The iPad as a Business Tool

Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

Some 6 months ago, I posted a discussion on LinkedIn to ask advice about how practical a tablet – specifically the iPad – would be for business use on the road and received enough advice to encourage me to take the plunge. As a now-avid user of the technology, I thought it would be useful to post my experiences and the tools I use to assist others.

Background

Like many people today, my work involves frequent travel to London as well as meetings within, normally, a two hour radius of my home-office.

My excellent notebook computer, as is normal, cannot run for a full day without recharging and this then means lugging around a heavy bag with power supply, cables, etc. – not at all comfortable – while my smartphone is simply too small to do “real work” on.

With a 10-hour battery life and a 10-inch screen, the iPad overcomes the shortcomings of both notebook and smartphone – the question was just how usable it would be in a Windows environment like mine.

My Hardware Environment

Taking advice from several people I opted for the WiFi version of the iPad, together with a 3G data package from “three” giving me 15Gb of data a month with a MiFi device and costing just £18.99 a month.

The money I saved on not buying the 3G version was spent on the extra memory – the 64GB model.

Having seen a few other people using their iPads, I went for three “must-have” accessories, too: screen protectors, a capacitive stylus (from Boxwave) and a leather case with built-in Bluetooth silicon keyboard from LuvMac.  The LuvMac case/keyboard is great – not only protecting the iPad but giving me a built-in keyboard for very little weight, so freeing up the whole of the screen space for viewing. With about 100 hours of use out of a charge, I only charge it once a week.

My Software Environment

This was the area that most concerned me. Fortunately iPad apps are fairly inexpensive in the main, so if you make a mistake and get the wrong app for your needs it’s not a huge problem.

The applications I now use all the time (after some experiments) are: Dropbox, DocsToGo Premium, iAnnotate PDF, zipThat and – to access my Home-Office PC – Wyse PocketCloud Pro. Word and Excel files work very well with DocsToGo, although PowerPoint is less successful unless your slides are very simple and have no background pictures, so there’s a great opportunity for somebody to develop a PowerPoint-compatible app. I use both the Kindle app and iBooks for e-books and have a great business modeling app called Business Model. I’m also experimenting with a few other apps for Mind Mapping, general notes/drawing, etc., but haven’t yet settled on anything in particular. Of course, I have a few newspaper and news (TV) apps, too.

Email and Contacts on the iPad are very basic – workable, but not something you would want as your primary system. An Outlook client for iPad would be first prize (especially as I link to multiple mailboxes on various devices, including my smartphone. Another great thing would be a Google Chrome or Firefox app as Safari on the iPad is pretty clunky.

Setting everything up for my home-office environment was extremely easy and the RDP (Remote Desktop) links to my Home-Office PC from within the house (and garden) are very fast. Getting past my Sky Router and my internet security system was more challenging but that’s also now working well and I can access my PC when on the road if I’ve forgotten to put something in my Dropbox folder.

Conclusion

For me, the iPad definitely paid for itself in just a couple of months. I not only use it on the road all the time for email, etc., but also find myself using to take notes in meetings and events instead of using paper – so notes are immediately searchable on my PC, too.

If you have specific comments or suggestions for apps, etc., I’d be happy to hear them and share them through this post.

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3 responses to “The iPad as a Business Tool

  1. Am sure an ipad comes in handy. Will get one when I need one.

  2. I am glad you are enjoying the iPad, I never thought you would move to the other side. I have also been sceptical about Apple products but I received a “hand me down” iPhone 3Gs from Nikki and after many hours of forcing myself to try and use it I am starting to like the way it all works and considering that there are 3 of us in the house with Apple products now there are many very useful apps available, except iTunes, I think with one of the most powerful “audio” brands in the world the company would develop a more simple and easier front end management application, one of the reasons I have rebelled for the last 4 years, I stuck with Sony because of the ease of use with the good old “drag and drop” in windows explorer without converting all your music to the bloated aac format with no increase in sound quality, however Sony can’t offer all the apps and other features that Apple does so I guess putting up with iTunes is a small price to pay for the rest of the functionality as I am beginning to enjoy.
    Anyway I thought I would share some fairly neat apps I have stumbled across over the last couple of months owning an Apple product now myself, you may be familiar with some of these but weren’t mentioned in your article.

    For remote assistance I use Teamviewer, brilliant “free” remote assistance software for accessing your PC, I use it to assist and support my folks in Oz and SA and sometimes access my home PC to help the kids and wife when they have issues, the support is PC to PC but great little app if I am away from my PC, great to also be able to drop files into Dropbox from a remote PC.

    Office2 plus – Nice office document tool for DOC, DOCX, XLS and PPT

    Evernote – Good for taking notes anywhere, anytime and having them available from any device

    Mercury – Fantastic web browser, capable of opening multiple tabs and a far superior browsing experience than Safari overall

    Remote – Control your iTunes from your device, nice for when you are outside entertaining and listening to your collection and want to see what the song title is, album art or any other details as well as adjust the volume and change or search for your favourite tracks.

    Worldmate – Nice tool for travelling, it’s like having a Swiss army knife in your pocket for travelling

    Zinio – If you enjoy good magazine subscriptions, this is fantastic, a little small on the iPhone but fantastic on the iPad, 1000’s of mags to choose from.

    Now all I have to do is invest in the iPad and a Macbook and I would consider myself converted…

    • Thanks for the pointer to the apps, Mark. I have Evernote, too – but with Dropbox and DocsToGo I haven’t found a need to use it. I also have Zinio for a couple of old mags (had on my PC, but just don’t time to read mags nowadays: the reading pile on my desk is horrific, so don’t want to add more).

      Read the reviews on Office 2 before opting for DocsToGo, but it seemed (then) that the latter was a better implementation for the iPad. Perhaps this has changed – interested in your views on that.

      Will certainly check out the Mercury browser and Worldmate, as well as Teamviewer (this more out of interest as Pocketcloud is doing a great RDP job already).

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