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Do YOU need an iPAD?

A lot hot air is circulating about the iPad, often by folks who have never laid eyes on the machine never mind made extensive hand-on use of them. I’ve seen reviews talking about reliability, about it being unsuitable for business… the list goes on – and mostly from those lacking any experience of the product.

Why listen to me? well firstly you need to know I would not touch a MAC with a bargepole so don’t peg me as an anti-Microsoft type. When the iPAD was released in the USA I had one shipped across almost immediately, despite lack of iTunes support in the UK. It looked ideal for reading agendas and other company paperwork, being the first supposedly long-life battery, thin almost A4 pad on the market… and I wasn’t prepared to take the word of others… I wanted to see for myself if this was going to be useful to see if there was a future for reducing or eliminating paperwork.  So, here it is, based on daily use of the iPad since its launch in the USA (and by that I mean used almost every day since then, sometimes all day), here is some information which may be of use to those of you thinking of using the iPad in a business environment.

Firstly the issue of WIFI. The only issue I am aware of is that the iPad occasionally forgets the login password and does not seem to track the best signal if you move from signal area to signal area within a building. It is a minor issue, does not really cause me any problems and the assurance is that this will be fixed. I can see no reason to doubt this as it’s little sister the iPhone does not suffer the same issue. 

Secondly business use – you hear “It’s all games” – no it isn’t – though some of the games are excellent – no doubt about it but with 200,000 apps you’d expect a lot of games.  I have asked our head office who normally send me reams and reams of paper to simply stop – and all my papers now go onto the company extranet  (Sharepoint).  I receive automatic email notification of the availability of documents and as long as I’m within range of a WIFI signal I can download using the likes of the GoodReader program (a bargain at 59p) and store the docs locally on the iPad. The largest document I’ve had the pleasure of using was 95 megabytes comprising over 400 pages of scanned documents – just about the worse combination…. No problem. I also use another package which cost peanuts to let me scribble on PDFs and open multiple documents at once.

Thirdly multitasking – after extensive use I have to say I do not miss the ability to do umpteen jobs at once – the ONE thing I’d like is to run SKYPE constantly in the background – and that of course will come in the autumn update. Most programs start up where they left off so they may as well be multitasking – but without the overhead.

“They say” iPad is not compatible with Microsoft… rubbish – I regularly open the latest DOCX files from Office 2007 as well as spread-sheets and other documents. At least one program can SAVE in these formats.

Specifically for use in meetings, the (realistically achieved) 10 hour battery life (including watching video) makes it possible to do an all-day meeting without a cable in sight. Those who lug around heavy bags full of laptops, power supplies and endless paperwork look on with envy. Armed with properly bookmarked PDF files I can view and search through large documents more quickly than with paper.

What about FLASH – well, I’d MUCH prefer if the iPad could handle flash, but not at any price and Flash does tend to be jerky on mobiles… considering that YouTube, Blip and others now offer iPad compatibility and even the BBC iPlayer is now iPad compatible, it hopefully won’t be long before that issue goes out of the window. You can watch a good number of the freeview channels including BBC News 24, for free on the iPad given a free program to do so, not to mention most radio stations.

When in Spain, as they say… I have a (small) place in Spain and last week I was other there. The iPad can’t handle dongles but I have a 3G dongle and I simply put the Sim into a phone which has WIFI and using a cheap program made the phone look like a WIFI access point – others may prefer to get the 3G version of the iPad itself  – as I already have a phone I didn’t fancy 2 subscriptions and annoying Apple won’t let you tether an iPhone to an iPad.   Skype and GotoMeeting work well – saving a fortune in calls when overseas as long as there is WIFI available. Emails using Microsoft Exchange, Google mail and others work absolutely fine as indeed do Exchange calendars and contacts. For streaming podcasts, I generally keep them on my PC and use STREAMTOME to listen to them on the iPAD (saves filling it up with audio and video).

Do I have any issues with the product? Of course I do – why on EARTH didn’t Apple put a forward-facing camera in for Skype etc. But them the iPhone 4 has that… Also being able to read memory sticks would have been nice but why not go the whole hog and put in Windows? Erm, no! The fact is that Apple have a great niche product on their hands which is, if you believe the hype selling very well thank you. Almost everyone I know who I’ve shown it to in business and otherwise wants one – I should have been a salesman but I’m NOT.

Of course, if something else comes along that’s better and cheaper I‘m a ruthless consumer with no brand loyalty… but from what I’ve seen, hands on reviews of what would appear to be alternatives have fallen apart due to poor video or other issues. For now, Apple are onto a winner – their shares don’t look too bad either (I don’t have any of those either).

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