Apple’s new tablet offering has garnered mixed reactions from the business community. The most pervasive (and legitimate) criticism centers on the iPad’s lack of true multitasking, a feature busy professionals simply expect of any new device. Do a few quick web searches and you’ll notice a theme familiar to anyone that has watched consumer reaction to Apple products over the years—waiting until the next release, or the just-announced Google/Verizon tablet.
We’re not waiting. As soon as the iPad was unveiled, my team saw its potential and ordered a few. For $31 worth of apps, total, we’ve turned the device into a powerful way to show off our products and keep our travelers in sync with each other and our Austin HQ. Our Sales Directors, Client Success Directors and Market Developers attend around 30 total events per quarter, from the Bay Area to London and beyond. When they bring along fully-equipped iPads to each conference, show, meeting and client dinner, they’re bringing with them a way to enrich each interaction.
As a Sales Director told me today, prospective clients were drawn to him and the iPad as he walked around an event earlier this week, giving impromptu demos and generating a huge amount of interest from people that might have walked right past a stationary vendor booth.
With our iPads…
…interactive product demos become fully-mobile.
…contacts and leads are managed and updated in real-time.
…communication and collaboration become more fluid than ever before.
DropBox: The central hub
DropBox is a free app that makes everything else possible, and astoundingly simple. I had used the desktop app before to share files between my home and work computers. When I learned of the iPad and iPhone versions, I instantly downloaded them and began testing ways to complete the loop.
After installing DropBox on one of our work computers and all of our iPads, I created a central account and logged in on each device. Sharing files with the road team is now as easy as dropping them into the “My DropBox” folder at work. In a matter of seconds, the traveling iPads will have downloaded the docs. Displaying and editing them is a different story. Enter the paid apps.
iWork: Apple’s productivity suite
Pages, KeyNote and Numbers comprise iWork, and cost $10 each. Each of them seamlessly integrates with DropBox to display and edit the files that DropBox delivers. If Charlotte, our Event Marketing Manager wants to share a slide deck, Word doc or spreadsheet, she drags it into her DropBox folder. The team can then preview the file within DropBox on the iPad, or pick one of iWork’s apps from the “Open In” dropdown list for more functionality and editing.
Each of the iWork apps is surprisingly robust for what is, in essence, a mobile experience. Presentations with KeyNote look beautiful on the touch screen, and users can pick from a nice array of transitions while making any changes to the deck on the fly. Pages is a fully-featured word processor that can handle the doc creation process from start to finish with no hiccups. Numbers has the functionality of Excel in a more intuitive and aesthetically-pleasing interface. Files are automatically saved after edits, but cannot then be reinserted into DropBox. Instead, given the iPad’s lack of an accessible hard drive, updated docs must be sent via email. Luckily, this is easy to do from within each of iWork’s apps. In fact, exporting and sending via email is central to almost every productivity app I’ve used on the iPad.
Other apps: Fill in the gaps
Although DropBox natively supports .PDFs, it also exports to GoodReader, a nifty $.99 app that provides more tools and a better viewing experience.
Adobe’s Ideas app is a free, super-simple “digital sketchbook” that lets users create images from scratch, or spice up images and photos.
Roambi, also free, converts data from spreadsheets and Salesforce into dynamic visualizations. It’s a great app for presentations.
Ever wish you could quickly pull up Web pages when your connection is spotty or broken? Offline Pages saves pages for future browsing from a bookmarklet in Safari, free. Apple and Microsoft…in harmony?
The iPad syncs e-mail, calendars and contacts through almost exactly the same interface iPhone users are used to. This means that it supports Microsoft Exchange accounts, along with Mobile Me, Gmail, Yahoo Mail and AOL. Using the iPad’s Microsoft Exchange integration, my team only has to enter their individual account information once per trip for access to the same e-mail, calendar and contacts they use from our Austin HQ.
Not perfect, but well worth it
Is the iPad a game-changer for business? Not yet; perhaps in future iterations. That said, it’s still a huge value-add to our organization, and it has the potential to be the same for thousands of other businesses—at its current price, in its current release. The apps will only get better, and the hardware add-ons hitting the market every day will extend its functionality and uses well beyond what we see today.
Do you or your company have an iPad? How do you use it (or plan on using it) for business? Has it added value to your organization?
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