Is Apple’s iPad Good for Your Small Business?

With thousands of iPads flying off the shelves, it’s a good time to stop and think if it is a “must” for your small business. It is a cool device, but is it the tool that your business needs to reach the next level?

Let’s take a look at some of the potential ways the iPad works for small biz.

1.       iWork – This is Apple’s productivity suite application, priced for only $9.99. This suite includes a word processor (Pages), a spreadsheet application (Numbers), presentation program (Keynote).

2.       Presentations. The enhanced onscreen keyboard offers a much improved typing experience over the iTouch. The larger keyboard also makes use of presentations far easier.  Think about the buzz you’d get by giving a demo or presentation at a trade show with the touch of your finger!  The larger display, touch optimization, and full color capabilities make the iPad a winner for mobile presenting!

3.       Mobility. While not quite as small as the iTouch, the iPad can still be taken on the go. So what does this mean for your biz? You can take business data with you anywhere, never know when you want to pitch a concept and the larger display makes it far easier than displaying info off the touch.

Though an outstanding piece of technology, the iPad should not be the end all, rather a compliment to your laptop, desktop or office software.

Let’s take a look at some of the con’s:

1. The iPad, at least in its current version, lacks a USB Port. Devices such as flash drives and external hard drives will not be usable which can make data transfer and mobility difficult. There is talk that other accessories will be developed to allow USB usage, but those would come at an additional cost. Wouldn’t it be better to have a device that had USB ports?

2. Connectivity may be an issue depending on the version a user gets. If a user wants constant connectivity, they can opt for AT&T’s 3G network version (unfortunately, this comes at a steeper price). The normal version uses WiFi, similar to the iTouch. This again could be a disadvantage for the user looking to always stay connected. Although WiFi spots are popping up everywhere these days, there is still the risk of running into a dead zone and be without Internet.

3. Another negative is the inability to run multiple programs at once. This can prove to be very problematic for a business user who is looking to put together presentations or data for a client while on the go. For example, if a user is working on a presentation in Keynote, they lack the ability to refer back to other programs such as Numbers or Pages. Not being able to run more than one program at a time is a serious issue for the business user.

Conclusion: Not worth it.

Overall, the iPad is not a “must” for your small business. Though the benefits are strong, what it lacks is crucial to the business user. For an organization using devices such as memory sticks and external hard drives, the incompatibility of the iPad is a disadvantage. Even more so, the inability to run multiple programs at a time puts the business user at a serious disadvantage.

It will be interesting to see if the iPad does change the game for certain niche industries. For example, will the iPad eventually replace legal pads for lawyers and paralegals?  Will doctors, who have increasingly begun to rely on electronic tablets for patient records in recent years, switch to the iPad?  Adoption of the iPad in these business communities will also depend on the success of apps developed specifically for them.

All in all, the iPad is a phenomenal choice for the casual user, but it doesn’t quite yet have the game changing capabilities needed for small businesses.

The Geolocation Wave is Here. Is Your Small Business Ready?

By Dan Nieves

The growing number of online geolocation portals presents an excellent opportunity for small businesses to increase their local audience. Numerous social media platforms are adding location tagging applications, which can be a tremendous aid to small businesses looking to attract local customers. Let’s take a look at a few social media outlets that could be a viable tool for your business:

Google Buzz
Buzz has many location-tagging options. Their Nearby mobile application allows users to read information and reviews about local places from others both in and out of their network. This can be a great way to get some extra word of mouth buzz! (no pun intended)

Users can now add their location to each of their tweets. Twitter has also begun to offer Local Trends, which can make Trending Topics geolocation-friendly. With local trends, users can set a specific location so that you can view trends in your area. For a small business, this can play a role in one of two ways: (1) it can help you identify current and potential customers in your area tweeting about your line of business and (2) a great way for customers in your neighborhood to find your business through your own tweets!

This new social media platform may be the pioneer of the geolocation wave. Foursquare users can share where they are with other users on the fly. If you are not familiar with Foursquare, or have no idea what it is, we suggest signing up and experimenting with it!

Local businesses are already running promotions exclusively through outlets such as Foursquare and Twitter. For example, the “mayor” of the restaurant, cafe or whatever the establishment may be gets 20% off their order, free drinks, or a free dessert. Businesses can also promote special deals on FourSquare for their loyal customers. A benefit to Foursquare is its ability to keep track of how many times a customer has visited your establishment or even how often they frequent your business. You can then use this data to create a Foursquare “customer loyalty” program to reward frequent visitors.

So What Does This Mean for Small Business?
The new wave of location based platforms takes the real-time world of social media one step further. Location tagging services open a number of new ways for small businesses to connect and engage their current customers as well as find new customers in their local areas. You want to make sure your business is prepared for the geolocation wave and can be easily found. For example, a great first step is to add your business to Google Maps. In addition, make sure your business takes advantage of the location services of Twitter, Google Buzz, and Foursquare. If you have no presence on these outlets, how can people find you?

As real-time becomes more and more popular, the need to have a strong and significant online presence becomes more vital for survival.