There are many iPad apps that can service your business but the key to a successful implementation is finding the right apps that fit your business workflow. That’s the risk of something like the iPad with its highly diverse app market. Finding the right combination of apps may require some trial-and-error.
The key must-have feature we look for in these apps is easy computer-to-iPad-to-computer transfer. So many business apps on the iPad require you to tether (even wirelessly) the iPad to a computer in order to transfer files via iTunes or web browser or use an intermediate service like Google Docs, Dropbox, Box.net, SugarSync, etc. To us, these limit the appeal of a highly-mobile solution like the iPad because you have to ensure you have all your files transferred before you travel to a customer meeting. The cloud-sync solutions alleviate some of this, but you still need to make sure the files you want are in the cloud for them to be synched to the iPad.
Another concern we have with tablet-based productivity solutions is input method. The iPad does not support any form of handwriting recognition or gesture-based text input. You either need to use the on-screen virtual keyboard or a physical keyboard case/attachment. You can get a stylus such as the Pogo Sketch, but this will still be writing on the screen – not handwriting recognition and/or transcription. If using the on-screen keyboard will slow your sales team down, that’s certainly something that needs to be considered.
Some applications are well flushed out and almost universally useful. PDF Expert looks like a good app for PDF markup and annotation. iAnnotate is another. GoodReader excels at handling large PDF files and also supports annotation.
The two biggest Office-compatible apps in the App Store – Documents To Go and QuickOffice – do not support saving Office files to PDF format. Pages (Apple’s iWork suite) supports Word documents and saving to PDF, but there is no guaranteed compatibility with any formatting you may have in the Word documents when they are opened in Pages. There is another app called Office2 HD that supports Office files and saving to PDF, but it isn’t well-reviewed. Readdle (developers of PDF Expert) have an app called PDF Converter which can save many different input types to PDF. It also supports Dropbox (cloud storage) as a file store.
The tablet device market is in flux right now. Traditional Windows tablet PCs based on XP/Vista/7 are, to be completely frank, dead. Most manufacturers have relegated them to the back of the catalog when they exist at all. Microsoft has committed to new tablets and a new tablet experience with Windows 8, but that won’t be released until sometime in 2012. Android (Google) tablets are coming out fast and strong. The problem still comes down to apps. If the apps aren’t there to support your need, it doesn’t matter whose tablet you use – it won’t meet the business needs.
Apple currently has a major head-start in the tablet market due, most obviously, to the fact that they actually have a shipping product, but more importantly due to the fact that they have the attention of a very active community of app developers. While we would never bet against Google and Android, the reality is that the tablet market belongs to Apple right now.
If you were to start today, iPad is your best option; just be patient and willing to endure some trials to find the right app or combination of apps to suit your needs. Call us at (888) 600-4560 and ask how we can assist your business in utilizing new technology to keep your business a step ahead of your competition, or find us on FaceBook or on Twitter @coldenco.