You've taken the plunge and invested in an iPad. Like millions of others, you love it. It's light and keeps a remarkable 10-hour charge. Use it with a wireless Bluetooth keyboard and cover such as the popular ZAGG or Brookstone models, and you can type just as fast as ever. So, is it possible to ditch your laptop altogether for business trips or even work itself?
An abundance of apps are tempting people to give it a try.
Joe Keller, president and COO of Motivaction, a performance-improvement marketing company based in Minneapolis, says he relies on several apps that have allowed him to use his iPad almost exclusively.
"Pages and Numbers are two of them," Keller says. "I'm able to do a lot of Word document work on Pages and spreadsheet work on Numbers as part of the general rhythm of the business day. I'm not printing anymore. I'm just reading and editing right on the iPad."
Keller also uses GoodReader to view /PowerPoint presentations and iAnnotate to make comments on PDF files. "If I'm looking at a pdf document like a contract or a brochure I can actually make comments on it and forward it to someone else who will get the highlighted version."
Steven Holtzman, COO of West Coast Aerial Photography in Los Angeles, says he can sometimes be flying with no Internet connection for up to seven hours at a time. For him, Instapaper has been the best iPad app he has purchased. "It lets me flag articles and long emails to read later and…has really been a phenomenal help for staying updated," he says.
WebEx and GoToMeeting are popular apps for holding virtual meetings. Spencer Belkofer, CEO of Lumin Consulting, an Internet marketing company in Birmingham, Alabama, likes GoToMeeting. He says it's good for displaying presentations, demonstrating products, and holding webinars.
"If I sold a Web application in which someone has to log on to use it, I could log into it from my computer without giving [a lot of] people the access [code] and show them how it works," Belkofer says. "It could be used for tutorials to explain how to use anything."
Genevieve Haines, president of Haines & Co. Public Relations, bought an iPad 2 when her laptop died and shortly thereafter downloaded Keynote because giving presentations is a huge part of her job. 'I plug the iPad into the projector and I'm ready to go," she says. "Since I've always been on a PC, using Keynote was a new thing for me. The Keynote app, however, played my PowerPoint slides just fine with a few tweaks [such as] I had to change a font and reformat some of the SmartArt."
"Using the iPad as a presentation device has become very much a trend,' says Giles Nugent, who teaches an iPhone app development course at the SAE Institute in New York City and who owns the mobile app company Eamonn and Ian LLC. For his presentations, Nugent uses the book-reading app iBooks, which allows people to load PDF files through iTunes onto the iPad.
Nugent says there are several reasons more people are using iPads for presentations.
"It's much easier to carry than a laptop. It's got 10 hours of power so you don't have to worry about finding an outlet to plug it in," he says. "It's much less obtrusive in a meeting. If you pull out your laptop everybody thinks you're looking at e-mail. You bring out the iPad and it's a much more sophisticated presentation device. You don't want to hand out pieces of paper anymore.'
While the iPad users we spoke with have endless lists of apps they like, a few more are worth mentioning.
Dragon Dictation is a voice-recognition app that allows you to speak and instantly see your text or e-mail messages, a process that the company says is up to five times faster than typing.
Evernote lets you save things like notes, Web pages, business cards, photos, and screenshots, then indexes them so you can find what you saved later.
File backup, sharing and syncing apps such as Dropbox and SugarSync are also popular with SMBs that want to have access to their files all the time, whether they're using a desktop computer, laptop or mobile device.
If you want to move beyond merely accessing files and would like to get your hands on your actual desktop applications when away from your main computer, there are even ways to do that.
"The best tool I've yet found is from Lenovo," says Rob Enderle, an expert on the Focus network and principal analyst at the Enderle Group."Cloud client allows you to run virtually any desktop Windows-based application on an iPad, secure the iPad, and partially manage it. You may also be able to use KACE Tools from Dell to manage the iPad. Both showcase that the best companies to help make an iPad work like a PC in business are those that regularly deploy PCs in businesses."
Another option for remotely accessing a desktop is the Citrix Receiver for iPad app. "[It] makes it easy for iPad owners to take their virtual office with them on the go," says Mark Fidelman, general manager of the Americas for enterprise solution provider Harmon.ie and expert on the Focus network. "One simple touch gives iPad owners secure access to all of their corporate Windows applications and desktops, making it easy to work from anywhere, while still enjoying the great user experience they bought an iPad for in the first place."
He cautions, however, that to use Citrix Receiver you'll need Citrix XenApp or XenDesktop infrastructure.
Fidelman also suggests Square, which lets business owners take credit card payments using a mobile device. "Imagine a situation where it's not cost-effective to set up the infrastructure to accept credit cards, such as trade shows, mobile kiosks, and salespeople in the field. Square handles the transaction and provides a digital receipt which is sent to the recipient's email address. They also only charge a simple flat rate without minimums," he says.
Will using the latest and greatest apps let you give up your laptop altogether? The experts we talked to generally think not, although they say it comes pretty close as a replacement, and even does things the laptop can't. So, the jury is still out on this one.
"Being a developer, I am tied to my laptop," says Erica Byrd, an expert on the Focus network and mobile architect for Dominion Enterprises in Norfolk, Va. "The iPad gives me some freedom and flexibility that I do not have with my laptop. I wouldn't take my laptop out to dinner and then choose and buy movie tickets during dessert. But I can and do with my iPad. At work, my iPad is great for logging notes during meetings. I do not envision replacing my laptop with an iPad, but I am more productive and flexible because of it."