Field report: A White House reporter's laptop-less trip
One of the people I regularly share tech tips with in the newsroom is White House correspondent Mike Shear. He's an early-enough adopter that I sometimes start writing my reviews after he's purchased the item in question--which, in turn, allows me to draft him to help me test things like iPhone reception issues.
LAS VEGAS--The last two days have been a milestone of sorts--my first trip with the President of the United States, but without a laptop computer.
The laptop is the mainstay of the mobile White House road warrior. I lugged a heavy one all over the country during the 2008 presidential campaign before trading it in for (read: spending my own money on) a sleek Apple MacBook Air that weighed only 3 pounds.
But in the end, the Air is still a laptop. It still gets only 3 hours of real battery life, if I'm lucky. It still requires me to plug in a clunky mobile-broadband receiver to connect up during the five hours I'm in a van waiting for the president to play a round of golf.
And so when I boarded Air Force One Thursday morning for the trip to Kansas City and onto Vegas, I (nervously) left the Air behind. The only things I took to file my stories were my trusty iPhone... and my new 3G iPad.
I can't be totally sure, but the consensus on the plane was that I was the first White House reporter to go completely iPad.
Did it work? In a word, yes.
I filed three stories, writing them completely on the keyboard that pops up on the iPad's screen. (In fact, I'm writing this on my iPad, sitting in a conference room shortly after the president's departure.) Since I removed the "Sent from my iPad" signature, I don't think my editors even knew.
The battery life was remarkable. I consistently got 10 hours, turning my colleagues green with envy as their laptop batteries died after two hours on the airplane or in a motorcade. And I repeatedly had to check to make sure I hadn't left the iPad behind, since my bag seemed so light even with it in there.
The best part was that my iPad was always on and always connected. Click the little button at the top and I'm online and ready to write.
Were there some drawbacks? Sure. The keyboard is frustrating for a fast touch-typist, especially adding in quote marks, which take an aggravating extra step. And there were some moments that I tried to open a link, only to find myself unable to view a Flash-based video. Normally, I would just fire my laptop up, but without it I was out of luck.
But in my opinion, the advantages outweighed the disadvantages. It's laughably easy to quickly pack up my iPad when the Obama press-advance people start prodding everyone to run to the motorcade. And sitting in a van, it's much easier to balance an iPad on your knees than a full laptop.
And best of all, my iPad is packed with videos ("Glee," "Modern Family"), games (Hearts, Doodle Jump, Fruit Ninja) and books (John Grisham, David Baldacci, "The Red Pyramid") for those many hours we find ourselves waiting around.
Now, if only there was an app for avoiding e-mails from my editors.
-- Michael D. Shear
July 9, 2010; 3:05 PM ET
Categories: Gadgets , Mobile
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