Apple’s iPad — Is it for You?

April 28, 2010

Jules Allen, BroadBased Chief Information Officer

There aren’t a lot of companies that can create a buzz like Apple can. Its products are shrouded in secrecy, strategic leaks drip to the press and tech blogs, and before you know it we’re in a global fervor about products such as the iPad.

We’re outrageously excited about our rapidly growing mobile application development business at BroadBased and wickedly curious about how the iPad would affect what we do. But, regardless of how it will blend, the question I’m hearing from a lot of people: Is this midpoint between a smart phone and a laptop a serious replacement for the latter? The answer, of course, is “maybe.”

Clearly Apple doesn’t target airborne executives as a primary market as there is no built-in version of Solitaire. Seriously, the number-one application I see being used on domestic and international flights is Solitaire. Word and Excel vie for second place. If those are the top three applications you use on your travels then you might be in luck; this pound-and-a-half device might be right up your street.

An external keyboard is essential for any serious word processing or number crunching, and the choice of a Bluetooth-enabled version or Apple’s combo iPad docking station/keyboard all-in-one is yours. I’ve found the on-screen keyboard gives me about 40-50 percent of my usual typing speed and I’m slowed down further by having to toggle between the QWERTY layout for parenthesis and number keys. A modern-day ee cummings wouldn’t be slowed one bit, of course.

You’ll get a built-in Mail application for free and it happily talks to your corporate Exchange server, Google account, etc. Included is an iPod-like music player, an app to view your photos, calendar, contacts, iTunes, maps, and an anemic note-taking application, which is best replaced with something like Evernote. While you’re nosing around in the App Store, Apple’s service that distributes free and paid apps, grab the free Amazon Kindle reader and Apple’s iBooks to cut one more device from your carry-on bag.

Next, you’ll need a word processor, and Apple’s Pages is lovely for simple document editing. Your word processor documents happily hop back and forth between the iPad and the desktop. The same can be said for Numbers, Apple’s spreadsheet, and Keynote, Apple’s answer to PowerPoint. Each of these “apps,” Apple parlance for the programs that run on the iPad and iPhone, are an additional $9.95 directly from Apple.

Where you might come unstuck with the iPad is reliance on corporate systems that depend on things like old versions of Internet Explorer. Thankfully, this misguided youth part of the Internet is being phased out by IT departments in favor of open access. If you do need to boss around your corporate data on an iPad or iPhone, give us a call. We’d love to talk to you about our capabilities.

I haven’t flown coast to coast or to Europe with the iPad just yet, but the supposed battery life of 10 hours theoretically could see me through on one charge. The bottom line is if your needs revolve around writing, presenting, and keeping in touch, this might be the travel device for you. Dropping that heavy laptop, the bulk that comes with adaptors, dealing with viruses, hard disk crashes, and worse is downright seductive.


Jan Hirabayashi founded BroadBased in 1996 and is the company's CEO and lead marketing strategist.