I’m intrigued—have been for months—by the possibility of using only an iPad to get my computing done. With the 5.0 version iOS it’s at least theoretically possible, because you don’t need a separate computer to perform the initial setup and registration of the device. And another showstopper was, arguably, swept away as well: you can back up your iPad directly to the cloud.
But, even with my finger on the trigger over at Apple.com (for the second iPad in the house—there’s already an iPad 2 but it’s actually my wife’s and I can’t really grab it up for full-time use), a couple of issues have given me pause.
First, there’s the question of whether you really want to back up your files to the cloud (or at least to iCloud). There’s probably no problem having your music stored by a service, but do you want your income tax returns stored by a third party (other than the IRS, which is also a concern, but not one you have control over)? My feeling is that it’s best not to store sensitive documents on the Internet, unless they are encrypted with a key that only you know. iCloud doesn’t meet that criteria, as Apple reportedly has a master key which could be used to get at account files. Sony was breached several times last year. I find it hard to believe that Apple couldn’t be breached as well.
Another problem is peripherals—specifically that you pretty well can’t have any if you’re using an iPad, at least not beyond a (very useful) Bluetooth keyboard. The backup problem might well be solved if you could plug a huge USB drive into a port on the iPad (alas, no USB ports). I’ve gone paperless for almost everything and I use a Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner on a regular basis. You can hook your scanner up to a PC or a Mac, but not to an iPad.
Seriously, Apple? You couldn't include an SD slot? Yes, the iPad is beautiful and its simplicity really and truly is deeply satisfying. But wouldn't it also be deeply satisfying for users to be able to plug in an extra 32GB of storage? I can't help but notice that there are Android tablets that have both SD and USB ports.
I remain frustrated. The interface is simple and beautiful, but you can't really move to a system where your backups of sensitive files won't be secure from corporate breaches. Because the fact is that corporate infrastructure breaches happen all the time. Indeed, Apple's own Mobile.me service, something of a forerunner to iCloud, was seriously compromised.
There may be solutions. But before I mention them, note that the solutions don't come without cost. By the time you get the various bits sorted out, you may as well have bought a Mac Air or whatever other notebook suits you (of course, then you're back into the land of needless complexity, especially if you opted for a Windows machine. And then you don't have that truly inspired glass and the great touch response.)
Still, potential solutions... For local backups and file access in general, there are at least a couple of apps that will let you access a networked drive that’s been set up for file sharing, or had an FTP server installed. There’s also a purpose-built USB drive that talks to your iPad via WiFi. Slick, but expensive for what it is.
For scanning, there’s the XXX. You can either save the scans to an SD card and then transfer those to the iPad via the photo reader accessory, or you can have it communicate via
Evernote, unfortunately, doesn’t meet my criteria for a safely encrypted service. Alas, because it’s a great service in every other respect.
Life would be so easy if I just gave up on the security thing. iCloud would solve a bunch of problems in a clean, seamless fashion.