iPad

Apple iPad: The business review

If you're interested in the Apple iPad, you've probably read the initial reviews. Here is TechRepublic's real world review, from a business perspective.

If you're interested in the Apple iPad, you've probably read the initial reviews. Here is TechRepublic's real world review, from a business perspective.

You can watch it as a video, or read the full text below.

The Apple iPad is the most anticipated new computing device of the new decade, primarily because it rethinks the design and interface of the PC. This tablet computer is the first touch-based tablet to hit the mass market, and its ease of use is its primary selling point.

We've had tablet computers like the one below from Hewlett-Packard since Microsoft unveiled its Tablet PC platform back in 2001. At that time, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates said of the tablet, "It's a PC that is virtually without limits and within five years I predict it will be the most popular form of PC sold in America."

Hewlett-Packard Tablet PC (circa 2001) next to the Apple iPad. Photo by Jason Hiner.

Obviously, that never happened. But those tablets were based on pen computing, which involved using a digital stylus in place of a mouse and keyboard, while the iPad - and a new generation of PC tablets that will be emulating it - are based on a more natural touch-screen interface, which has already proven itself to be user-friendly in smartphones like the Apple iPhone, Palm Pre, and Google Android devices. Still, the question remains whether touch tablets will succeed where pen tablets failed.

Top features

1. Compelling form factor: The iPad is remarkably thin and minimalistic for such a powerful computer. Compared to a laptop, the device is more portable and a little more accessible to use, especially for employees who typically don't have good luck with technology. 2. Long battery life: The killer feature of the iPad may be the fact that it gets over 10 hours of battery life in the real world. That means you almost never need to charge it in order to make it through an entire day, and it easily makes it through an entire coast-to-coast flight across the U.S. 3. Excellent reading device: Within a week of testing the iPad it quickly became my preferred option for reading PDFs, business books, and even long articles from the Web. That's mostly because the iPad has an excellent hi-res screen and it gives you a little more freedom to read in the places you'd typically read a physical newspaper or magazine - although it's not as great in bright sunlight outdoors. 4. Good speed: The computing performance of the iPad is surprisingly good. Almost all functions are noticeably faster on the iPad than on most smartphones. And, compared to a laptop, the iPad turns on instantly and opens apps within a few seconds.

Drawbacks

1. Limited to light computing: While the iPad has plenty of horsepower to handle lots of different computing tasks, its lack of keyboard and mouse limit its power as a data entry device. I had a colleague who experimented with using the iPad as a complete PC replacement at work and he felt like he was at about two-thirds of his normal productivity. 2. Imprisoned in the Apple ecosystem: While Apple has made efforts to make its iPhone OS (which powers the iPad) more friendly to the enterprise, the fact is that the iPad is still tied to iTunes software for many of its basic functions and is not a stand-alone computer. That is a huge turn-off to many businesses and IT departments.
For perspectives on the latest in tech, follow my Twitter feed: @jasonhiner.

Bottom line

All in all, versatility is one of the things that makes the iPad great. You can use it to read big PDFs, look at business reports and dashboards, view video clips, quickly scan through emails and calendars, and pull up full Web pages - all in the palm of your hand. The problem is that the iPad is not necessarily fantastic at any one function. As a result, the iPad and other touch tablets like it will need to make the ROI case to businesses and IT departments based on ease-of-use, which could possibly save on training and troubleshooting, for example.

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.

140 comments
jtarrant
jtarrant

There is a consistent thread here from some quarters that the iPad has no place in business. This is really a very narrow perspective. I'm sure many saw that new fangled PDA as only marginal to buisness. Every major innovation creates its own applications. There are a huge number of different kinds of buisnesses in this country and around the world. Just because it doesn't fit the beige world of large corporations (at least according to some posters here) doesn't mean that it doesn't fit a lot of others. It is already being used for training in a number of businesses. The blue tooth aspect allows it to link up to a number of peripherals that make it more of a business tool. For those of us who work in situations where being able to record data and notes in a rough setting (I work on environment and development overseas), the iPad has multiple uses and, yes, I work for a business. So, let's let sweeping generalizations lie and think about the variety of tools available to us. I would hate to be limited only to the Crackberry.

jtarrant
jtarrant

There is a consistent thread here from some quarters that the iPad has no place in business. This is really a very narrow perspective. I'm sure many saw that new fangled PDA as only marginal to buisness. Every major innovation creates its own applications. There are a huge number of different kinds of buisnesses in this country and around the world. Just because it doesn't fit the beige world of large corporations (at least according to some posters here) doesn't mean that it doesn't fit a lot of others. It is already being used for training in a number of businesses. The blue tooth aspect allows it to link up to a number of peripherals that make it more of a business tool. For those of us who work in situations where being able to record data and notes in a rough setting (I work on environment and development overseas), the iPad has multiple uses and, yes, I work for a business. So, let's let sweeping generalizations lie and think about the variety of tools available to us. I would hate to be limited only to the Crackberry.

TheProfessorDan
TheProfessorDan

The fact that like a cell phone, you can only use one application at a time is a problem, though I am told that the next release will address this.

rkomrij
rkomrij

I think, with the correct software it could put day planners (Franklin, Daytimer, etc.) out of business....

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

than my current mobile phone offers then.

andrew.f.mayer
andrew.f.mayer

I would be most concerned about bending the iPad by acident or dropping it. How would it hold up? I can see the screen being cracked because it is so large and just waiting to be bent. This happens to laptops that have flimsy screen support.

Brandon_Forest
Brandon_Forest

The issue is not the functionality or non-functionality of the iPad, the issue is that once again Apple has shifted the paradigm. Jobs' talent is for innovation. He takes readily available technology, repurposes it, makes it Hip & Cool, and then changes the way we interface with computers and the internet. I will probably never buy an iPad, but I may be buying an iHP or iDell in the near future when they become available.

picornish
picornish

I think I must be in the only business where an iPad is honestly useful. I am a photographer, I use devices like large screen smart phones to show my work during meetings with my clients to discuss styles and requirements. For me the bigger screen, slick interface and useability of the iPad will be fantastic. I think I am lucky to be the person that will really benefit from this sleek, sexy device that loses out to everything else in most other departments!

bnicholson
bnicholson

"If you?re interested in the Apple iPad, you?ve probably read the initial reviews." This ought to read: "If you're still interested in the Apple iPad, you've never read the initial reviews." This overstates the slight positives and neglects entirely the negatives. A computer based on a phone/MP3 player OS, but without the utility of the phone. It will still play music, but not if you want to check your mail at the same time.

CuChulainn
CuChulainn

Would be interested in your thoughts/comments on the FREE Citrix Receiver App, and how it transcends the incompatibility of most enterprise apps on the iPad.

TeddiDavis
TeddiDavis

The slim size and power make this an exceptionally good option for note taking. Unlike a laptop which puts a wall between the user and customer when the screen is up, this is natural and unobtrusive similar to a pad, BUT without having to transcribe notes. Also putting a presentation on the iPad and sharing with a customer is terrific! (A bit of wow factor right now especially given the newness and anticipation in the market.) Adds substantially to efficiency. The fact it is seamlessly tied to iPhone and laptop via MobileMe also increases efficiency. Because of this it is more useful than my once-beloved Kindle. I have a book with me at all times with my iPhone, but have the same luxury of reading in larger format as my Kindle provided but with color and more page turning sensations--it's just more satisfying.

michael.biddulph
michael.biddulph

I'm using the Infinote app for all my note taking - saves having to carry loads of bits of paper around with me. Been using it to plan projects too. Cool!

randy.dyke
randy.dyke

to really hit the home run... a docking station like my old PDA giving keyboard, mouse and wired net at the desktop and pick it up to fly any time with all you stuff and maybe 1 usb for data xfer. iWorks would top this off as a must buy, Spread sheets, movies, books, and the web 24/7 anywhere. is it only wifi or does it do 4g cell?

smalc
smalc

This is a business review, right? Where's the productivity software for this platform that's compatible with what I'm using now - including Enterprise level support? Where's the compatibility with my network security software so I can put this equipment on my network? How do I connect this platform to my network other than WiFi? What if I want to research a point in the document I'm working on while keeping it up in my word processor? How do I print my document when it's ocmplete? It's not just a question of how fast the device starts up or how good the UI is. It's more what I can do with the device once it's ready to go, Jason. Right now, the IPad is extremely limited in that regard.

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

That was a "business review"? You failed to mention the problems in regards to syncing documents in iWorks from desktop to iPad. No mention of needing external keyboards in reality if the user is doing a lot of typing...available at extra cost. This is more like an "Intro to iPad for business" pamphlet, not a review...will wait for parts 2, 3 and 4.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Yet another reason to delay purchasing one. Look at the history of the iPhone.

GoodOh
GoodOh

Yes, in fact the iPad and the iPhone will both be running the same OS. That is correct. We all know that. Good to see you know it too. We all seem to be on the same page here. Was there an implied comment or criticism in your posting or were you just making sure we all understood that the iPad presents the same kind of software already available in a different piece of hardware? We have known that since the initial launch presentation.

GoodOh
GoodOh

Check back in 3 months and then again in 6 months and again 12 months and the facts of how well the device stands up to the real world will be known. Right now people would just be making wild guesses. I think there will be a lot of people with smashed iPads around the place but perhaps I am wrong. Time will tell.

dwdino
dwdino

Wow, missed that one. What I will give Jobs credit for is finding the feeble and limited and inspiring them to mass assimilation. Sounds a lot like a recent election...

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

[i]sleek, sexy ... loses out to everything else in most other departments![/i] The iPad is blonde!

f.sprenger
f.sprenger

Its an E-reader not a business productivity tool. He forgot to mention the lack of USB or Flash support or lack of printing capablity. How can a single task OS be productive that was obsolete in the early 90's. Another over priced toy from Apple !!!

natlyman
natlyman

There are accessories for a keyboard, the 3G comes out at the end of the month, and the Camera Card attachment has USB so that you can attach usb things like headphone (think Skype because the usb is reported to have audio in/out and it has been reported that Skype is "terrific". Cell Phone has died? here is a backup see http://db.tidbits.com/article/11221

vballas
vballas

The issue here is where would you use The ipad. If it is for The office, there you have yourself laptop or desktop. You can access citrix from there or print. So where would you use The ipad ? On The market if you are a filler, a driver, a business developer, a preseller, an agent, etc. On The plane, meeting, home, airport if you 're a travelling suite. On The hospital or personal place if you' 're a doctor, physician, and i can go on forever. Most of these professions do not require flash or even multitasking, although The latter will be in v4. Printing is already available from 3rd party apps and i believe will come soon as part of The os 4.1? As for setting it in The network this can be achieved and will also be enhanced with v4. So is The ipad or even iphone perfect? No, nothing is. But it comes damn close and only gets better year after year. PS. I wrote this fully on The ipad.

Turd Furgeson
Turd Furgeson

I could have wrote this review a month ago. It should have been titled the 3 best and worst features.

barry.mcconnell
barry.mcconnell

The only business where you can make a case for iPads is Apple. What about only running one app at a time? As I sit her I have six open spread across three screens. Sorry, iPad is just another toy for people with too much money and too large egos.

TheProfessorDan
TheProfessorDan

Couldn't they have done this the first time? I guess that even Steve Jobs isn't perfect.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

I can show the same over several decades...

CuChulainn
CuChulainn

There is an inexpensive USB accessory, and there are plenty of apps that allow printing. Why is Flash necessary on a 'business productivity tool'? If I have email, calender and contacts sync'd to Exchange, and the Citrix App for access to my enterprise applications, what else could it possibly NEED to make it a 'business productivity tool'?

natlyman
natlyman

There is a USB adapter as part of the Camera kit. Has audio in and out and can work with headphones as well as keyboard. http://db.tidbits.com/article/11221 H.264 and HTML5 eliminate the need for flash which is an inefficient resource hog. I think this multitasking thing is really overblown hype. When you switch apps, it suspends and when you return it opens where you left off, for 3rd party apps. There is already multitasking in some of the apps and has been on the iphone since 3.0. 4.0 is more robust, as you will see in June.

alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

I write this from my blackberry.. I can even write from my Opera browser in my Nintendo WII!!!... And doctors in the hospital with Ipads needs multitasking!!

SkyNET32
SkyNET32

Their next update coming in june will allow "multitasking". Although why anyone would actually need to be doing more than one thing at a time such as running three spreadsheets is beyond me. Sounds like a recipe to create more errors and typos on your reports. You should stick to one and focus more

kdavis
kdavis

iPad may not replace the PC or other tools completely, but I argue that it could have a significant place in the business world for things that hauling a laptop has become the norm. The ease of doing a presentation on iPad as opposed to using a laptop is hard to argue with. The ability to read reports, articles, and books on a platform where you can also edit and create new content would be an enormous advantage. I use a laptop all the time at work, with two 19 inch monitors to do most of my work. However, when I have to travel or take the laptop somewhere for a presentation I am constantly frustrated trying to make the information accessible. To have a pad that does what my iTouch does would be amazing. It wouldn't replace my laptop, but it would be a fantastic addition to my tools. Understand, however, that I am a technical writer and generally do not need the most high powered equipment. The developers I work with think my laptop is a joke. But, they generally don't have to do presentations! There is a right tool for every job, and iPad is just another specialty tool.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

let's see how Apple uses the Ipad internally to replace all it's mobile computing for staff.

cjreynolds
cjreynolds

I used to work for Apple - back in 1980-85. They are PHOBIC about doing anything that is anywhere near like WinTel. The names they call ports, etc. are all different from the IBM standard. I worked on apple computers for 5 years, and didn't know what a serial or parallel port was - I knew what an "interface port" and a "printer port" were (those were Apple's names for serial and parallel ports). Apple's OS has no native support for almost any of the keyboard shortcuts that Win does - these features have to be intentionally coded into the application - even the Home and End keys!!! When Apple overcomes it's phobia toward standards, all of our lives will be easier! joe

mborges
mborges

But to classify the iPad as a business device it needs to support the existing infrastructure, not promote/require systemic change that could potentially cost millions of dollars. Ya change is coming, but Apple wants to sell the iPad NOW. Without adherance and support of common standards they are doing themselves and their potential customers a disservice.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

What [u]standard[/u] interface has Apple provided in lieu of USB?

Gadbois.Joshua
Gadbois.Joshua

How else could we play farmville for christ's sake?

vballas
vballas

Yes, dinosaurs got eventually extinct although they ruled for ages. The reasons simple. Things change. The mistake you make is sticking with The current, The today. Obviously Apple is trying for anew approach.

mborges
mborges

USB is such a prevalent standard I should not need an accessory for it. From flash drives to data sync to input devices like keyboards all I can say is SHAME on apple for not going with USB as thier standard interface. This failure is so that they can both control what devices a user would try to connect (helping promote the false idea that they more stable than other platforms)and market thier own devices. Flash is also a requirement in a business class device. There can not be any intelligent way you can ague against it. Many major web based line of business enterprise applications utilize flash and some these represent an investment into the millions from thier users. At this time the iPad is a toy, and not even a very interesting one at that.

mborges
mborges

Just becasue you do not need it does not mean that flash is not found in many enterprise applications. Primarily portal and line of business applications and typically used in conjunction with java for smooth and intuitive user interfaces. When you classify the iPad as a business class device that means all businesses. And clearly, if it cannot be intergrated NOW with an enterprises existing infrastructure it is not a valid supporting device. HTML5 is the future possibly, but Apple wants to sell the iPad now. So they fail at addressing the business consumer as surely as the first generations of iPhones failed at syncing with corporate exchange systems cleanly and securely.

alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

Ipad have several critical problems: no multitask, no camera, no dvd, no usb, no keyboard, etc. And NO FLASH is an issue. I like this website: http://www.agencynet.com And I cannot see any html5 version now :(

CuChulainn
CuChulainn

I'm not sure who are addressing, but to clarify MY point... I do not think Flash is obsolete. It just isn't necessary for me, and therefore doesn't rul-out the iPad as a viable business device.

SKDTech
SKDTech

I'm sure many websites will be more than happy to embrace HTML5 just as soon as it actually becomes a fully ratified standard.

SkyNET32
SkyNET32

Flash may be everywhere, but it is bloated, insecure and frankly the web and its businesses who are always bringing up the rear, should abandon it for the new HTML standard. Otherwise, someone get Adobe to fix their garbage products. I think Jobs is right for not supporting flash

vballas
vballas

Gentlemen flash never really cought on business. Some rare exceptions willnalways exist. Flash is primarily a consumer thing. Games, videos, adverts ...and they can all pretty much be done with HTML 5 which is just starting; imagine in 2-3 years. Ofcourse The transition will not be smooth but when was it? The power of accustomation and resistance to change. The winners in business are The ones that foresee and take advantage of change. Not The stuck minds.

mborges
mborges

There are many web based line of business applications that use flash. What a silly argument it is to say from a programming perspective that a particular technology is obsolete when the fact of its existence is staring you in the face as you say it.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Where to start.... Got any proof of your claims? I would like to know how an interpreted language with no graphic capabilities and only exists in "theory" can replace all that Flash does? Maybe some examples... Can you create large games, RPG's, etc. in HTML5? Can you create Beat Detection? How do you play music through HTML5? Do you have to script each musical note like a MIDI file?

mborges
mborges

Bring back win 3.1 with BOB installed. W00t!

Gadbois.Joshua
Gadbois.Joshua

I've got thirteen apps open at the moment, copy-pasting from spreadsheet to presentation to doc, making sure all the data is consistent with what's in the data repository, email clients are running, and this browser that has five tabs open itself to different folders on the (ugh) SharePoint project site... Oh, wait, you don't have a job, do you. Never mind.

graeme
graeme

The i-overhead projector of course. Surely, at the back of every stationary / tech storage unit, there's one of these beauties just waiting for the day Apple would give it the call to duty, with it's new "green" credentials as it doesnt need it's bulb anymore so it uses less energy. SJ obviously believes in equal opportunities for old technology. ;)

mborges
mborges

Exactly how do you hook up the ipad to a standard projector? Seriously, I didn't know it could easily do that. Also, how do you quickly attach to a print device to print out the handouts? Sorry I just do not see how this is a presentation device.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I'd like to see it unbound from Itunes. Sure, great for Apple to deliver entertainment content and home use apps but Itunes and it's constant arbitrary updates on my office desktops? Let me simply save a PDF to a drive letter and have it appear in my Ipad reading list as I'm rushing out the door to the meeting or give me a little sync app that mirrors a directory tree over to the device. Heck a "transfer to Ipad" menu option even.. just don't make me install that glut of additional code in Itunes.