iPad

10 reasons Apple's iPad will be a hit with business users

The iPad has already come under fire for its limitations. But despite some missing features, Erik Eckel thinks it holds value for mobile workers.

The iPad has already come under fire for its limitations. But despite some missing features, Erik Eckel thinks it holds value for mobile workers.


Apple's new products generate ardent, obsessive, and fanatical coverage. Everyone from technology nerds to mass news media organizations trip over themselves attempting to be first introducing the world to Apple's next big thing. Repeatedly revolutionizing the way people use computers (the Macintosh), listen to music (the iPod), and talk to one another (the iPhone) will do that (as well as generate $15.6B in quarterly revenue and $3.3B in net quarterly profit), which explains why the iPad debuted to such impressive fanfare last week.

For all the things the iPad is (a perfect netbook, an outstanding eBook reader, a portable email device, etc.), there are a few features I'd have liked to see the iPad include. Imagine how the device would change the way we work if it included cellular telephone capability (you could talk using a Bluetooth headset), fancy keys you could feel (instead, the keyboard simply appears onscreen) and plentiful storage space (initial models will top out at 64GB).

Regardless, the iPad will prove plenty popular with on-the-go business users. Here are the top 10 reasons why.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Email

The iPad's included Mail application makes it easy to join mobile users to Microsoft Exchange-powered email networks. Exchange provides the foundation for most small business email networks, so integration will prove almost automatic. Non-Exchange users will find Mail compatible with most every other commonly used email platform, as well.

2: Internet

Base models include integrated 802.11 a/b/g/n wireless networking. Optional models include integrated 3G cellular data networking compatible with UMTS, HSDPA, GSM, and EDGE networks. As a result, business users will be able to access cloud-based applications, email, VPNs, and other systems and data most wherever they go. Sales personnel, field engineers, consultants, contractors, health care providers, students, instructors, and numerous other users will find the integrated network capacity compelling. As applications, platforms, information, and data increasingly move to the cloud (a trend that fueled netbook popularity), the iPad becomes that much more capable as a business device.

3: Ease of use

The reason Apple's won such converts -- and numerous industrial design awards -- is that its engineers study the way things can work, not the way they work now. As a result, the Mac, iPod, and iPhone have changed the way people perform important or common tasks. The iPad's patented Multi-Touch display permits precise and accurate gesture input. Spreading pinched fingers explodes a folder. Flicking a finger turns pages with the same speed the finger is moved. Tapping zooms in on an object. Everything is intuitive, making device interaction easy to learn. And at just a half-inch thick and a pound-and-a-half in weight, the iPad is among the thinnest and lightest of any netbook and certainly any laptop ever made. Add in the fact that the device can go 10 hours between recharging, and you have a user-friendly tablet computer.

4: Integrated keyboard

Imagine ripping the lid off a 9.7-inch wide netbook, installing the functionality of an iPhone on steroids, and then eliminating the clumsy mechanical typewriter-like keys in favor of a display-superimposed keyboard. That's an iPad. Mobile users need not pack an additional external keyboard whenever heading to the airport, coffee shop, nearby cubicle, or other location to review email, documents, the Internet, and or other information. The iPad's touch-screen display enables typing on a keyboard exponentially larger than that found on cell phones and sized closer to full-size laptops. For users insisting on a full-size keyboard, Apple's included integrated Bluetooth, so external keyboards can be connected sans wires.

5: Applications, applications, applications

The true value of any computing platform is largely dependent upon the number of third-party applications written for it. Programs written for the iPhone will run on the iPad, and upon the release of the iPad SDK, iPad-specific applications will absolutely flood the market. If the iPhone is any barometer, just keeping track of available tools, utilities, and programs will prove mind-boggling. Already some 140,000 applications have been produced for the iPhone and downloaded some three billion times. Expect the same fervent energy to surround the creation and consumption of iPad applications.

6: iWork

Apple's popular iWork suite will work well with the iPad. The tool set -- which includes Keynote for generating presentations, Pages for creating documents, and Numbers for building spreadsheets -- will be available to iPad users. The cost? Just $10 per application. The suite's iPad compatibility ensures that business users have access to powerful applications necessary for functioning within today's demanding office environments. iWork on the iPad will also provide a bridge for working with Microsoft Office users, as iWork enables opening, editing, and saving files using popular Office file formats.

7: iBooks

Amazon's Kindle reignited hope among publishers that eBook adoption would finally take off. In fact, the Kindle sold so well, Barnes & Noble introduced its own competitor, the Nook, in December 2009. iPad sales will crush both the Kindle and Nook, combined. Hands down. That's because, in addition to numerous applications, full Internet capability, email, and numerous other features, the iPad includes Apple's iBooks app. Business users frequently travel, and the ability to tote numerous books without the weight will prove another popular feature. Think of the iPad as a full-color Kindle (that's easy to read in low light), only with the addition of full netbook computer functionality.

8: Calendaring

Apple engineers have tweaked the Calendar included with the iPad. Much like the iPhone's Calendar, the tablet PC can display events listed by day, week, and month. On the iPad, multiple calendars can be viewed simultaneously, thereby enabling juggling multiple schedules so common among office workers today. With the benefit of integrated wireless Internet (and optional cellular broadband data networking), consistent connectivity to an Exchange server means users can keep schedules synchronized without requiring third-party sync tools or other clunky measures.

9: Contacts

Few things are more important to sales personnel, field teams, and professional services staff than their address books. The iPad's Contacts app provides a simple but powerful method of managing contacts and contact lists. With integrated data networking, synchronization becomes a breeze. Even better, when seeking a client or customer's location, a quick tap of the street address opens Maps automatically. As realtors, traveling sales staff, and other mobile professionals can attest, these little time-saving tweaks are what helped fuel millions of iPhone sales.

10: The price

A good netbook is five hundred bucks. Apple's iPad starts at just $499. With the right mix of applications, storage capacity, and network technology corresponding to each user's specific needs, many business professionals will find a well-equipped iPad capable of replacing a much more expensive laptop in the field. For once, whether it's Apple's recognition that it's debuting the iPad toward the tail of the Great Recession or a concession to detractors incessantly complaining about the high cost of Apple hardware (overlooking the more beneficial long-term total cost of ownership), Apple has priced a new device similarly to Windows-based counterparts.


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About

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

25 comments
mysticpain
mysticpain

Yeah it's an iPod touch on steroids...and has neat things that will amuse your for 10 minutes maybe. But I seriously beg to differ that this thing will compete with any eReaders. It is back lit ... no eInk. Talk about Eye Strain! If I wanted to read books on that type of environment I would use my PC or Laptop. I have a Sony Reader because of what it is.. a simple way to carry a ton of books around and read them comfortably. No one needs to pay $500 on this thinking it will be some grand eBook Reader. I guarantee it will fail in that aspect. I am so sick of hearing it will make a good reader because it won't.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

And detach the screen when required. Simple.

petchem
petchem

Disagree. I can use iphone for emails. Even Ipodtouch is very nice with wiFi. So Y ipad? Internet? See above. Price?To match netbook price, I have to buy office apps.each 10$. Can't transfer my files from flash drive so I can not work on them during business return trip-instead of seeing movies on ipad. Better I stick to my iphone/ipodtouch and laptop.byebye ipad!

TheProfessorDan
TheProfessorDan

As far as I am aware of, the IPad doesn't have MS Office. This is huge.

travis.duffy
travis.duffy

No multi-tasking, no flash, annoying touch screen keyboard, poor security, lack of common ports(usb, vga etc) A Ubuntu or Windows 7 netbook is far more practical.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Most of these features have been available in earlier tablets for years. What makes them so special now that Apple offers them? With that said... E-mail / Exchange connectivity, Internet, e-books, calendars, contacts - already exist in other devices and form factors. Ease of use - there's a winning point, but is it worth all the missing features? Integrated keyboard - this is a toss-up. One person's 'clumsy mechanical' keyboard is another person's tactile feedback. If I can't feel physical keys, how can I tell where my fingers are without watching them? "...installing the functionality of an iPhone on steroids," I'd avoid all comparisons to the functionality of an iPhone. The inability to make phone calls is the most obvious failing of this system, especially when most models offer 3G connectivity. Applications - just as long as you only run one at once, and aren't interested in anything NOT offered by Apple. There are more apps in the world NOT written for the iPhone / iPad than are written for it.

adakar_sg
adakar_sg

Lack of multitask and the fact that you will have to hold on it at all times seems like a dealbreaker atleast for me..

speculatrix
speculatrix

agreed, I expected apple to do something like the lenovo u1, an elegant solution to a tablet and laptop system, whereas the ipad has a horrible klugdy cable adaptor thing for USB and memory cards. no matter what I read about the ipad, it's still no more than a giant iphone or ipod touch designed as an appliance and not a general purpose computer - fine as a media player, phone and games device - media consumption but not creation.

zynn
zynn

I would have thought they would put a real OS and not a phone OS. I love my Ipod Touch but I can't do any flash on it and there are some websites that are all flash. Bummer. Off my list now.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

And MS has a light weight web-hosted version of Office. But who wants to do serious editing or numeric entry on a virtual keyboard?

yobtaf
yobtaf

The angry little malcontent.

dalano
dalano

Most people who are skilled at typing use the two raised bars on the "F" and "J" keys to located where their fingers are and then type while looking at either the screen or a document they are reading off of. If you can't feel where you're typing, you have to look where you're typing. Seems like much more of a hunt and peck keyboard. If you're hunting and pecking, how is it any different than the iPhone or other phone keyboards? iPad still doesn't allow for efficient typing.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

the keyboard addition that makes it a laptop?

travis.duffy
travis.duffy

You ask: But who wants to do serious editing or numeric entry on a virtual keyboard? Well right there is another reason this device will not be a hit with business users. Because these are the users who will need to do serious editing and numeric entry. I agree, a touch screen virtual keyboard is not the answer. And with AT&T's terrible 3g coverage, you are going to need a locally installed version of Office because cloud apps are not an option for people in my area as to find the nearest location with AT&T 3g coverage requires traveling there via plane, not car.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Check the dates, dude. I posted this over a week ago. Just because you're just now finding this discussion doesn't mean I'm posting 'again'. I suspect if I hadn't belatedly responded to G-Man's correction below, you might never have found this thread. I'm not sure what phrasing I'm using that gives you the impression I'm angry. I'm confused, but not angry.

V.H. Scarpacci
V.H. Scarpacci

Anyone can pickup a $300-$400 netbook and have all of the 'standard' (whatever your corporate standard is), VPN, Remote Desktop etc. With the connection of a real monitor keyboard and mouse it becomes a desktop PC and still costs less than the iAnything.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Erik spent all that time waxing rhapsodic over the integrated virtual keyboard, and you had to suggest augmenting it with an additional purchase.

dmeireles
dmeireles

If you need a keyboard, you'll get wanting something more flexible and powerfull, and being the iPhone OS a non multitasking, closed and iTunes-only manageable device, I assume that the device, although good for some of the described tasks, will fail at some more demanding things.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Aw, man; that's just too sweet. For less than a grand? And Linux? See, this is -EXACTLY- what I expected the iPad would be.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

You essentially get two machines in one, the base computer powered by a Core 2 Duo processor and the tablet running on a 1 GHz Snapdragon ARM chip. Peeling the tablet from its shell requires a simple pull away from the translucent red backing, then upwards. Once separated, the tablet switches into a custom, Linux-based operating system that, sadly, is pretty jerky. However, the product is six months out, and Lenovo says they want to boost the smoothness factor before release. Otherwise, the tablet mode is easy enough to navigate, with four big panels for photos, videos, music and documents. There?s also a six-panel screen that includes a variety of widgets, such as weather and e-mail. It?s definitely possible to use both pieces at once, with the base plugged into an external monitor (or downloading files idly) while you browse away on the tablet. Put together, the computers combine resources, sharing storage and getting eight hours of battery life where the tablet alone gets less than five. Many of the other specs are up in the air, but you?ll definitely get 4 GB of RAM (512 MB for the tablet), 2 USB ports and a 1.3-megapixel Web cam. Lenovo said they?re hoping to get the IdeaPad U1?s price under $1,000 for a May or June release.

travis.duffy
travis.duffy

That thing is sweet! Unlike apple, Lenovo has created a device that is actually useful! A real OS and a real keyboard!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I still don't see them coming in the building in their current configuration.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I forgot! I don't have to support these because you can't get an AT&T signal where I work! Because of this, the entire company just went to Verizon. Potential non-problem solved before it occurred. Thanks, travis!

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