Why the new iPad might not be the tablet that saves journalism

“Sorry, it is not available,” the shop assistant told me. Ordering online wasn’t a possibility either; the ASUS Transformer was nowhere to be found. My rooted, white Pandigital tablet was too clumsy and slow for the job of mobile reporting and reading. I needed a real, powerful tablet. After quite some time, I decided to change my church — if there was no open source Android tablet, then I would take the new iPad. I had almost bought one, when a shop assistant mentioned he had two of the ASUS Transformers in stock.

Here’s why I went for the latter.

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Tablets could save journalism
Perfectly functioning tablets are important to journalism. Most newspapers are losing money, laying off editors and reporters, because sales of the print editions are dropping. Online editions are bringing in some revenue but not enough. Apps with inexpensive subscriptions could be the answer to newspapers’ problems. Clay Shirky commented on these issues. Wegener, one a giant in the Dutch newspaper industry, is rolling out apps for all its local and regional papers in a bid to halt growing deficit.

The Asus makes reporting less painful
Reporting and teaching requires a lot traveling, which means suffering, because computers are too big and too heavy. The ASUS Transformer Prime TF101 weighs 680g, which is perfect for carrying around, but also for reading an e-book, newspaper or magazine on the train, plane or just in bed. The days of aching hands forcing me to stop reading are over. The 10.1 inch screen with 1280×800 resolution is eye candy. Reading on a screen is now a pleasure. And the IPS touch screen is fast, without any glitches.

I’m from the era of warm typesetting, so I prefer print and reading. But my god, the camera (1.2 in front and 5 megapixels in the back) and videos on this machine are fast with HD quality due to the quad core Tegra 3 processor. The sound, well it’s not the Amsterdam Concerthall, but it’s good enough for listening. A headset improves the quality, because the speakers are under the screen.

The on-screen keyboard works perfectly, so why would you use the option of buying an extra keyboard? I like to control my machines completely, so I searched for instructions on how to root the device. That seems a bit complicated and I have not found a custom-rom doing something interesting. I am waiting for Ubuntu for Android.

Connection to my wireless router is smooth using WLAN 802.11. Other connections are Bluetooth, mini HDMI, USB, and mini SD card reader. And storage is no problem with 32 GB.

The thing is, this tablet is not for doing geeky things, it’s great for journalism. First, it has all the reporting tools on board: sound, camera, text and a fast internet connection. Second, it keeps me in touch with my sources. Social media from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Skype work perfectly. Actually what I like to do best is read my newspapers; The Guardian, The Economist and the New York Times all offer apps — some free, others paid.

Android 4.03 only makes things better
The best thing is this tablet is multi-tasking. You can easily switch from one process to another, all due to the fast Tegra 3 processor running on Android 4.03 Ice Cream Sandwich. This is probably the reason that the ASUS was not available; at the time of release only Android 3 Honeycomb was implemented.

Look, the Asus Transformer Prime and the new iPad both do a lot of things really well, and both could be very good for the media but isn’t it nice to know that the future of reporting doesn’t have to run on a closed ecosystem?

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