This past weekend, Apple started offering the iPad 2 for sale. By all accounts, initial sales were very strong; the online store quickly saw shipping times go from just a few days to many weeks, and Apple Stores across the country experienced long lines. It’s too early to say how many of those sales went to people who’ll be using iPads for business, but I think there’s reason to believe it’s a considerable percentage.
The new iPad offers enterprise users a number of improvements over the previous version, although the cameras might not be appreciated by some in workplaces where privacy is strictly monitored and controlled. Like the original iPad, the new version is still a tool that allows remote salespeople to all stay on the same page, with current sales and marketing material and an interactive presentation tool they can easily take directly to their customers. And it still allows distributed team members to stay in touch via email, IM, VoIP and online collaboration tools. But now it also offers the power to potentially operate in a greatly expanded creative capacity, the means for advanced video telecommunications, and the ability to act as a plug-and-play mobile workstation.
iMovie is a truly powerful creative app that could pave the way for professional-calibre video editing applications on the platform. The new A5 chip and 9x better graphics performance mean that we’ll see developers rush to tax the limits of what’s possible on the iPad 2, and I think we’ll be surprised at how far they take things. Allowing team members to tweak complicated rich-media projects quickly on the go will be revolutionary for the iPad as a professional tool.
People who think that adding a camera to the iPad 2 is just a minor improvement aren’t people who work with remote team members and clients. Videoconferencing is increasingly popular; you need only look as far as the success of Skype and the rise of competitors to that service to find proof of that. The value of face-to-face communication actually increases as in-person dealings become more of a rarity, and it won’t be long before third parties join Apple’s FaceTime in the video chat game, and multi-person group video chat is right around the corner (I suspect this may be a feature of FaceTime in iOS 5, in fact).
I’ve mentioned this before in my piece on HD mirroring being the killer feature of iPad 2, but it bears repeating here. The mirroring feature of the iPad 2 (which allows the entire OS and all apps to be output to a display via an adapter and HDMI cable) will allow users to treat it as a total mobile workstation. Just plug the iPad into a screen, pull out a full-size Bluetooth keyboard, and work away. Obviously, iOS still has isn’t as capable at some tasks as OS X or Windows, but developers have been doing a good job of filling those gaps, and will no doubt continue to do so. And for some tasks, I find it actually works better as a productivity tool, because of its one-at-a-time.
Finally, I have to point out that for those who have yet to hold the iPad 2, the thinner and lighter design just makes it feel much more like a portable device. My first-gen iPad feels positively clunky by comparison. This is no small consideration when it comes to the mobile worker. To paraphrase my colleague Kevin Tofel, the best tools are the ones that you have with you, and I can definitely see the iPad 2 coming along where its predecessor may have been left behind. For the flexible, distributed workforce of tomorrow made up of autonomous, mobile individuals acting in concert across great distances, the iPad is the tool to beat, and this revision only underscores that.