Is the iPad Really a Good Business Tool?

Posted by Paul Tobin on Mar 1, 2012 12:57:00 PM

The iPad juggernaut rolls on at an astounding pace!  Wall Street projects sales of 55 million iPads in 2012!  And, according to Apple's recently released quarterly report (January 24, 2012), 15.4 million were sold in Q4 2011 alone!  With that Q4 news it brings iPad sales in 2011 to over 40 million!  So much for the "year of the iPad killer."

prm, partner relationship management, channel management software


Astounding performance in all regards.  The world has rarely seen anything like it.  But, with all this excitement surrounding the iPad, we have to ask: is it a good business to business tool that increases the productivity and effectiveness of employees and business partners?  Or is it more of a business to consumer product designed for consuming media like books, news, entertainment, product information and the like?  Or both?

In a news story that was somewhat of a surprise to me Forbes (Jan 20, 2012) states that over 90% of iPad owners worldwide claim that they use their iPad primarily for work.  And one in four received their iPad from their employee. Based on this story alone, it seems that it must be one really great business tool.  But, if so, why are the top 10 apps downloaded from the App Store consistently games?  The fact is, despite all the hyperbole, and the absolutely astounding success of the product, the iPad may be a much better consumer tool than a business tool.

IDG, in their recently published survey "iPad for Business, Survey 2012" (Jan. 16, 2012) sheds a bit more light on this.  In this in-depth survey IDG concluded "...IT and business professions do resemble consumers: they mostly use their iPads for media consumption."  And earlier in the survey they state, "For most, the iPad isn't a substitute for an existing tool or device.  Instead, it's a supplement..."  And finally, they deliver the stats that support their conclusion: "The iPad hasn’t prompted the majority of IT and business professionals to abandon any other device. Only 12% say that their iPad has “completely” replaced their laptop. Just 6% say it has supplanted their PC."

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I own several Apple products, including an IPad 2 (which I received from my employer) and an iPhone 4S.   I use a Dell XPS running Windows 7 as my primary computer.  My wife owns an iPhone 4S and a MacBook Pro.  I've paired my iPad with a Logitek Zagg bluetooth keyboard which also doubles as a protective case.

Now, I suppose I could just ask SIRI if the iPad is a good business tool, but I'd probably get a biased answer, so I'm going to give you my own opinion divined from considerable experience and research.  Hopefully, some of you will also share your thoughts on this subject


I think the answer is, in most cases, no.  It's great for browsing the web, reading articles and books, basic emailing, etc.  But, when it comes to producing business materials and doing serious business work it's woefully ineffective.  Problems include: typing and screen interaction can be clumsy, the screen is small, business software is sparse (currently no Microsoft Office, for instance) and the software that is available, such as Pages, Numbers and Keynote (Apple's version of Office) is nice but very limited in its tablet incarnation.  And heaven forbid if you're attempting to produce anything using the on-screen glass keyboard!


This is one business application where the iPad can excel.  The old way of face-to-face selling has given way to shoulder-to-shoulder selling.  In this new style you sit or stand next to your prospect and present information on a computer.  You might present a video walk-around of a vehicle, or perhaps a slide presentation or an electronic brochure.  This is the way selling is often done these days in a number of industries, including the PRM (Partner Relationship Management) space and throughout a distribution channel.  and it's one instance where a tablet can provide real value.

So, before rolling this out as a business tool ask yourself: will your target users need to produce materials?  Or will they primarily be consuming materials and/or presenting materials?  If it's the latter, then an iPad is a viable, yet maybe not the best, option.  But, if your users need to be productive I suggest that the iPad will amount to little more than a business accessory or, as IDG states, "a supplement".  And, worst yet, it may be a distraction.  It may be used surgically, such as in shoulder-to-shoulder selling situations, but you will still need to provide a laptop computer which will be the way real work is done for quite some time yet.  The breadth and depth of business software and the maturity of the operating systems such as Windows 7 and Mac OSX simply allow more and better work to get done more quickly.

By the way, I produced this blog entry on my iPad 2.  Could I have done it more quickly on my laptop computer?  Honestly, yes.  But I like using my iPad.

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