Apple iPad Business Apps

As the launch of iPad 2 is barely a day away I thought it would be neat to remind myself of my thoughts about the first generation of iPad.

Back in January 2010 I thought that:-

Businesses tend to tool people up with laptops and send them out into the field. The iPad – with the potential for custom applications or mobile access to web-based applications or private networks – could be a very tempting alternative. It is thin, small, cool and can already take advantage of all existing iPhone applications natively. I fully expect some innovative business applications to arrive on an iPad near you soon. With the announcement of an iPad specific version of Apple software suite iWork (think Microsoft Office but less annoying) Apple is signalling the flexibility of the iPad. As a mobile business tool, it could really add value to an organisation brave enough and willing to fully exploit it.

I have to admit that I’d been quietly disappointed that this apparently hadn’t been happening. Then I saw what General Electric has been doing with the iPad and was literally blown away.

[GE] apps range from industry-specific monitoring and diagnostic tools to business intelligence resources. For example, the company’s Transformer Monitoring app helps manage gas turbine inventory and electric transformers throughout the world, while PDS Movement Planner lets service personnel monitor railway tracks and get diagnostic information on locomotives.

In combination with the unique capabilities of the devices themselves, GE’s custom apps help the company’s core clients accomplish their business goals faster and better.

“The easy flow of information, the ability to flick through pages, the ability to zoom in from a global map to a specific transformer and read all the key performance indicators — these are some of the ‘wow’ moments we get when we launch these apps,” Bhagat says. “Could you do that on a terminal? I don’t think so.”

Few organisations have the vision to take such leaps. And of those that do, even fewer have the resources to actually support the vision. Cisco and Hyatt Hotels and Resorts are 2 other big name businesses that are backing the iPad as a business tool.

2011 is set to be a year of massive growth for the tablet industry, and whilst many still view the iPad as simply a consumer device, I think it will become increasingly popular in organisations to leave the laptop or netbook at the office, and go out on the road with a lightweight and easy-to-use tablet which could have tailor made business applications, or just access to the thousands of utilities and tools available online.

Apple may well be sneaking up on the business market with the iPad in the exact inverse of the way the Personal Computer developed. Historically business users got used to great hardware and software at work, it was only after that PCs become mainstream consumer devices. Apple has positioned the iPad as a consumer device first and foremost, but is certainly cultivating business users in the hope that the iPad moves from the living room to the board room.

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