This is one of the most common questions that people ask me since I made the iPad my main machine. For many the iPad is a toy, but not a production machine. I may need to agree that it is a great machine to play, but it had been incredible for production.
In my work I used basically four applications, regardless if I work on the iPad or the MacBook: A Word Processor, An Spreadsheet, A Presentation Software and a Browser.
Let’s see the MacBook: Pages, Numbers, KeyNote and Chrome. (I understand your list may say: Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint)
On the iPad I found: Pages, Numbers, KeyNote and Chrome. (If you want a more powerful option you can use Office2)
I understand that if you need macros, the iPad is not the machine since as today it’s not possible, but honestly I don’t know many people that use them.
I work on a Word Processor, I don’t do anything more complex that add images, graphs or a comparative table on those then I am doing reports. All this I can do with Pages, without any problem. The other thing I do, is review documents for which I need the track changes function, but it is part of Pages, so I have no problems there.
On the spreadsheet, it is the same thing. I have some that had many graphs (all created on the iPad) and many formulas that connect one page to the other inside the document. The only thing that I can’t do on the iPad are Pivot Tables and Macros, but honestly I can’t remember when was the last time I use either of those.
An application to do Presentations: Honestly, I wasn’t a big fan of Microsoft PowerPoint to begin with and there is nothing that I can think that KeyNote on the iPad can’t do. I even connect this application to the Apple TV to see the presentation on there and use the iPhone to control the presentation and even look my presentation notes if I wish.
A Browser: I had said previously that I use two browsers, one for work (Chrome) and one for play (Safari) (You can read the story and the why on my book 25 Tips for Productivity) in this case I can use both without any issue.
As you can see I have the basics covered, additionally exist certain applications on the iPad that make the experience even more of a pleasure and only one on the Mac that make me come back once in a while.
On the Mac side the application is Scrivener, without a doubt the best application to write in existence, but to my knowledge there is an iPad version coming soon.
For me work on the iPad create a different way to work, it’s exactly the reason that get people away from work on the iPad what make me work closer to it.
When the iPad was released my mother was looking for a laptop, even on those days the iPad was the machine I used the most so I recommend it to her. Even that she loves her iPad, she wasn’t able to substitute the laptop and months later we got another laptop for her. The problem was never a power issue, as many people think, her iPad had plenty of processing power, her problem was that she need it to interact in a different way, it was a confort zone problem.
One of the biggest problems people had with the iPad had nothing to do with the capabilities of the machine, or how more or less powerful their laptops are, but with the idea that they don’t have the same menus, the fact that the interaction is more personal, is the fact that you are dong with your hands. The most interesting is that a soon as you break trough that barrier and you sit on a laptop or desktop you will find yourself touching the screen and discovering that the magic it is not there.