Apple Quietly Fills in Some iPad Blanks

But what about the other questions I posed? Apple remains mum. As a refresher:

  • Ability to save documents and transfer them to and from the iPad: Apple's descriptions continues to suggest that documents are stored within apps' private space on the iPad, meaning they are not available for independent syncing or accessible through a traditional folder system. Instead, it appears that email and perhaps MobileMe and iTunes are the only conduits for file exchange you can count on, although perhaps one of the many iPhone file-sharing apps will be adapted for the iPad. Also, the iPhone Explorer utility will perhaps work with the iPad to let you work with its files directly from your Mac or PC.

  • Security support such as VPN and configuration profiles: Apple remains silent as to whether the iPad will have the same security and management capabilities as the iPhone and iPod Touch. These are critical to gaining network access at many companies.

  • Support for non-Apple video services such as Netflix: It remains unclear whether Apple will permit services such as Netflix and Hulu to provide iPad apps for viewing TV and movies from those services. Rumors have circulated for about six months that such apps were imminent, but none has yet appeared. There have also been plenty of rumors that Apple won't allow such apps in an attempt to block competition for its iTunes video rental and sales service. (However, there is a Wi-Fi-only playback app for the Slingbox service available for the iPhone, and AT&T recently dropped its objections to that app running on the AT&T 3G network.)

  • Support for videoconferencing: Although the iPad has no video camera or even a still camera, it's possible a hardware maker could come up with a plug-in device. But if it did, would Apple let it function on the iPad? Apple blocked audio-recording plug-in hardware for earlier-generation iPod Touches, so there's precedent for that suspicion.

  • Support for storage upgrades: Again, no word from Apple. But its iPhone and iPod Touch's flash storage can't be upgraded, so it's unlikely the iPad's can, either.

  • Ability to run multiple apps simultaneously: Here too Apple has been mum, but nothing it has shown suggests the iPad can run multiple apps simultaneously. Instead, like the iPhone and iPod Touch, the iPad appears to switch among apps, relying on them to save their state so that they can resume where they left off upon your return. (To be technical about it, Apple does support limited simultaneous app execution for some of its own apps; for example, you can listen to music or get appointment alerts while running other apps.)

  • Support for Adobe Flash: Apple has all but said it has no intention of supporting Flash on the iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch. CEO Steve Jobs has made his dislike of the Adobe technology clear multiple times, so this omission seems quite intentional. Apple is now touting the iPad's support of HTML5 video and audio capabilities in the Safari Web browser, indicating Apple will rely on this emerging standard instead of proprietary technologies such as Flash and Microsoft's Silverlight.

So where does this leave people interested in the iPad as a device that can mix business with pleasure? Still in limbo -- but it's good to know you can access Exchange email and use the iWork Pages app to open and export Microsoft Word files. These basic capabilities at least keep hope alive that the iPad might have utility as a business traveler's quick-trip companion. Stay tuned!

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