Self-proclaimed digital advocate Mario Armstrong could turn even the most unprepared tech person into a computer whiz. Besides serving as the technology commentator for National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” the long time techie moonlights as an electronic educator of sorts. He recently hosted a specialty meeting at Baltimore’s Emerging Technology Center focused on introducing and interpreting Apple’s new iPad device to untrained but curious consumers.

“The purpose of having this meeting is to try to educate our community about how they could be looking at using devices like the iPad and using it in different ways,” Armstrong said. “It’s a new product, it’s a new device, it’s a new way of computing and it’s a new way of thinking of how people access information. We just wanted to have a get together with the local community and get different people from different areas – from business to nonprofit to educators – to all come together, learn and to share.”

Since its March 29 release, consumers have had a hard time just trying to identify the iPad as a laptop or an oversized iPhone, making its operational use a secondary concern. “It’s not a laptop,” Armstrong revealed. “I really see it more as a portable computing platform.”

Armstrong believes the iPad has a chance to reshape the business world for many self-employed entrepreneurs. Its petite frame is easy to carry and its quick loading time eliminates the hassle of waiting for laptop power ups. Equipped with a seemingly endless array of applications, a new theme could be on the horizon for suit and tie wearers everywhere.

“We can think about taking our business with us on the go,” Armstrong said. “Entrepreneurs out there, executives, sales people and field technicians, people need to think about how they can be productive while being mobile whether that’s on a smart phone or whether you need a larger device like an iPad where you can doing things like processing credit card transactions out in the field. From executives down to sales, could benefit from this device.”

Priced between $499 to $829, the iPad has been a quick hit so far in its short history. Apple recently reported over 2 million sales in the device’s first two months, making Armstrong’s “iPad Meetup” a much needed refresher. Armstrong hasn’t ruled out hosting a series of tutorials as the device transitions into mainstream, but even the teacher may need a few more courses.

“It’s great,” Armstrong said.” I’m still learning it; it’s one of those things where you have to really figure out what you’re going to use it for.”

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Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO