After weeks of waiting for an iPad 2 on back order, CIO Rob Rennie of Florida State College finally got his hands on the slick, new device. "My assessment so far is, I love it because it is faster, lighter and the FaceTime capability makes a lot of difference for me," Rennie says.
More than just a cool consumer device, the iPad has become a critical piece of technology at the college. Rennie has helped usher hundreds of iPads into the hands of executives, IT staff, administrators, faculty and students. Executives use them for reporting purposes, project tracking and staffing issues.
"We are having great success with them in science labs and other academic environments where a laptop is impractical," Rennie says. "Leader management types are making good use of them as part of a larger paperless initiative."
As an early iPad champion, Rennie waited anxiously for his iPad 2 to arrive, which it did this week. The top-of-the-line iPad 2 64GB with 3G has enough storage space to handle Rennie's huge media content needs. He also chose to go with 3G, rather than use his iPhone as a hotspot, because he feared hot-spotting would run down the iPhone battery.
"The 3G data plan works well for me, making the iPad a fully independent device," he says.
So what does a CIO who has staked much of his reputation on the iPad do in the first couple of days with the iPad 2 (other than cartwheels and including a business trip)?
In this interview, Rennie gives the lowdown on what apps took priority (for both work and personal use), what he thinks of the magnetic Apple case, and what he hopes will show up in iOS 5, expected to be announced at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference on June 6.
What apps took priority on your iPad 2?
Rennie: In addition to the standard apps, including email and calendar, I went first for iAnnotate PDF (a PDF reader and annotation tool), Fluent News Reader (free newspaper aggregator app), Keynote (Apple's presentation app), Office2 HD (Word and Excel app), Dropbox (free cloud storage app), Evernote (free cloud storage note-taking app), Numbers (Apple's spreadsheet app), OmniGraffle (diagram-creating app) and various music apps such as Amplitude HD (app for amplifying sound).
I use all but the music apps for work. With Keynote, Numbers, iAnnotate, Office2 HD and Dropbox, I have a fully mobile work environment on the iPad. I don't need a laptop except in extreme cases. Evernote is great for keeping all my notes synced.
Additionally, we have built a series of custom apps for our organisation that replaces our decision support, ERP reports and several other ready references. Our tech plan and project-by-project fiscal analysis is in iBooks. Dropbox is great for file sharing.
You mentioned that you're a big FaceTime fan, and the iPad 2 brings FaceTime to the tablet. How important is this feature?
FaceTime delivers a good, quick videoconference from any wireless environment. It has become a favoured tool for work. We do quick video conferences and show whiteboards and physical spaces. When I travel, it's nice to call home and see everyone. I use FaceTime at least three to four times a week.
Did you get any accessories with your iPad 2?
I didn't get a keyboard because the virtual keyboard works fine for me. I did get a camera connection kit and a HDMI digital AV adapter to connect to large monitors around the office and in conference rooms.
What about Apple's magnetic "smart" cover?
I have a problem with the awkwardness of the cover. Although it appears to be a great idea, it starts to lose its lustre when you are holding (the iPad) in your hand and walking around. The cover is kind of clumsy. I've also had the cover disconnect at the magnet hinges a few times. It's a little weird on airplanes where the absence of rigidity of position is problematic.
I am trying to adjust to the cover, but if I don't really soon then I will start evaluating other options.
On the iOS side, Apple apparently will introduce iOS 5 at this year's Worldwide Developer's Conference. From a CIO's perspective, what do you want to see?
I know the iPad is an individual's device, but it is also great for classes, labs and healthcare applications where having more than one user per device is essential. Yet there's no easy way to share an iPad across classes and work shifts that keeps common data and apps and allows multiple authenticated users with their personal profiles.
For example, with an iPad in a clinical or medical environment, you'll want to keep the patient information and charts (the same for workers changing shifts) but would like the user to authenticate and have their unique calendar, email and subscriptions. This would make enterprise management of the devices a lot easier.
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