Personal digital assistants (PDAs) were holstered to the belt of
every rising business professional in the early 2000s. When you hooked
your Palm to your laptop, you didn’t just update your calendar—you
hot-synced. Like a term from a William Gibson cyberpunk novel, the act
seemed to signify something beyond updating your appointments. You
were plugging into the streamlined, recalibrate-on-the-fly culture of the
project management jet set, Business 2.0 on a double espresso and a
small monochrome screen.
Nowadays, tapping a stylus on a digital brick seems about as retrograde
as scratching a stone on a clay tablet. PDAs have evolved, their capabilities
merging with mobile phones into touch-screen tablet computers, one-stop-shop communications and scheduling platforms.
< LEADER OF THE PACK Taking its place at the head of the digital device hierarchy is Apple’s iPad. As sleek and sexy as the company’s Newton PDA (RIP, 1993-1998) was clunky and slow, the iPad is a game-changer. Despite new slim netbooks and the much-hyped release of HP’s Slate 500 in mid-November, the iPad is currently the undisputed leader. With prices starting at US$499, the iPad requires less of an investment than many laptops and still has more than enough processor power to handle most project man- agement software. Though much smaller than most computer screens, the iPad work area appears cleaner and more spacious than a PC desktop because top-of-the-screen menus are largely absent. The setup creates an elegant look that makes you feel as if you’re navigating within a smooth flow of information rather than tinkering around from the outside. And having your pick of vertical or horizontal orientation allows you to decide which best suits the perusal of project details. Like many technophiles, enterprising project managers were quick to explore the iPad’s potential, but the current lineup of project management tools is a bit under- whelming. Straddling the line between casual and professional, the products enable quick though simplistic overhead project surveying, but lack the greater depth of a more robust software offering. As of press time, fewer than 40 project management choices show up in the iTunes app store, many of which are simple time-trackers or
education products rather than proper tools.