Virtually every trip I’ve taken since May 2000 has involved me hauling along a laptop computer. I’m a computer consultant by trade, and I’ve considered in a necessity. Sometimes I need to remotely access their Mac, sometimes it’s useful to have a visual. Either way, I’ve lugged 6 or 7 lbs. (once you count up the charger and other accessories) worth of gear everywhere.

This summer I did something novel. Twice, I left the laptop at home and went with an iPad wi-fi instead. My latest three day trip to Los Angeles, California was the clincher since I was able to do everything I needed to do on it. Future trips may involve a laptop, but it’s not automatic and certainly once I have an iPad 3G + Wi-Fi and the iOS is updated to 4.x, I think the laptop is almost done.

In fact, I’ve got to admit that I came away fairly staggered by the experience, because if I computer nerd like me can survive on an iPad, almost anybody can. Within 5 years, 80% to 90% of portables sold will be tablets like the iPad. I’m convinced of it, because the advantages are so incredibly stark. In no particular order:

  1. Enormous battery life. 10 hours or so right now. Longer if you want to dim the screen, not watch videos, etc.
  2. Minuscule weight. 1.5 to 1.6 lbs. is nothing to carry.
  3. Instant on. No long boot up time or wake from sleep. I never shut my iPad off.
  4. No abstraction layer. You touch what you want. There’s no keyboard or mouse or cursor between you and iPad, and it makes for a more intimate, easier-to-use experience. You don’t have to “speak geek” to be able to use this.
  5. Best in class experiences. This is strongly related to the lack of an abstraction layer, but I can think of no better way to look at images, play with Google Maps, surf the web or watch video.
  6. “Anywhere” Internet. My iPad is wi-fi only, but a 3G model (which my next one will be) gives you the Internet virtually anywhere you have cell coverage.
  7. eBook heaven. I carry the equivalent of several hundred pounds of dead tree books on my iPad. I can search any book, annotate it, highlight text, set bookmarks, change the font size, look up words instantly in a built-in dictionary, and more.
  8. Social Media nirvana. Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, etc. All the culprits responsible for killing your discretionary time are well-represented on the iPad.
  9. App coverage: If there’s something I want to do, the odds are good that I can do it. I do genealogy. There’s an app for that. (Reunion.) I want to watch a movie. There’s an app for that. (Netflix.) The list goes on and on.

Right now the biggest limitation for me is relates to Quicken and QuickBooks. I use both programs extensively on the Mac, and the iPad doesn’t have a way for me to make entries or sync them back to the master files on the computer. The best I can do on the iPad right now is to remote into my Mac Pro at home, enter the financial data there, and log off again. It’s a decidedly inconvenient workaround, but it does work.

A few years ago, I said I didn’t think I’d buy another desktop machine. (Obviously wrong since I bought a Mac Pro.) Now I don’t think I’ll be another laptop. I think it’ll just be one iPad after another. I don’t expect to be alone on this either.