Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

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.

So I wasn't completely surprised to hear that Mike had left behind his laptop and relied only his new iPhone 4 and iPad 3G on a recent reporting trip. Read on to find out if he got away with it.

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

By Rob Pegoraro  |  July 9, 2010; 3:05 PM ET
Categories:  Gadgets , Mobile  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Grading Google's China compromise
Next: NTP sues everybody over alleged wireless e-mail patents (updated)


My wife and daughter got me an iPad for fathers day. I have really enjoyed using it. The 'instantly usable' feature is great. I do, however, miss Flash capability.

Other than Steve Jobs not liking Adobe/Flash, is there any reason why an app to incorporate it (or something similar) couldn't be written? Foxit is a good way to get around Acrobat Reader. Maybe with the new OS4 coming out, there will be a multi-tasking version of a clone of Flash written. I'm sure that there would be many takers. It seems wrong to have to jailbreak a new unit just to get "frash" capability.

Posted by: blasher | July 10, 2010 2:35 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company