Great, someone else talking about the iPad this week... how original.
I haven't decided if I want one or not just yet but I began to wonder if the freshly announced Apple iPad could be an acceptable portfolio to bring to a portfolio showing. I'll go ahead and say I don't think it can beat a great custom designed and printed portfolio with current work... but those are limited to whatever prints you have in your portfolio at any given moment. And as anyone who has a printed portfolio knows, keeping your book current isn't as easy as one might think... especially if it's a bound book.
My portfolio isn't bound (I don't use plastic sleeves though) and even though changing my portfolio only means unscrewing a few binding posts, the fact that I print on the front and back of each page, if I want to replace just one photo in my portfolio it can mean a lot of re-printing if I want to keep a certain flow to the book. This leads to infrequent updating.
I would never even remotely think of a laptop as a viable alternative to a real portfolio because it's so cumbersome and awkward. But an iPad is anything but cumbersome (from the looks of it). Just hand it over and the Art Buyer, Photo Editor, or whoever you're showing your portfolio to can grab it and swipe from photo to photo with their fingers. They can throw it into a grid view to see all the photos and go to the ones they like the best. Very easy. No keyboard, no mouse, no muss, no fuss. Want to show them some work that's a bit different than what you normally keep in your portfolio, open up a different gallery and there are even more images. Want to show off some cool new feature on your blog or website, open up Safari and you're there (assuming you have wifi or good 3G reception... which if you're on AT&T in San Francisco, then, you won't!)
An image on a 1024x768 display, while not as big as an 11x14 print, still looks pretty good. And, if the viewer wants, they can zoom in with the flick of their fingers and get to a level of detail a print won't show. A lot of people like the tactile feeling of holding an actual portfolio and flipping through prints, but the iPad provides the next best thing (although I don't know if I'd be quite as giddy as the guys in this video).
Of course, I doubt you're going to toss the iPad in a FedEx box the next time you have to ship your portfolio out... although, the lowest priced iPad is cheaper than my real 11x14 portfolio, so 4 iPads would actually save money and be easier to maintain than 4 traditional portfolios. I'm sure there will be places making custom skins for the iPad soon enough so you can even custom brand your iPad.
Now, I'm not going to get into some nerdy tech debate about the features that are missing from the iPad... those have been well documented and are quite disappointing (and shouldn't be too much of a surprise for anyone who knows how Apple does things). I'm just focusing on the portfolio aspect of the iPad and I think it could be kinda cool.
Hmm, maybe I just justified the purchase.
UPDATE: I did buy one, and you can see my thoughts here.