Does iPad Mean Business?

I’ve been a fan of Apple’s iPad from the moment Steve Jobs introduced it last January. The idea of extending the screen size of my iPod Touch made sense to me for reading eBooks and magazines, browsing the web, email triage and playing games. I, like a lot of observers 11 months ago, found the iPad a fantastic content consumption device but were not convinced the iPad could act as a laptop replacement.

iPad Means Business coverAnd now, nearly a year later, I have yet to purchase an iPad. Unlike millions of other early adopters, I just couldn’t justify the $500+ required for a device that fits somewhere between my smartphone and Macbook Pro. But there are others who are using their iPad’s for business — in some cases as a laptop replacement — which might change my mind.

Twin Cities journalist and blogger Julio Ojeda-Zapata brings the stories of these trailblazers to light in his new book, iPad Means Business. In short, easily digestible chunks the author makes a case for the iPad as more than just a gadget and mostly succeeds. But it’s not without issues as early adopters complain about the shortcomings of the device such as the lack of multi-tasking and printing support. Nearly all of these issues have been satisfied via recent software updates with the only remaining popular feature of an integrated camera likely to be added in the next hardware revision expected sometime early next year.

So can an iPad really replace a laptop for business users?

Like a lot of things these days the answer is complicated. For some users, such as photographer and author Scott Bourne, the iPad plays a new role as a digital photo portfolio giving customers a more visceral experience with his work than something like a digital photo frame. Real estate professionals are also finding new and innovative ways to augment their workflow with the iPad replacing a lot of paper. Stories like these really make a compelling case for the iPad as a business tool.

But instead of concentrating on these compelling stories, the book offers a broad overview of user experiences. And they are not always a success as users try to replace laptops with something that just doesn’t have all of the pieces yet. I think this will change next year as the platform is improved and software developers more fully exploit this new category of device. Applications hinted about in the book will be fully realized and make for some interesting reading if there is a second edition or update. But as it stands, iPad Means Business is required reading for anyone looking to learn more about how to get real work done on an iPad.

My favorite part of the book is near the end when Julio takes two iPad’s on a business trip in place of his Macbook. In detail he tells how well the iPad fared for his tasks but also presents all of the iPad’s shortcomings. Anyone contemplating replacing their laptop with an iPad for travel should read this chapter.

The bottom line for me is that iPad means business for some people but not for everyone. By this time next year, however, I think the iPad might be a vital business tool for most people. For the rest of us, a combination of 11-inch Macbook Air and iPad could just replace that Macbook Pro upgrade.

Buy the book here.

Disclosure: Julio provided a free electronic version of iPad Means Business for review and discussion on tomorrow’s Minnov8 podcast.

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