iPad for Business? Not Without Multitasking


After all the hoo-ha died down, I've got to give the edge to Moses. The biblical figure, not Apple's Steve Jobs, made the greatest tablet announcement of all time.


(Thanks to Twitter users for the Moses joke. Some other iPad funniness on Twitter: "Apple tablet to feature screen made of real Unicorn horn & powered by magic holy kisses of Christ," The Onion's "Frantic Steve Jobs Stays Up All Night Designing Apple Tablet" and all of those groaners playing the feminine hygiene angle.)


With some time to reflect after my initial post on my iPad cravings, I think I'd still like one for personal use, perhaps another generation down the line when Apple has added missing features, like the ability to run more than one program at once, and hopefully lowered the price. If I had known this was coming, I'm not sure I'd have plunked down the money for an iPod Touch. The iPad's crisp 9.7-inch display would be easier on my aging eyes and much better for watching video. The iPad would also be more unwieldy to carry around though, a possible con. But I'm really glad I turned down my mother-in-law's offer to buy me a Kindle for Christmas.


I had been mulling a netbook before I got the iPod Touch, and I can see, as Steve Jobs said in his introduction, how the iPad fills a nice little niche between a laptop and a smartphone. The biggest issues there are the iPad's inability to multitask and its inability to run Adobe's Flash. If Apple can address those in the next iteration, it'll move a lot higher up on my wish list.


I can't see using one for business, though. (Unless I am in the business of winning deals and making money by casually demonstrating to people how cool I am. In which case, I'd probably starve.) The inability to multitask is an even bigger deal to me while I'm working. (You don't even want to know how many applications I've got open right now. Who doesn't multitask at work?) I'd call it the iPad's Achilles' heel.


There are the usual enterprise IT issues, which I am sensitive to since I write about them so much, and many of which are detailed in this InfoWorld article. No support for Microsoft Exchange e-mail or any kind of push e-mail, no support for virtual private networks, and plenty of other security shortcomings. (Apple's usual response to security questions is a smug contention that its products aren't hacked as often as those running Microsoft operating systems. No kidding. That's a market share thing. Hackers are going to focus on the most ubiquitous OSes.)


I can't see the iPad succeeding in construction or health care, two of the industry sectors in which tablet PCs have been popular. Those industries demand rugged hardware that can be customized to suit specific needs, points out a Computerworld article. Many users in those fields, such as construction foremen and nurses entering lots of patient data, may find a tablet with a stylus easier to use than the iPad's touchscreen. Back to security, hospitals concerned about HIPAA mandates like the ability to configure tablets as thin client or virtualized desktops.


Still, there's business potential there. The iPad business bonuses include support for Microsoft Office documents, external keyboard support and a special suite of iWork software that lets users create and edit presentations, work on spreadsheets and word-processing documents, and create newsletters and other basic page-layout documents.


As Charlene O'Hanlon points out on our CTO Edge site, developers can't wait to start creating business applications for the iPad. (And why wouldn't they be? There's more money to be had with business apps.) As with the iPhone, developer interest in the business market will help drive its acceptance as a business tool.