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Sure, your iPad is cool. But my netbook is better for business.

Sure, your iPad is cool. But my netbook is better for business.

March 30, 2011 by John McGarvey

iPad with keyboard

Add a keyboard and perhaps your iPad will be more useful. (Photo: Stefan Evertz)

It's hard to deny that the iPad 2 is cool. And if you weren't one of the crazy enthusiastic punters who queued up last week to get one, demand for Apple's new gadget means that if you want one, you're probably in for a bit for of a wait.

Maybe we should all use that time to step back and ask: is the iPad actually much use for business? And, for that matter, do other tablet and slate-type devices like Motorola's Xoom or Samsung's Galaxy Tab really deserve a place in your company?

Limited business applications

I don't own an iPad, nor any other kind of slate or tablet computer. A few years back, I used Toshiba's M200 Tablet PC as my main work computer, but although it was one of the best laptops I've ever had, I rarely used the tablet features (you could fold the screen over and use a pen to write on it).

Sure, there's a big difference between Microsoft's clunky attempt to adapt Windows for a tablet device - which was running on that computer - and Apple's super-slick interface. But ease-of-use alone is not enough to establish the iPad as a must-have business tool.

The business applications I've seen for the iPad so far have been limited. I've spotted people at events using them to sign people up to mailing lists. And I can see how they'd be useful for people who need access to information but are on their feet all day. iPads could replace clipboards in warehouses, dentists' surgeries and the like.

My netbook is better and cheaper

But what about the sort of repetitive business tasks you take care of every day? Writing letters and emails. Running accounting software. Accessing your customer relationship management system.

For these sorts of jobs, my distinctly un-glamorous netbook (a cheap, cut-down laptop) is far better than an iPad. Here's why:

  • It's not as small or as light as an iPad, but it's small and light enough to go everywhere with me.
  • It has a proper keyboard, so I can type documents accurately and quickly.
  • It has USB ports and doesn't need extra adaptors to plug into a proper monitor, so it's easier to use with my existing IT kit.
  • The battery lasts about eight hours. That's probably less than an iPad, but plenty for a day on the road.
  • There's plenty of space for my files and I can switch from web browser to spreadsheet to whatever in seconds.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more it seems that the only advantage that slate devices offer is that you can use them standing up. If there's a desk or space where I can sit and type at my netbook, it's the better option. Although, to be fair, I won't look as cool.

What's more, a netbook like mine is cheap. Figure £250 or so for a very capable netbook, compared to £399 for the entry level iPad.

Is it just me who can't see the point of the iPad for businesses? Do you use one in your company? Leave a comment and let me know.


MeetingGold's picture

The point about the software not being there yet is critical for the adoption on the iPad in business. See my blog post about it here:

r0bb1eh's picture

With a wide range of products and services available across multiple platforms and the increased adoption of cloud based services by small businesses being all the more common it's becoming more a matter of personal preference. 'Do you use a smart phone, desktop PC, laptop or a tablet for work/business and what combinations of each and for what function?' is probably a more interesting question. Defining what makes a device 'better for business' is down to the users preferred way to use it and the services he or she adopts.
On the face of it your article smells of anti-apple rhetoric reminiscent of the ongoing pointless arguments adopted by groups of individuals driven by their loyalty to a specific brand or software developer. I'm guessing what you're trying to do is stimulate a debate based around the recent iPad2 release but I do suggest you rethink the article.

As an iPad2/iPhone4/Windows7 (laptop & PC)/Blackberry user I’m constantly matching technologies based on ease of use & functionality. Sweeping statements like those made above just aren’t constructive or helpful and can in many ways limit people into thinking there’s only one choice when the reality is almost limitless.

john's picture

@davidthomas1: I appreciate that you can do all the things you've listed with an iPad, but I can do them all with my netbook too. What I'm trying to understand is what additional advantages an iPad can bring to a business.

Is it just that the real revolutionary stuff hasn't been invented yet? I guess slate-type devices are still very new, after all.

@Roobsa: The portable portfolio is a great use for an iPad actually, and one I hadn't considered. As I said, I can also see that it's useful in situations where you want to do things while you're standing up or on the move - like, I presume, keeping track of kit.

Incidentally, which business apps would you recommend I investigate? For instance, I'm a big fan of Dropbox and Remember the Milk, but I can't see any obvious advantage of running them on my iPad over having them on my iPhone and netbook.

It's not that I don't think the iPad is an impressive piece of kit. Actually, I think as a piece of technology it's pretty amazing. But I also think it's hard for many businesses to justify investing £400+ at the moment, especially if their employees already have laptops and/or smartphones.

davidthomas1's picture

Very interesting that you can write an article about how your Netwbook is better than the iPad when you haven't used one! Oh before I go on it's worth saying that I'm a Windows fan.

On Friday I bought my first iPad and have been amazed at the flexibility it offers for my business activities. Here's some facts why...

1 I can create and amend Word documents using Pages.
2. I can create and amend Excel documents using Numbers
3. All the files I need are kept in Dropbox and also available on my desktop
4. Evernote provides the ability to easily take notes. If needed they can be emailed or editied in Word. They are syncronised back to my desktop.
5. All my emails are available in the same file structure I have within Outlook
6. LogMeIn allows me to remote from my iPad to my Desktop. For example, I was using Sage Accounts on my iPad earlier this week all via LogMeIn. Yes the screen resolution was fine.
7. PowerPoint presentations can be created and amended in Keynote
8. My full calendar is available as are all of my contacts
9. Surfing the net is easy
10. I'm sure there are many more examples that I haven't had time find yet

I fully accept there are going to many occasions when a 'normal' PC is required but there are many of good reasons why an iPad can work in a business.

The iPad has a place ikn business alongside standard devices.

Roobsa's picture

The title of this post should be "Sure, your iPad is cool. But my netbook is better for my business."

I don't see how you can say that iPad's aren't useful as a business tool when you don't own one and as such haven't extensively tested the many business and productivity apps out there. Saying that business applications are "limited" without having used them is jumping the gun a bit, don't you think? It would be nice to see your thoughts on specific applications rather than just an overall generalisation.

An iPad for me (and yes I do own one) is my portable portfolio (arguably a netbook could do this but the screen size/resolution in netbooks is severely lacking). It allows me to keep track of kit (via Bento) to see what's available and what isn't (hire company), lets me log my incoming and outgoing expenses and lets me access files from my home computer as and when I need them.

I can see what angle this article was written from but I think you're being very quick to write off the iPad as a vital tool in certain industries.

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