The iPad. It looks like a slice of a television set, but it may be the hottest thing since sliced bread.
The techie media is singing its praises. Everybody in the in-crowd is rushing to get one for themselves. And the programmers are racing to create the newest must-have iPad application.
Need proof? One million iPads were sold worldwide in only 28 days. It took more than twice as long for consumers to purchase the same number of iPhones. And iPads reportedly outsell traditional Mac computers two to one (according to RBC Capital Markets).
But as an entrepreneur, you need to know the answer to just one question: can the iPad help my business?
There's no question that iPads have a lot to offer. They already can provide you access to thousands of "apps," and more are being created every day. The devices boast a stunning battery life, reducing the need to recharge them periodically throughout the day (like you must do with laptops). The iPad's advanced technology allows you to perform functions like updating company files and automating work tasks with very little time and effort. And it certainly carries some "wow appeal" when you use it to demonstrate a product or close a deal.
But for all of its majesty, the iPad presents some problems for the small business owner. Perhaps the most obvious drawback is the lack of a proper keyboard; while the iPad does have a "touch-screen" keyboard, most users find it cumbersome and inefficient. The iPad also is hampered by a smaller viewing screen than a laptop, a lack of a camera, and the inability to output its data onto a projection screen for better demonstration purposes. As for the availability of apps, a large number of them have nothing to do with the operation of a small business. And if you have to switch your company from Windows-based systems, the overhead costs of embracing the iPad generation could seem daunting.
Clearly, the decision to make the jump to iPads is one that every company must wrestle with individually. Also, some enterprises may take a piecemeal approach when implementing iPads, like using them for salespeople in the field while maintaining their current setup in their headquarters. Others may wait until the iPad becomes more mainstream or delivers quality apps that are truly targeted to small business owners.
For those entrepreneurs who are ready to take the iPad plunge, there are a few apps which you should strongly consider acquiring.
- WebEx. Take the teleconferences out of the conference room and onto the plane (or wherever else you are). The best part? The service is free for iPad users at webex.com/apple.
- LogMeIn. Use your iPad to access your desktop computer (or other business systems) remotely. This could reduce the amount of data that you actually need to store on your iPad. It's only $29.99 at logmein.com.
- SalesForce Mobile. Let your salespeople utilize the SalesForce database while they're actually sitting with a customer. No more "I'll have to get back to you on that when I'm in the office." It's free for customers of Salesforce.com.
- Bento. This app makes it easy to keep track of billable hours, mileage, and other expenses. It'll eliminate the need for regularly sifting through a box of receipts. It costs $4.99 at filemaker.com/bento.
To iPad or not to iPad? That is the question for your small business. Choose wisely.