Is Apple's iPad Good for Your Small Business?

Apr 19, 2010

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.