Apple iPad More Business-like Than We Thought

The iPad is more businesslike than we thought. A quick survey of the 2700 or so iPad-ready apps on iTunes shows that about seven percent can be found in Apple's "productivity" category, triple that of earlier estimates.

Apple iPad
And more iPad apps of all kinds are flooding iTunes, some brand new, others tweaks to existing iPhone or iPod Touch programs. Just a day or so go, analysts believed there were about 1000 apps of all kinds ready to go. By Friday, that number had nearly tripled.

While it's a stretch to think that all 190 or so productivity apps would be useful for business -- is "Doodle Finger" really going to make you more productive - there are more serious tools than many of us had expected.

In March, a survey of developers by Flurry Analytics found that only about 2 percent of the apps being created belonged in the productivity bucket. At that time, games made up 44 percent of the total. Entertainment, things like video and novelties was second at 14 percent, social networking apps were next at 7 percent followed by a myriad of also-rans.

Flurry's methodology doesn't capture all mobile applications being developed, but it is widely seen as producing reasonable estimates. And a survey the San Francisco-based company released this week showed that of new development projects started in the last two months, 22 percent were for the iPad, 67 percent for the iPhone and 10 percent for the Android platform.

What about the Blackberry? "Relative support for Blackberry continues to diminish. We calculate 1 percent share for Blackberry over the last 60 days, down from 4 percent for the whole of 2009," Flurry reported.

How useful the iPad will ultimately be for business is still an open question, despite the flurry of productivity apps. The virtual keyboard is awkward for serious writing, and it isn't clear if users will be willing to buy and carry around external keyboards to ease the pain. Even with an external keyboard the tablet needs to be propped up to function as a monitor, though it shouldn't take long for third-party hardware developers to come with a fairly simply solution to that problem. [Correction: The $69 Apple Keyboard Dock accessory does prop up the device. However, the Wireless Keyboard does not.]

It's still early days, but as someone who doubted the tablet's use for business, I have to say it's moving in directions I didn't expect. And that's fine with me.

San Francisco journalist Bill Snyder writes frequently about business and technology. He welcomes your comments and suggestions. Reach him at bill.snyder@sbcglobal.net.

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