Is the iPad right for your small business?

Released on Saturday, April 3, 2010 & iPad 3G on May 1 2010, the iPad had people queuing up at stores, hoping to get their hands on one of the highly coveted new devices.  While the touch screen device is simple to use and does have functionality, it’s still more of a consumer product than a business productivity tool.  Regardless, it might be just the thing for your small business.

Some (consumer-centric) things to know

With the iPad, you can browse the web, send and receive email as well as shop for apps and music when you are in Wi-Fi range.  In addition, regardless of Wi-Fi access, you can also play games, read eBooks, set appointments with the built in calendar, and access contacts just like you would when using an iTouch or iPhone.  With the iPad, you have access to most of the iPhone features except the ability to make phone calls.

Business productivity

  • Email- The iPad can integrate with most business-class email systems.  However, talk to your IT support staff before installing your corporate email account on your iPad to ensure that you are not violating your company’s IT security policies.
  • Productivity apps- Thousands of productivity apps such as calculators, bid-generators, database applications, real estate tools, e-fax, Cad-viewers and more are available from Apple’s App store.
  • Service apps- Apps are available from several of your favorite business-class services such as salesforce.com and WebEx.  With these and other similar apps, you can gain access your company’s sales information and customer management tools, attend online meetings, and more.
  • Compatibility apps- With applications such as Documents-to-Go, you can read, edit and create documents that are compatible with Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
  • Remote access apps- Apps for logmein, VNC, Citrix, thin-client and VPN users, and other programs provide secure remote access to networked corporate systems.

Potential (business-centric) disadvantages

  • Networking- Networking the iPad with your business IT environment is currently limited to Wi-Fi.  This means that you can’t plug in an Ethernet cable and jump on the network.  In a few months, Apple will release a new version of the iPad that will offer 3G access in addition to Wi-Fi.  While the new device will give you access to AT&T’s 3G network, providing you another way to connect to your network, it will also require the purchase of a monthly data plan.
  • Computer replacement- The iPad is not a computer replacement.  It needs access to a computer for set-up, registration, OS updates and data syncing.
  • Upgrades- Hardware upgrades are impossible.  For example, when you run out of space on your hard drive, you can’t upgrade it or add a peripheral device.
  • App availability- Not all business applications are currently available as iPad apps.  Also, consider that some of your needed business applications might not ever be available in app format.
  • Peripherals- Lack of an external keyboard can decrease productivity because you have to peck at a screen to enter text.  Fortunately, Apple has plans to release an iPad keyboard later this year.

Final conclusions

While Apple’s advertisements made the newest Apple device seem like an excellent productivity tool, initial research reveals that it is currently a device best used by consumers.  Keep in mind that the iPad is still in its first generation format.  Apple’s R&D team is probably already hard at work adding bells and whistles that will make it more business-centric in the next year or two.  Through popular use, consumer pressure, and some thoughtful retooling, the iPad will likely find its way into the business world in the next couple of years.

For more information on how KaDee Associates Inc. can help you with your IT strategy. Visit us at KaDee Associates or call us at 484-974-2319.

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