lesson learned. You really need to prepare by having all the documents you need or think you'll need available to the apps in which you'll be working with them. Many apps can access Dropbox. This one cannot so I'm out of luck. Another problem: I need to create a new iShare record for a customer and I need their ID out of our CRM, Siebel. Mobile Safari cannot be used to access Siebel, so I cannot accomplish this task either.
Are We There Yet?
Almost, and we're getting closer every day. I could do most of what I needed to do solely with the iPad, some apps, and the Internet. But there is room for improvement for sure. Slowly and steadily Apple is untethering the iPad from the Mac, and I'm excited to see what new technologies will enable me and my colleagues to be more fully functional when we're not "connected".