The iPad, just like its cousin the iPhone, is coming to the enterprise, whether IT likes it or not. In fact, some businesses have embraced the iPad (and tablets, in general) as a way to mobilize business processes and large data sets, like flight manuals.
For a lot of businesses, the immediate impact of the iPad is less clear. For them, it's just another cool consumer gadget that some manager wants to bring into the office.
But that's not all bad. The iPad actually does come ready for work with applications that, while not necessarily as feature-rich as traditional productivity suites, can be handy when you are on the move.
Our partners at the Dummies how-to line of books have devoted an entire chapter of their iPads for Dummies guide to using the hip tablet at work. The 22-page chapter is available free to IT Business Edge members here in the IT Downloads library.
Most every productivity-related app is covered, from the basic stylus Notes program to direct management of the Calendar and Contacts software (although most business users will want to synch the Calendar with Outlook or another server-based messaging services, which is not covered in the chapter).
The three main iWorks programs covered in the chapter are the Numbers spreadsheet software, Pages word processor, and Keynote presentation software.
Dummies describes Numbers as having "tables and charts have the kind of pizzazz Apple is famous for." You can get an idea of what they are talking about in the image below.
Numbers comes with 16 functional templates (expense reports, employee schedules, etc.) that are not only snazzy, but also pre-loaded with a lot of functionality. Dummies describes Numbers as the iPad app that best takes advantage of the device's sophisticated touch-screen technology. The main catch with the spreadsheet is that it cannot save to the Microsoft XLS format, which frankly means work you do in numbers is not going to be portable to most of the business world except via PDF.
The same limitation applies to presentations created in Keynote, although PDF is often a perfectly fine option for distributing presentations. Just don't expect most folks to be able to edit the presentation, except for review notes supported by Acrobat Reader and such software. Both Keynote and Numbers do allow you to import MS Office docs, so there is a one-way communication available.
Pages, the iPad's highly visual word processor, does have the option to export to DOC format, for information you create in Pages is more portable than in the other apps. However, Dummies does suggest that if you plan to do very much typing in the word processor, you might consider adding an external keyboard to the device.