Are you getting an iPad?

I’ve been offline most of this week at our annual presbyter retreat here in Arizona. As I pointed out to the bishop, if he has any doubts about my commitment to ministry, he need only look at my willingness to attend lectures on collegiality at the time when the Steve Jobs is announcing the latest technology toy. I was reduced to sitting in the back of the room and refreshing twitter feeds on my phone during the all too infrequent breaks.

Now that I’m back home and have had a chance to watch the keynote address and read up on the specs of the new device I’m thinking about what it will mean for personal computing and more interestingly to me, for technology in ministry.

Will I be getting one? Yes. The e-reader capability is the killer app as far as I’m concerned. I bought a Kindle the day it was released. I’ve been teased by a number of my friends who told me again and again why I was being silly. Then a few months later they bought their own. One friend (not a nay-sayer) has already worn out the buttons on her Kindle. If you’re a reader, the idea of having a stack of books wherever you are is too awesome for words. I can read a novel in about a day. Two if I’m working. When I travel most of my luggage used to be taken up with books. Now I just toss in the Kindle and I’m good to go.

The iPad will function wonderfully as an e-reader. (I like the display on a Kindle, but I’ve never had any trouble reading on an LCD screen, so I’m not worried about the different screen on the iPad.) I should be able to read all my Kindle purchases on the iPad assuming the existing Amazon Kindle iPhone app makes it safely over to the iPad. Plus now I’ll have Stanza, Reader and the iBook applications too.

But, in my mind, where the iPad really shines is that it will allow me to do a presentation directly from it – which means I won’t have to lug a laptop with me when I’m speaking in a church or in a classroom. Just hook up the iPad to the projector, select the appropriate presentation and off we go. I’ve wanted something like this forever. I’ve gotten to the point where I could pretty much leave my laptop at home for most trips – now I’ll be able to do that all the time. Thinking about this, my present laptop might well be the last laptop I buy. I’ll move back to a desktop computer at home and the office and then use an iPad for travel.

What will this mean for ministry? Mac OS X uses PDF’s as a native file format. Which means it becomes dead easy to share formatted files via electronic transmission and be assured that the copy looks the same as the original. This is critically important for sharing formatted material like liturgies or hymns.

Imagine what it might be like if this class of device becomes common. A parishioner with one might be able to come into the service, connect to the parish wireless, download the liturgy for the day plus the announcements by pressing one button on their tablet. Color in the bulletin? Done. Video in the sermon? Done. (No need for a giant screen or an overpowered projector.) Translation on the fly? Probably done – use Google’s service. Annual Report? Done.

The biggest office expense at the Cathedral right now is the giant copy/printer press that we use to generate thousands of pages of liturgical handouts each week. Imagine being able to reduce that to a few hundred copies for people without tablets. All the rest of the congregation will be able to get what they need without having to use paper, or the power it takes to print a copy.

Just from a strict environmental view this is a win for churches. It’s also a financial win (though it probably moves the cost of distribution from the congregation’s budget to that of the parishioner). More interestingly it will allow us to do much more interesting things with the “bulletin” – like link directly to the congregation’s calendar. Offer to auto add an event to a person’s calendar. Refer them to websites for more information. Offer to provide them a copy of a special speaker’s book for a very reduced cost… etc.

There’s word that Apple received a patent early this week to create a solar powered tablet. Which would make this even more ubiquitous and environmentally friendly. Especially in the developing world. Look at how profoundly mobile phone technology is changing the way village life is lived in the developing world.

Now think about what would happen to have something like this (much cheaper of course) being made available and connected to the existing mobile network…

Oh yes. I’m getting one. I can’t wait to see what we think of to do with it.

Author: Nick Knisely

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...

12 thoughts on “Are you getting an iPad?”

  1. Nick – we’d have to include classes for all the old folks who currently refuse even email…! But, you’re probably correct as to where the world is going. I’m ‘only’ 58, but this stuff daunts me…

  2. I’m ambivalent, but my instincts right now are to buy the ipad and lose the iPhone in favor of a regular cell phone that I have to key instead of touchpad, because I honestly hate using the iPhone as a phone.
    Of course, as long as work is paying for my iPhone, that’s moot.

  3. I’ve thought about that too Helen – but I think the form factor of the iPhone, plus access to all the apps (and maps) means that it’s more likely to be on my person all the time. The iPad is something I’d use in meetings or on trips. Or at home to read with.
    I’m surprised there’s no camera on the iPad. I’m thinking there’s a strategic reason for that.

  4. Maybe I’m a Luddite, but I go to church to get away from electronic stuff and see real people.

  5. I have been speculating about electronic displays of liturgies in the church for a while now. We are probably at least five years out from the kind of wide distribution of these things that would make this possible. Then you would have to get the distribution rights for all of the material. I wonder if anyone is going to furnish a bouncing ball so that we can follow along in the music, a la Mitch Miller. (Am I dating myself?)
    Call me a late adopter. I can never come up with the money for the latest gizmos, as much as I would like to. (I bought my first iPod last year.) I think you are going to find the church as a late adopter, too. The church population is skewed a bit toward the older generation. I could see college chaplaincies experimenting with these things first; that population will adopt these very quickly.

  6. Bob – that article basically boils down to a complaint that the iPad is limited in specific ways. Especially so in the lack of the Flash plugin.
    To my mind that’s the greatest feature.
    If you ever saw the crash-happy Adobe implementation on the Apple you’d understand why Apple would decide to keep flash as far away as possible from a device that runs on battery power.
    Scoble’s father seems to be concerned too about the lack of a stylus. Again, a feature in my mind, but no one will really know until we’ve all had a chance to play with the UI. I’m reminded of the first time I sat down in front of a Lisa and looked at the mouse. I knew something awesome was in front of me, but it wasn’t until I got my head wrapped around the desktop metaphor that I began to understand why.
    The thing about the iPad that’s most interesting to me is that it represents a brand new way of interacting with data that is, according to the people who’ve used it, immediately obvious and intuitive.

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