We are having a get together next week of a few people who have been using iPads for academic work here at the college. There are several professors and several staff people coming. We will be considering various questions, which I note below in hopes of gathering wider comments, but one of the chief ideas I want to explore is “Can the iPod take the place of the desktop for average users, professorial, staff or student?” I know for sure one of the points that will be made is that the virtual keyboard is not adequate for anything other than brief notes or emails. For a professor to type a syllabus, a staff member a report, or a student a paper an external keyboard of some type would seem to be essential. Yes, I know iOS 5 allows splitting or float the keyboard, but that doesn”t help a bit with long-form typing.
I am typing this post (on the WordPress app on my iPad) on the Apple wireless bluetooth external keyboard, a $69.00 add-on to the iPad, which while having a couple of shortcomings, meets the need nicely.
First, the keyboard is powered by two double-A batteries in a clever design that places the battery compartment at the top of the keyboard and serves to tilt to a comfortable typing angle. Pairing the bluetooth keyboard to the iPad is simplicity itself, as is disconnecting.
It is, as are all recent Apple products, elegantly designed, thin, rounded, with the cool, anodized aluminum look that matches the back of the iPad. The most obvious shortcoming (literally) of this keyboard is the absence of the numeric keypad. Be careful when searching for an Apple keyboard with keypad, because all the ones I have seen are NOT wireless, while there is a stand-alone wireless bluetooth numeric keypad, for an additional $59. So either we forget about the number people (as Apple historically has tended to do) or buy two devices, also bad. There are keyboards from other vendors that solve this problem, but I will not review them here. On the other hand, if you never work with spreadsheets or do scientific or financial work, this keyboard works well.
It is made to do double duty, designed primarily for the iMac (it contains function key shortcuts that have no meaning for the iPad) but will work well with iPad too. The brightness control function works, as do the media player keys and volume control/mute keys.
In all, the Apple wireless bluetooth keyboard has a good feel, with crisp key responses and a small footprint that leaves plenty of space on your desk for other materials. Unless you have special needs for a numeric keypad, I recommend it.