I've already yammered about the iPad's not-so-usefulness as a business tool. If I can't multitask, I just can't see using it for work. (That doesn't mean I don't want an iPad for personal use.) I'll agree there may be a niche between smartphones and netbooks, as Apple's Steve Jobs contends, but I am not sure the iPad will be the device to fill it -- at least not at the office.
Plenty of analysts and other observers have weighed in on the iPad's potential as a business tool, and many of them are as lukewarm about it as I am. In a Sci-Tech Today article, Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, says, "traditional notebooks and even netbooks remain far better tools [than the iPad] for conducting serious business and performing key work tasks." Still, King says, the iPad could be a great tool for making presentations and should serve business travelers well for catching up on e-mail, reading documents and e-books, and doing some other tasks facilitated by the iPad's larger format. King also expects Apple to add more business-friendly features in future iterations.
CIOs and other IT managers seem willing to give the iPad a chance. Michael Scalisi, an IT manager based in California, writing in PCWorld.com, says he's disappointed that Apple didn't use its Snow Leopard operating system for the iPad rather than a limited iPhone OS and he wishes the device had native connectivity options such as USB ports. But, like Pund-IT's King, he thinks it "just might fit the bill" for business travelers who don't have a smartphone but want a lightweight and inexpensive device for e-mail and Web browsing. So why not just get a smartphone, which offers Web browsing and e-mail capabilities plus a phone? Writes Scalisi:
Being badgered by your phone every few minutes with a new e-mail update is not a necessarily a productivity booster, and a pricey cellular data plan doesn't make sense for every mobile worker. Many business people are perfectly content with their small, limited, not-very-smart phones.
It's worth noting that most of the folks commenting on Scalisi's post don't agree with him at all, with one calling the iPad "a lost dog looking for a home." Still, another points out a theoretical iPad strength I haven't seen addressed elsewhere: the ability to use it without waiting for it to boot up. Doesn't seem like a huge advantage, but it's a bonus for folks who now tote their laptops from place to place, booting it up again and again, and primarily use them for e-mail and Web browsing.
Seven of 12 CIOs surveyed by TechRepublic (not a convincing edge, but an edge) said they see a business case for the iPad and other tablet PCs. And, a-ha, one mentions the iPad's "instant on, instant off, and instant load." Not sure I agree, though, that "this aspect alone makes a compelling business case."
Two of the 12 mention the need for more durability, expressing concern about how the iPad's screen would hold up in some of the environments that seem like natural fits for tablets, such as hospitals. One nixes the iPad due to its incompatibility with non-Apple applications and lack of built-in expansion ports. Another says he "can see an immediate use" for iPads at his company's board meetings.
Silicon.com's panel of tech executives were more enthusiastic about the iPad, voting yes to the question "Do you think the iPad has a future as a business device?" by a margin of 10 to two. One said it would be popular among business types who want a device lighter than a laptop but with a better display and keypad than a smartphone. (Netbook, anyone?) Still, another whose company has tried tablets in the past, said, "I can't think of a business case that would stand up when we have netbooks and fully functional laptops available."