My May, 2010 Missoulian InBussinessMonthly column.
Apple introduced its new iPad on April 3 and sold more than half a million in the first week. Analysts now predict sales of 5 million iPads or more for 2010.
What is the iPad? It’s a tablet computer with a touch screen that is Wi-Fi (and soon 3G network) capable. Apple calls it a “magical and revolutionary product” and says that it’s the best way to experience the Web and online video, and work with e-mail.
Though it doesn’t function as a cell phone, the iPad uses “apps” like Apple’s iPhone. There are thousands of apps for download from Apple that extend the capabilities of the iPad into the entertainment and business worlds. But how well does the iPad function in the business world?
I traded e-mail with Mark Riffey, a writer and business consultant in Kalispell markriffey.com. He said he was originally planning to get an iPad right away, but decided it was best to wait for the next generation, scheduled for June.
In the business world, he told me that “corporate was slow to pick up iPhones because the mail client on the phone didn’t support Microsoft Exchange until some time later.” That attitude might change, because even this first-generation iPad can work with Exchange out of the box.
Wayne Knapp is manager of commercial sales at Vann’s on Brooks Street. He said that the Vann’s stores in Montana mostly sold out their iPads on the first day.
But for internal business use, he is waiting for the next generation of iPad models that will be 3G capable. That means the iPad will be able to access the Internet and Web services over a cell phone network, as opposed to being limited to just wireless Internet hot spots.
That’s important to Vann’s because the sales force does a considerable amount of business-to-business work, and with a 3G iPad, Vann’s can work on-site with building contractors, installers and other businesses without depending on a local hot spot.
But, Knapp cautions, being able to use a 3G iPad in Missoula will depend on a 3G cell network supporting Apple products. AT&T – which has a national exclusive on the iPhone through Apple – is currently moving into Montana with a 3G network and may support the iPhone and iPad, and Verizon is rumored to be getting ready to support them, too.
One Missoulian is already using his iPad in a business sense. Matt La Palm is a student at the University of Montana and is the technology buyer at the UC Bookstore.
To La Palm, the iPad is already business-capable; he has already set up his iPad to access his e-mail over the Microsoft Exchange network at UM. And the almost-full-size keyboard is great for work. The iPad “has an interface like a giant iPhone or iPod Touch,” he told me.
Because Web browsing and reading on the iPad is so nice, he reads online almost exclusively now. There are thousands of e-books available and soon, special apps for magazines and newspapers.
He’s interested in the fact – and feels like it is “a loophole uncharacteristic of Apple” – that he can use a non-Apple e-book reader on the iPad, specifically Amazon.com’s reader.
But that makes much more media available to iPad users. That echoes what business consultant Mark Riffey told me about the other side of business aspects of the iPad, that of content providers: “Anyone who publishes any sort of content is nuts not to include (the iPad) in their media strategy.”