The iPad, which could dominate the tablet market until 2012, has been appearing in boardrooms and cubicles around the country. Previously it could be blamed on a manager showing off a new gadget or ordering one for the office in hopes of figuring out what to do with it later. But with Apple's 4.2 iOS upgrade available in November, the iPad will soon have wireless printing, the ability to share files and multitask (the final two were available on the iPhone but not the iPad) -- basically all things an office device should be able to do.
The new 4.2 essentially upgrades the iPad with apps previously available on the iPhone, including fixing various bugs, and provides streaming video and music with AirPlay.
The problem with the newest upgrade is that it's not available to users until November. Until then, employees will have to use the 4.1 upgrade available next week for the iPhone or the iPod Touch - but may not be able to use the print center application. If Apple intends for the iPad and iPhone to infiltrate the enterprise market, it would have been better if Apple had combined the upgrades into one megagrade that would have been available and applicable to all its handheld devices.
The new upgrade seems as if Apple is promoting the iPad as a lightweight and functional business alternative, especially well-suited to companies that let customers or sales staff use touchscreen technology to view inventory or availability. Already the iPad has been harnessed for use in schools, fitted with AutoCad design software and is being used in half of the Fortune 100 companies, mainly because of its long battery life and secure iOS. The new upgrade will also make IT management simpler for companies sharing Apple's iOS on both iPads and iPhones.
However, until Apple can anticipate its business customers' needs a little better it leaves opportunities open for other tablets in the market, such as Hewlett-Packard's WebOS 2.0 tablet, which is gaining more applications andreadying for a launch in 2011, and the many Android products coming in the next year.
Reach or follow Barbara E. Hernandez on Twitter @bhern.