Thinking of using the Apple iPad in your business this year? Beyond the various considerations to deploying the iPad in your SMB, what actual roles could Apple's shiny tablet play in your company? This slideshow highlights 10 possible business uses for the Apple iPad:
Click through for 10 real business uses for your iPad.
Tired of lugging your bulky laptop around just to give presentations? With the VGA Adapter and supporting software, business users can make use of the much more portable iPad for this task. A number of software supports the VGA Adapter, such as the free Presentation App, or Apple's own Keynote. Getting the presentation onto the iPad will probably require the requisite files to be synced in advance, though some of the presentation software supports alternative means of moving the files over. And unless you create the presentation on the iPad, you will probably want to first check that the transferred files display as expected.
As an added bonus, Apple has also promised a future update that will allow Keynote presentations to be streamed via AirPlay to an Apple TV. While not terribly useful for conference rooms where projectors are still predominantly VGA-based (the new Apple TV is HDMI only), the capability offers compelling value in certain scenarios – such as being able to conduct a presentation using a large-screen plasma or LCD at a trade show using an iPad.
Rather than lug along a stack of heavy sales brochures or other printed documents, why not just load everything onto an iPad? All it takes is some preparation to convert the requisite promotional materials as image files for viewing under the default Photos application. File them appropriately in separate folders, and you now have a veritable compendium of your company's products or services in the palm of your hands.
Paul confesses that he didn't come up with this idea himself. A vendor whipped out an iPad at a trade show to show him some screenshots of their product's GUI. The experience was so sleek it took him a moment to realize that it was just a bunch of properly formatted images and not a custom application created by the company.
Ever left the office for a meeting and then had to turn back because you needed some documents on your office desktop? Or you simply didn't have the time to fire up your laptop to take one more look at a spreadsheet? Well, a number of solutions are available today that allow you to synchronize your work-related files with a cloud-hosted solution. From there, these files can then be accessed from your iPad using the appropriate free apps. Exact functionality and prices vary – some are free, but there are definitely no shortages of solutions, which range from SugarSync, Box.net and Dropbox, or even Apple's own iDisk.
Paul uses different kinds of software to maintain his productivity, including Microsoft OneNote to maintain a list of ideas for new blogs and articles, as well as a plain text application for general note taking and to maintain his to do list. He’s discovered that he can read and edit his OneNote Notebooks using MobileNoter on the iPad, while Simplenote allows him to do the same for the notes on his desktop. Because everything is automatically synced to the cloud, he doesn’t even have to remember to perform a manual synchronization, or leave his laptop on.
Your personal workflow obviously differs, and it will probably take some time to figure out the right combination of software that will contribute to your productivity. His point though, is the role the iPad can play in that regard.
Paul has written in the past about how you can increase your personal productivity with an additional monitor. Without repeating the arguments here, there are a number of apps that you can get for your iPad that will transform it into a wireless monitor to extend your display area. There are a few solutions available, though the one he recently purchased is the DisplayLink app, which in tandem with the company's free iPad client software, allows him to use the iPad as an 1024×768 monitor for his Windows 7 laptop with full Aero support.
The iPad with its larger display is very well suited for catching up on some reading when traveling, or while waiting for the clients to arrive. Aside from the bunch of dedicated ebook applications such as iBooks and Kindle for the iPad, there is also a large number of RSS news readers that can help you keep apace of developments in your industry. Finally, iPad clients of both Read It Later and Instrapaper are available for you to catch up on Web pages flagged for reading from your desktop.
One very practical feature of the iPad is its ability to connect to not just POP servers, but also to an Exchange Server or IMAP-based mail server. Users are not only able to access and read their e-mails in the latter two scenarios, but are also able to perform basic folder management and filing tasks. Moreover, the iPad's large screen and ability to render HTML e-mails in high fidelity allows users to tackle their inbox at practically the same productivity level as from a full-fledged workstation. Finally, a recent iOS update has made it possible for an iPad to connect to more than one Exchange Server for users that require this functionality.
With apps offering the ability to edit and review Word documents and Excel spreadsheets, workers can literally bring their office along with them. While these software do represent an additional cost, and might not have all the desired functionality, they have worked well for Paul. In addition, they also price cheaply in comparison to desktop software.
There are many types of calendaring software that allow you to manage your work and personal schedule for the iPad. Schedules planned on Microsoft Outlook can be synchronized wirelessly to your iPad, or when synchronizing via iTunes – many of the apps also support syncing to cloud-based calendaring services such as Google Calendar.
The 10-hour battery stamina of the iPad means that you can leverage it for your social media interactions without constantly worrying about it running out of juice. Businesses are now aware of the importance of engaging their customers on an individual level via sites such as Facebook and Twitter. And while enterprises have the budget to pay dedicated specialists to perform these tasks, the responsibility in SMBs usually falls on the shoulders of employees in the sales and technical departments. On this front, the iPad makes an excellent platform, with dedicated clients for just about every social network out there. Safari works well, too.