iPad

Apple iPad for business: Three reasons to love it, three reasons to ignore it

The Apple iPad has official arrived and here are my first impressions of it as a business device. See the top reasons why business should pay attention as well as the reasons why it's safe to ignore.

You can already find lots of reviews of the Apple iPad. I'm not keen on most of them because none of the reviewers have been using the device for very long, so they're still in the honeymoon period and most of their observations and conclusions are speculative. I want to use the iPad for a while and then see what kinds of things I still use it for once the novelty wears off.

At that point, I'll write up a full TechRepublic product review, from a business and IT perspective (as always). But, between now and then I know that some of you will want to hear something about the iPad from TechRepublic so I'm going to start by sharing some of my first impressions.

For perspectives on the latest in tech, follow me on Twitter: @jasonhiner.

Let's look at why businesses and IT departments should keep an eye on the iPad, as well as the top reasons why it's safe for the corporate world to ignore it at this point.

Three reasons to love it

1. Insanely great battery life

There's almost nothing I like about netbooks (as you may have heard), but the one area where netbooks are most attractive is battery life. Some netbook makers advertise that their systems get up to 10 hours of battery life. In reality, the number is closer to 7-8 hours in most cases, but that's still enough to make a big difference on cross country flights in the U.S. and during international air travel.

The iPad does even better. Apple claims 10 hours of battery life. However, The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg reported that he got 11 hours, 28 minutes of battery during a period of time when he was heavily using the iPad. My initial experience has been similar. The iPad was first delivered about 12:30PM on Saturday. I used to the device off and on the rest of the day and never got the battery below 70%.

2. It's a briefcase + a whiteboard + a dashboard

While most of the demos and commercials for the iPad focus on playing games and watching videos, don't think for a second that this device is irrelevant for business users. And, no, I'm not talking about the word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation programs. I doubt you'll use those.

However, the iPad could allow you to skip the stack of newspaper and magazines and avoid that pile of reports and other long documents in your briefcase. Between specific apps, like those for USA Today and The New York Times, and the open Internet, the iPad is a great business reading device. And, with the third-party apps, the iPad is also a great device for reading long business documents such as PDFs and DOC files.

Business professionals will also like apps such as Ideate, which allows you to sketch ideas on a virtual whiteboard, save them as images, and then email them to your colleagues.

Another way for users to take advantage of the iPad's great LCD screen is to use it for checking business dashboards. Before long, I think we'll see more apps that help display specific data, but for now you can open Microsoft Excel files (again, with the help of third party apps) and pull up Web-based data such as Google Analytics in the Safari browser.

3. You've seen Star Trek, right?

Let's be honest, the iPad is an early adopter device at this point - probably very early. By the third generation iPad, Apple will likely have something pretty useful and functional. Nevertheless, using an iPad today feels like touching the technology of tomorrow. It is satisfyingly futuristic.

It makes you feel a bit like Jean Luc-Picard in the captain's quarters aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise. In fact, there's reportedly even an iPad app forthcoming that will emulate the Star Trek PADD.

If you're a business leader, using the iPad could help you get a jump on the next stage of the evolution of computing. That could give you a competitive advantage by enabling you to better organize and consume important data.

Three reasons to ignore it

1. Imprisonment in the Apple ecosystem

While Apple's vertical integration of the hardware, software, and e-commerce platforms on the iPad is one of the things that makes it so easy to use, that simplicity comes at the price of being locked into the most draconian ecosystem in the technology world.

While some consumers are willing to give up a little freedom in return for a system that "just works," that's a much more difficult proposition for businesses.

There are times when a business may need to do something -- e.g. build a custom app, tweak a payment system, change configuration settings -- for a business reason. However, if you're locked into the Apple ecosystem then you quickly learn that the system can be extremely rigid and inflexible. Businesses, and especially IT departments, don't like that. It's one of the things that has kept Macs and iPhones out of many organizations. Apple is making strides to accommodate iPad deployment scenarios in business, but so far the company appears unlikely to open up its ecosystem.

2. Only one app at a time? Seriously?

Like the iPhone and the iPod Touch, the iPad can only run one application at a time (with a few exceptions like the iPod music app and Yahoo IM). This approach makes some sense on the iPhone, which struggles with processing power and battery life at times. However, it doesn't make sense with the iPad, which is surprisingly speedy and has plenty of battery life to spare, as mentioned above.

Most business people need to multitask when they're getting serious work done, so this aspect of the iPad definitely limits it as a laptop replacement. One thing to keep in mind is that the upcoming iPhone 4.0 operating system is rumored to finally add multitasking using an interface similar to Expose on Mac. We can only hope that's true and that the feature comes to the iPad at the same time.

3. It doesn't replace anything, yet

Despite all of the hype for this long-anticipated Apple device, the tablet itself remains an unproven form factor, with the failure of the Tablet PC over the past decade as proof positive. Tablets have only found usefulness and acceptance in a few niche vertical markets such as health care. Despite all that, users still remain keenly interested in the possibility of a great tablet, even if they're not quite sure what they would do with it.

The iPad certainly won't replace a smartphone for any business professionals. In a few rare cases, it may replace a laptop for people with light computing needs centered around the Web and email. However, the most likely scenario is that the iPad will become an add-on device in the same category as netbooks. People will still carry a smartphone and will still have a primary desktop or laptop. That leaves the iPad to become a more convenient computer used for light computing tasks that don't involve creating much content. Does that sound like a machine that many companies are going to be rushing to buy? No, I didn't think so, either.

The other alternative is that the iPad could be used in situations where business workers only need a few primary apps to do their jobs -- health care, transportation, point-of-sale, etc. But again, this tablet would have to succeed where other tablets have failed.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

159 comments
Leova2
Leova2

For my part, I use Beesy as a productivity app for my business. and it's working well. !This app, Beesy, generates automatically a ToDo list from a smart note taking. I don't forget a thing so I Can say here, that it's the main reason for me to love my ipad for the business.

LiquidPresentations
LiquidPresentations

Since this article was written back in April 2010, a lot has changed. The iPad has been accepted amongst corporations and larger business' as a tool, not a toy. A new range of features and functionality provided by Apple and utilized by App developers has resulted in a huge uptake in business being conducted out of the office, with ease. Our File Management iPad Application, Liquid Enterprise: http://liquidpresentations.com.au/liquid-enterprise-app/ and it's associated services: http://liquidpresentations.com.au/your-files-our-magic/ can add advanced functionality such as Document Navigation, Order Forms, Movies & VR, advanced product comparison calculators, and On-Screen Signing, all to your existing sales and marketing collateral. But we're not the only ones pushing the boundaries of the iPad to really maximize it's business potential. 2011 saw a huge rise in the number of iPad (and iPhone) Apps designed specifically for the business user, whether that be a solo operation, or a multinational blue-chip operation. We're excited to see how the release of the iPad3 will allow developers to achieve to push mobile business further in 2012. Luke.

Michael.taliefero
Michael.taliefero

As a business owner of a tech company and iPad user for 40 days I beg to differ with jason's uninformed critique. The iPad replaces the laptop for maybe 80% of my daily business computing. Also, lack of multitasking is way overrated because apps open and close quickly. The only real reason to need multitasking is to listen to music or experience a video while doing something else. I predict that in less than 3 years the iPad will be ubiquitous at the office and home and that many homes will have more than one. Signed mr. George Jetson, jr.

tstemarie
tstemarie

Please don't post unless you actually know what you are talking about. The iPad CAN run multiple apps simultaneously. All an inaccurate post does is make me doubt your credibility as a reporter. You obviously haven't even touched this product.

stevethehawk
stevethehawk

I'll freely admit that the iPad is a cool looking, gee whiz type gadget. However.... no matter how I slice it, the fact is that the iPad cannot replace my notebook. This means that if want to use this "toy" of a device, I would have lug it with me as an ADDITION to my notebook (along with any iPad cords/dongles that I needed). That just does not appeal to me in the least.

jbleahy
jbleahy

After a hands-on use review, this is a device that is great for reading, email, and calendar. But poor for doing real work with software applications, multitasking, and production.

laurel
laurel

I am still pondering the question: What can I do with the Ipad that cannot be done with a netbook or a regular laptop

jfreedle2
jfreedle2

You equate failure as not having mass market adoption rather than technologically not meeting needs. I currently have a Tablet PC and my next portable computer will be another Tablet PC. It works well as a replacement for a Notebook PC and I can also take notes by writing them on the screen in the same manor that I would on a peice of paper. I have graduated from the paper world and I for one are NEVER going back.

data-ware
data-ware

I bought one and even though it works great the major downfall of this device is the WI-FI.IT SUCKS!!! I took it with me on s recent trip out of town and even when i'm near a WI-FI hotzone it takes forever to get a connection and when it finally does it continually loses the signal. I wanted it for this function and now I see I may have wasted my money.

jnijkerk
jnijkerk

Imprisonment? I'ts predictable that one of these days, maybe very soon, a kind of 'MozPad' will be launched. It doesn't replace anything? Also very predictable: It will be replaced. We allready have something like it, on softwarelevel: The PDF. Make a kind of i-don't-know-whatPad for PDF's and there you go. O, excuse me, wait a second, Taiwan's calling, hope to come back to you soon...

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

Will never fly with business as a case to even consider. Come on!

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

You offer some good insight into the i-Pad benefits, such as battery life and document handling. I have to disagee about it being an early adopter device. Business use tablets have been around for years already, certainly at a much higher cost but with countless improvements/benefits over the i-pad. It is reasonably cutting edge as a 'consumer device', but businesses have had access to tablets have done far more for years now and have been improved on an tweaked in that time too.I wasselling them in 2007 and they were in third gen already then.

BillGates_z
BillGates_z

More Crapple crippled overpriced toys. Let me know when the open source version arrives, the one I can use as I please with whatever content I please.

ravikishorech
ravikishorech

It really great to read some different articles like this, yeah i do agree with some of the issues raised by you, but hopefully they can be updated in the next version of ipad. reply back to me on www.ravigadu.com

Kaiagapo
Kaiagapo

What about the ArchOS 9??? I would go for it hands down compared to the IPAD! Kaiagapo

jfuller05
jfuller05

I know I have commented in this discussion, others have too that have commented in various past discussions involving the iPad, it's development, features, purpose, you know; so why another place to discuss these same things, once again? I believe we all know where we stand, so why does this topic need further discussion? It's just a thought.

kenmo151
kenmo151

More trendy apple junk for sheep ! No USB ? One ap at a time ! Talk about selling ice cubes to eskimoes !

JonathanPDX
JonathanPDX

I'm sure someone will think of some use for it, they always do. But what does it have that the iPhone doesn't besides a bigger screen? I'm happy waiting til version 3 to see it it's actually worth getting. Hopefully they'll add a camera, external storage support and handwriting support.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

It's a giant iPhone, sure great...but it's missing key functionality, locks you into the Apple world, and does nothing better than a netbook (in most cases worse than a netbook), but it has a long battery life. It's a cool tech demo, but then again so was the Microsoft Surface.

bmclachlan
bmclachlan

Why Apple didn't make the iPad PEN capable and include a strong app like Microsoft OneNote baffles me. That, at least, would have allowed the iPad into meetings to allow the user note taking capability. The early note taking apps seems to be keyboard useable only.

TechLizard
TechLizard

I LOVE that Walt Mossberg was impressed with his iPad during an especially heavy period.

pdemontigny
pdemontigny

It will change the way we do business as much as the smart phone and even more the iPhone did. First, it received mixed reviews before it was embraced by the masses. I see the iPad as an open door to a new paradigm.

byronattridge
byronattridge

Your comments are well taken. To immediately extend the capabilities of the iPad, you need to look to virtualization powered by Citrix. With Virtualization services like ClubDrive, you can run as many apps simultaneously that you wish on an iPad. As well, you can run any non-Apple application that I wish. In fact, I am doing it as we speak. I've am currently working in MS Office, MS Word, Excel, an EMR app, and a practice mgmt app, simultaneously. Virtualization is the ticket - check us out at www.ClubDrive.com

abo_shreek11
abo_shreek11

Apple introduced iPad as semi cellphone/laptop device. Is it possible to make calls with the iPad?

dna9988
dna9988

How about the fact that iPhone and iPad don't support Adobe Flash which most web sites have some type of flash content and a few sites have their entire site designed in Flash. Ive seen alot of sites who have their menu system created in Flash. :(

dmiller
dmiller

no flash - it doesn't get my cash

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I wouldn't mind seeing tablets more ubiquitous but a single brand or product with that much of the market has never lead to good things in the past.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

you can participate in tablet arguments :-) Oh, wait; I don't have one and that hasn't stopped me. Never mind.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

it's so ubiquitous on the web it's silly not to support it....Unless they are putting everything into HTML 5

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I've been told recently that I had a negative attitude in general and on this subject in particular. It's true, but it's not going to keep me awake tonight.

Jkirk3279
Jkirk3279

There's a third party making iPad stylii already. As for InkWell, Apple's handwriting software, if they don't release that for the iPad within six months you can knock me over with a feather, I'll be that surprised.

scairns
scairns

Is this something that is inherent in the iPad itself? If not, is it something that could be added by an update? Or is it just ;-) a matter of developing an application? Maybe Apple could resurrect the hand writing recognition capability it had in the Newton. Now that was awesome! Unlike PDAs, the iPad is large enough to support hand writing recognition. Mind you, expectations would be high, and if it doesn't work out-of-the-box, the natives would be very restless indeed and it would result in some extremely bad press. Something any company would want to shy away from. If it's a matter of an application, I'm sure . . . . something . . . could be arranged ;-)

billad
billad

With Apple (and only Apple) deciding what app can and will be offered, and with only a single app at a time, and with Apple's poor business friendly model, none of the Enterprises that I work with are seriously considering this platform. Most won't support iPhones or even MAC notebooks. Standards are in place for a reason, and even though our help desk will certainly help a VP connect his/her iPhone to mail, there is no assumption or expectation that this will become a business platform. Sure,we all have iPhones, but even those have limits. Only has the ability for a single Outlook account, no USB or CD/DVD support, and the businesses I serve all have custom applications, many that are true client/server apps (not web based). Asking them to move to a Citrix or XEN platform just to be able to use an overpriced tablet isn't something any CIO would take to the board of directors. Tablets will be in our future, but I think we'll wait for HP's offering. I want a platform I can control within my Enterprise.

Jkirk3279
Jkirk3279

The iPad review I read today said VOIP via Skype worked very well. The camera WILL be there in the iPad v2.0. And then things will get VERY interesting...

scott.newman
scott.newman

I know, it will be clunky, but it's worth a try.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

The iPad in it's first releases will not make phone calls. I have read no mention of adding this capability in later version.

wbranch
wbranch

Only using VOIP. While it'll hook into the 3G network, you won't be able to make direct calls like a phone. Otherwise Apple would cannibalize it's own market.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I've run into a few website support sections that appear to be flash based. If anything should be build with basic open standards, the place a company provides hardware drivers and support information sure should be.

Jeff Dickey
Jeff Dickey

It's the leading vector for security issues in many South and East Asian orgs (and elsewhere, if you pay attention). Three of my clients have mandated "no Flash" for just that reason... two of them banning it from company-authorized clients, not just Net/intranet sites. The nice thing about modern standards is how they let you do most of the same effects, but without the blob. For folks who are whining both about Apple proprietary lockdown and in the next breath complaining about not having Flash, I'd just advise you to get your story straight before your competition does.

CIO at Alphabetas
CIO at Alphabetas

It's thicker, heavier, runs windows on much fewer battery hours and is more expensive. It's a challenge how? These tablets have been around. You guys don't get the elegance, the refinements, and you want a device that replaces your laptop- which isn't necessarily what an iPad is for (it can for some folks, but that is not why people are buying them). http://www.financetechnews.com/no-1-use-for-the-ipad-work/

digilante
digilante

if the rendering/layout engine of choice for the iPad's default browser is anything like that supplied in Safari (Webkit, if memory serves) - I certainly wouldn't support it; I've dabbled with many a renderer in my job as an Intranet and Applications developer from Trident to Gecko to Expressions, and - to date - Gecko has been the most standards-compliant and accurate renderer I've dealt with. Why would I bother with such a poor excuse for a rendering engine?

CIO at Alphabetas
CIO at Alphabetas

I have never gone to a board, as the CIO, to get permission regarding the app base we support. That's the job of the CIO- to TELL them what we are doing and that I've looked at it and it is within the budget. Change happens constantly in IT- everyone here talking about Flash and Java and it wasn't long ago they weren't allowed installs. Things change, we try to stay ahead...

byronattridge
byronattridge

Devices like the iPad can be enterprise tools for the right industries, and you are correct, Citrix is part of the answer. What is most practical is to leverage a cloud computing service that is powered by Citrix so that the Enterprise does not have make the investment in building the platform internally. Services like these make it very economical for enterprises to leverage whatever devices they wish to use regardless of OS or manufacturer. Check out www.clubdrive.com .

JonGauntt
JonGauntt

Then you are behind on the cutting edge that the Enterprise platform has moved to, and you are throwing away a lot of money every year. Thin Client computing has been around for some time and makes an inordinate amount of sense for the Enterprise. Layer that with a functional display and the iPad has huge appeal for sales driven organizations that want an inexpensive display device that is convenient to travel with and can work virtually anywhere your phone does. VPN already works on other devices and I'm sure it will work just as well if not better on the iPad. Granted, if your Enterprise environment is in a single building, no real reason except for VPs, but for a lot of organizations the price point fits in nicely with the already trendy thin clients, but is able to be deployed to a sales force that wants tools readily accessible on the go. I'm sure there are other reasons both for and against... some of which you list, but many Enterprise organizations are already using thin client servers and it will be an easy change for them. My 2?

digilante
digilante

So what do you use as your replacement for interactive media? Silverlight? The only reason I can ever see myself possessing an iPad is to replace the dead (and gutted) Mac G4 case I currently use as a doorstop - but who wants to pay four-digit sums for doorstops? honestly!

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I didn't say I wanted something that replaced my laptop, those are just your own words and thoughts, as incorrect as you may be. The X2 tablet will dance circles around the i-Pad too. Just like i-Phone, the i-Pad offers nothing that hasn't been done before, is extremely limited in its capabilities and is sold to people that will line up in droves for any proprietary piece of crap Apple releases. We are talking about "business devices" specifically in this thread, what good is a business device that is just a glorified newspaper? They said the i=-Phone was a business device too, but I only see it used by people with very minimal needs that consider themselves 'enterprise' users. The real enterprise users require far more powerful and capable carpet to concrete devices, they aren't a device for C-level employees at all. Such devices cost thousands right out of the gate. Apple's widgets are just toys for tots, end of, full stop.

Jkirk3279
Jkirk3279

"I have no control over updates or whether an Apple app might be suddenly changed or discontinued (happens on my iPhone all the time)" In the iPhone OS, you download an app, and then you pretty much own it. Apple did say they reserve the ability to yank an app in an emergency: as far as I know they've never used it. And after Amazon's screwup they'd be wise to hold on to that hole card and NEVER use it. Apps DO get discontinued. Most recently, because Apple decided to enforce their anti-porn restrictions. Now, this WAS a screwup: they shouldn't have lowered the bar in the first place. Then they put the restrictions back, but allowed the big players to stay. Inconsistency is a mistake no matter what company you're dealing with. And this from an Apple stockholder and loyalist. But it's only $99 to get the iPhone OS SDK: and IIRC that allows 99 private installs without going through the Apple Store. So if you have an App you need in-house, you could write it yourself and keep it private.

billad
billad

I don't know that the organizations I'm consulting with are behind the times, but I take your point. My point is that you're just talking about the presentation end, and I'm talking about the back end infrastructure. I can't push software to it, I can't audit or monitor it with my standard tools, I can't connect it to a hard LAN when I'm in the office (two organizations I work with do not allow wireless), I have no control over updates or whether an Apple app might be suddenly changed or discontinued (happens on my iPhone all the time), and can't control access as I can with a laptop (i.e. Cisco Clean Access). I can see several scenarios where this might be a great tool (medical, sales, etc.), but I just don't see this as a major player in the corporate world unless and until Apple opens up and starts engaging business as a partner to develop platforms. One of the organizations is a major Citrix shop, but they present desktops and apps to call center personnel (18 call centers in NA and UK). These pads aren't any benefit there, and if sales is the only department using the platform, I can't see offering it to 50 or 100 users when 7500 users are on a more standard platform. Standardization reduces costs, and I don't want to introduce too much diversity. I think this is a great toy for personal use, and it will likely do very well there, I just don't see it as a major business player.