March 19, 2006

iPod: Not Just Entertainment

When you think of Apple's iPod, you probably have some images in your head - the white earbuds connecting to the device, or the neon silhouette ads prominent in their commercials and billboards. You may think of "1,000 songs in your pocket", or the newly introduced iPods that play video, including TV shows from the networks and select cable shows. But for me, my iPod is boring. I get it out when I need to get work done, and when I connect it to the home laptop, my wife knows I'm focused on work from the office.

The reason for this is that ever since acquiring my first iPod (a mere 12 hours after they were announced), I've used the iPod as the go-between portable hard drive between the home computer and that of the office. The iPod functions as backup storage for the company Web site, and the primary repository for day to day tasks, and archived activity. With 60 Gigabytes available and an ultra-fast Firewire connection, it's just as good as the local disk drive, and work stays in the same state from one machine to another. While it's true that nearly 30 Gigabytes of music is stored on the iPod, as well as my address book and a small handful of personal files, it's definitely a work device.

I've grown reliant on the iPod being available, which has only caused me grief in two instances - once when I left the device at home on a day of a presentation, and zipped back home to get it, missing an hour of office productivity, and the second, much more alarming, incident, when I left a previous iPod, with 20 Gigabytes of data on it, in the seat cover of a flight from Chicago to Baltimore. While I had done periodic backups of the data, it's sure that some data was irrecoverably lost, and whoever took the seat on the flight immediately following had a nice surprise in store - and they certainly weren't interested in letting me know they found it, for after repeated calls to the BWI airport, none was ever reported found. I ended up having to purchase the latest iPod the following weekend from the Apple store and started the arduous tasks of restoring the data from backups, e-mail attachments and whatever I could find - and have been much more diligent about backing up since.

Because I think of the device as my work iPod, it's plugged into the computer at the office first thing every morning Monday through Friday, rendering all its stored music unavailable to me. I've even considered getting a second iPod, a smaller one, just for listening to music at the office, without disturbing my coworkers. Truth is I don't know if I could do that, and still look professional enough while getting everything I need to done, so that idea hasn't manifested itself, but it may some time. It also would seem funny to lug in two iPods to go with the two computers I've already got in the cubicle (one Mac and one Dell), making things just a bit crowded.

My iPod is essential, but not for what most people think. It's a serious work device. A portable hard drive, backup device and yes, it does fit in my pocket.