According to most tech journalists, there has always been (and possibly always will be) one thing lacking about tablets, and that is their business acumen. True, if your business is coding software, or rendering 3D graphics, or building space rockets, or kidnapping Liam Neeson's daughter, the majority of your work will not be output through an iPad. But for the rest of us, I say hogwash. An iPad is more than powerful enough to mow through any sort of word processing, photo editing, or PDF wizard-ing with a few standard apps. But it's more than that; I submit that you can leave your primary machine at home, and have your Apple tablet do everything you will need when you're out on the road-- and more. Here's how.
First, get yourself a Bluetooth portable keyboard. There are a plethora of options out there, but I generally recommend sticking with Apple's fantastic Aluminum Wireless beauty. If you go this route, however, you may want to pick up a case for it that can double as a stand for your iPad, like the InCase Origami Workstation.
Great. Now that we have the hardware, it's time to talk apps. Apple's native word processing suite, iWork, is truly a wonder on the iPad. Pages, Numbers, and Keynote can do everything that Office can do on a laptop, and they do it faster and easier. Here's an in-depth review. Once you get used to the combination of typing on a keyboard and navigating using the touchscreen, it's kind of hard to go back to using a mouse/trackpad.
What about PDFs? It turns out that Adobe has that handled on the mobile front as well. Their Mobile Reader app deftly handles opening, reading, editing, and annotating all of your PDF files; you can even add your signature to a contract, right from within the app. If you want even more document processing prowess, might I suggest Readdle's Scanner Pro, which allows your iPad to take a picture of any document and "scan" it as a PDF. You can make multipage files, upload them to Evernote and Dropbox, send them off in an email, or even fax them to any fax number in the world.
Speaking of online storage, you have access to Dropbox, Box, Evernote, SkyDrive, and all of your iCloud documents-- just like you would on your laptop. Upload from your pictures, take a video, send documents there from other apps, or load your entire document library into one of these services and have all your stuff with you, wherever you go.
Yes, all of this is great. You already believe me. But I'm not done. As far as I'm concerned, the best of the best when it comes to your tablet's capabilities lies in remote desktop apps. They allow you to access a real, full-sized Windows or Mac machine through the internet, in real time. There are two different types of remote desktop apps-- ones like LogMeIn and Splashtop that allow you to access and manipulate your own computer (which is at your home/office, connected to the internet and turned on); and ones like OnLive Desktop (my personal favorite), which give you access to an always-connected, lightning-fast Windows desktop that sits on their servers. That way you don't have to worry about if you put your home PC to sleep, or whether or not it's connected to the interwebs. You pay a tiny monthly fee, and get a fully-functioning version of Windows complete with the Office suite, Internet Explorer, and cloud-based file storage.
OnLive Desktop. It's Windows 7 on your iPad. Boom.
Oh, and don't forget that it can connect to projectors and HDTVs, so making a presentation is still a cinch. Add all of this to the already-stellar email, calendar and note-taking apps, PLUS the ability to print directly from your device-- the notion of lugging around a 4-5lb laptop just doesn't make sense any more.
Did I mention you can leave it in your carry-on when you're going through security? If that doesn't seal the deal, then nothing will.