The big question in the minds of many when Apple launched the iPad tablet computer in April was whether this new device was destined to be only a high-tech toy or if it had the horsepower to become a valuable business tool. It didn’t take small business owners long to answer that question in the iPad’s favor and make room for it at the table.
Many organizations are adding iPads to their computing mix to augment desktop and laptop computers. Scale Computing, a 50-person company that develops and manufactures data storage solutions for small businesses, has rolled out iPads to nearly 70 percent of its employees, including the entire sales staff, executive team and marketing team.
“We love it,” said Peter Fuller, a founding member and VP of marketing and business development. “It’s just a terrific presentation tool as well as a medium consumption tool.”
Fuller added that Scale is using iPads to augment laptops. [12 Little-Known iPad Features]
“It allows folks to travel more lightly,” he said. He recently took a trip to London and brought along his iPad instead of his laptop because of its light weight and long battery life. “The iPad has become my backup system. It’s basically a second computer.”
There are worms in this Apple, however, Fuller concedes, particularly the lack of local storage and Flash support. Daniel O’Leary, a vice president with LincWare, a company based in Rochester, N.Y., that makes software to automate document creation, agrees that the lack of local storage could be a deal-breaker for companies. He also takes the iPad to task for its lack of camera, but is confident that future iterations of the iPad and its software will address many current complaints. But none of these flaws has tempered his enthusiasm for the device.
“We initially purchased one for software development purposes, but it’s a device that we’ve all fallen in love with,” he said. “It’s fun to use, insanely portable and priced low enough that we can invest in a few and not feel guilty.”
The company has 500 on order for its own use and for distribution to customers, O’Leary said. “We’re definitely keeping Steve Jobs in business.”
LincWare users take notes at meetings with the Evernote application and attend meetings using the GoToMeeting application.
“For workshops and presentations, we demonstrate our application called LincDoc on the iPad, which really blows customers away,” he said.
22squared, a 260-person marketing agency with offices in Atlanta and Tampa, is looking at iPads as replacements for its laptops. The company is currently using nine with six more on order. 22squared has been using iPads since they were introduced, said Robert Isherwood, the agency’s chief technology officer. Mobility and the device’s ability to foster collaboration are the iPad’s strong points.
“We’re using our iPads for collaboration while in meetings and while on the road,” he said. “The adoption path at 22squared was smoothed by the agency’s extensive experience with the iPhone, Isherwood said. They’re now exploring the use of iPads as phones through the Cisco Mobile 8 application and using Citrix XenApp to let them take their back-office tools and applications on the road.
“These two utilizations would make iPads a very real business application,” he said.
The most-used applications at 22squared include Flipboard, which takes Facebook and Twitter feeds to create an interactive magazine, iThoughts mind-mapping software, the NetNewsWire RSS reader and Stumbleupon, a discovery tool and social recommendation service that aggregates links to articles from around the web that readers might be interested in.
Other popular iPad apps are Instapaper and Evernote for clipping articles for future reading, AirSharing for wireless access to files on your own computer, Apple’s iWork suite and Roambi for data visualization.
“There’s a lot of usage that’s about media consumption,” Isherwood said. “The collaboration aspect is coming and growing.”
Isherwood said he has never heard complaints about the absence of a physical keyboard. His key wish is for Apple to take the enterprise market more seriously, particularly in terms of purchasing and support.
“Embracing the enterprise would really help the business market embrace Apple,” he said. “The iPad is a fantastic device, a brilliant design. The iPhone and even more the iPad are great examples of easily accessible, human-scaled technology. We’re excited to see what the application development community will bring out.”