Business Uses for the iPad



I put myself squarely in the “Working Mac User” category. My MacBook sees daily use in an Enterprise. I freelance write about the Mac and use mine in school. Outside of web surfing and the occasional game, very little of my time at the keyboard is leisure time. So, when I viewed the live blogs of the iPad event, my thoughts drifted to “How can us this for work?” Rather than deal with hypotheticals, I’ll go into some ways I could use an iPad.

Covering Conventions

I used to cover E3, the gaming industry’s excuse for middle-aged men to ogle booth babes. I’d have to drag my laptop, a camera, notebooks, and whatever crap got handed to me by PR folks. For each appointment my editor sent me to, I was expected to write an article about what I saw. In that situation, when contemplating how much something weighs against its power, weight wins. An iPad that let me write and file a story in from the show floor and weighed under 2 pounds would have be very useful. Add in the optional cellular plan and I’m not fretting too much over an Internet connection — I know, I know, it’s AT&T.

Flying Steerage Class

When I fly, I give up on getting any work done. I’m a large dude — 6’4, well north of 200 lbs. Even my 13″ MacBook is unwieldy in coach. God help me if I get settled in and the Amazon next to me needs to get up. Then I’m balancing a laptop in the aisle while being jostled. If I’m using an iPad I can just hit the home button and slide it into the seat pocket. Watching movies and reading books on this would be awesome and let me save my iPhone batteries for making calls when I land.

This is also true for the train. I spend three bleeping hour a day on the commuter rail. A laptop is tough to manage on a crowded train at times. I also have trouble getting it at a comfortable height to feel comfortable typing.

Presentations and Meetings

I’m lucky. I don’t need to give dog and pony shows a lot. As a sales tool, though, this would be very slick. I’d walk into a client’s office, pull out a very sexy looking device and give a great presentation on it. I have a few concerns: Apple has said it’ll connect to most projectors, but I’ve run into enough flaky issues where getting my laptop hooked to the projector involved ritual chants and waving dead chickens at it. Also, during Phil’s Keynote talk, I didn’t see him mention any sort of a presenter’s view.

The iPad would also be very handy for taking notes on during a meeting, especially if you’ve downloaded the agenda previously. Every now and then I get stuck in an all-day snoozefest meeting, and I think the iPad would be more meeting friendly than a laptop. Often, I feel like I might be making the organizer think I’m not paying attention, and a thin iPad on the table might be less intrusive.

Working Lightly/On The Go

I don’t think I’m unique here: I’ve got a rocking laptop with a 500 gig drive full of documents, music, photos, and movies starring actresses who may, or may not, have been linked to Tiger Woods. Paraphrasing George Carlin, my Macbook Pro is my house; a big pile of stuff with a cover on it. My friend calls me up and wants me to go to Maui for the weekend. Now, it’s never going to happen, but many of us in these situations delude ourselves into thinking we’re actually going to work on a beach in Maui. Or, a family member is in the hospital — or you’re in the hospital. For whatever reason, you need a smaller version of your stuff — just enough to get by for the weekend. For most of us that need to get stuff done, that’s e-mail, Twitter, web surfing, and a lighter version of some productivity tools. The iPad could fill this niche very well for me.

I can think of three times in the last year I’d have been happy to use an iPad instead of my MacBook. My dad was in the hospital for a week and I found my iPhone was a better use for me than the laptop. In October, he and I took a road trip for a week. I hauled the MacBook with me, but in reality I was just going to be playing games, checking e-mail, and doing some light word processing, and the MacBook was overkill. We were at a convention, and I’d have been just as happy sliding the iPad into my carry around bag. The third time was a weekend away with my wife. I brought the lappy but never turned it on. I did everything I wanted on my iPhone, but would have been much happier turning on the iPad to read a book on.

The iWork Suite May Not Be the Killer App

Phil was quite proud of the iWork suite for the iPad, and he should be — it did look amazing. However, I have a lot of concerns about the suite. The biggest one for me is how it handles transfers. For starters, the iWork apps are very closed source. I can’t hand off a Pages document to someone who doesn’t have Pages. On OS X, I can at least make a PDF; I’ve seen no evidence I can do this on the iPad. Also, there’s no Windows version of iWork. If my companion computer isn’t a Mac, how does it handle transfers? Can I even get the documents off it? Will they be in a format I can use on a PC? It’d be handy if seamlessly converted them to .rtf files during the transfer. Steve Jobs reportedly told Walt Mossberg, “Write it in Pages, you could make a Word version and send it to your editors.” We’ll have to wait and see how smooth that is.

For me, rather than iWork, the killer productivity app might be Quickoffice. It already handles .doc and .xls files natively, can access MobileMe and supports Wi-Fi transfers to desktops.

The Printing Dilemma

One of the productivity-related questions I’ve seen going around is the printing issue. I’ve been giving it a lot of thought, though. How often do I, personally, need to print? Not that often. Maybe a page a week on heavy weeks. But being able to save a page to the iPad, or Evernote and have it sync down is what works best. For me, the lack of printing support isn’t a deal breaker: I can always e-mail it.

Will I Be Getting One?

Separating the fact that as a card carrying member of the International Brotherhood of Apple Pundits it’s in our Union Charter to get one, the three times I could clearly go, “yes, I could have used/preferred the iPad” (and those aren’t the only times, just the immediate, big ones that came to mind) convince me I should get one.

I’m not stupid, though.

This is a rev one device. Now, I still have an Edge iPhone, so I’m clearly not in the immediate upgrade class. I’m convinced the iPad 2.0 will have a front-facing camera at the least. Therefore, I’m actually planning on cheaping out and buying the 16GB version with 3G. I think for me, the 3G availability is more important than the extra storage. I can manage my storage very well. I have a 16GB iPhone. There’s 8GB of audio, 3GB of Movies, and 1.3GB of Apps and data. The audio won’t go to the iPad since I’m quite happy with my iPhone as an iPod, so it’s a given the 8GB will get used up by more video. Keeping with the George Carlin theme, will I need my entire 80GB of movies off my MacBook? Heck no. Just the ones I need to get through my weekend in Maui. The Big Lebowski and Star Wars.

How about you business folks? What are you planning on using the iPad for?

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