by Mielle Sullivan, Janus Networks

The iPad is now available and consumers & businesses are salivating over it. Business people who have been around for over a decade, may remember the Newton– Apple’s large personal digital assistant from the 90’s — that, like the iPad, was unique. Business people loved it, but Apple canceled the line to focus on consumer goods. The iPad is targeted primarily at consumers, but should businesses buy the iPad right now? Let’s look at pros and cons:

Pros / what it can do:
— Great tool for mobile salesmen to show photographs and documents and obtain signatures electronically, with less hassle than industry-specific equipment
— It can be used as the new notebook or clipboard, providing even better office mobility. Laptops can still be hard to lug around.
— For larger meetings a projection screen will remain the standard. But one-on-one, the iPad could serve as an invaluable shared display.
— It’s literally hands-on, making data manipulation easier through multi-touch browsing and lifting productivity for anything that doesn’t involve typing.
— All the iPhone’s current apps will work on the iPad

Cons / what it can’t do:
— Serve as a convenient e-reader; its screen is not e-ink, more like a computer screeen so it’s not a Kindle replacement
— Probably not very rugged; the iPhone has a reputation for being a bit fragile compared to other phones, the iPad is much more fragile than a laptop or netbook
— No multi-tasking, so no running a spreadsheet, browser, email client and presentation all at once
— Dubious security; Apple is not known for concentrating on security, but businesses care
— Adobe Flash is not currrently supported or a camera for video chats

For now, the cons may outweigh the pros. That said, the iPad will likely be a very nice addition to the businessman’s standard outfit of laptop and cell phone, provided there’s budget for it (at least it’s cheap). And it is probably a must-have for salesman who show any visual presentations.

For most businesses, the best idea is to wait a few months, keeping a close eye out to see what happens. The important thing to watch is not Apple, but the thousands of independent application developers. If the iPad is really a game-changing platform, it will create business apps that we can’t even conceive of now — because they’ve never existed. In that case, the decision will become a lot easier.

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