Computing these days is all about mobility and the rise of the tablet as a primary mobile computing platform. Enabling users to surf the Web and to send and receive e-mail is crucial to a computing device; but to be a true mobile business tool, the tablet must also keep users connected and collaborating.
On a recent flight, I noticed quite a few iPads in use. Most users may have been been happy to play a game, read an e-book, or watch a movie or podcast; however, the flight was not equipped with Wi-Fi, so their productivity options were limited.
The point is that I saw far more iPads than laptops on this particular flight. Fast-forward a few months and various tablets may serve this audience, but for now the iPad is the only available platform, so we'll have to let it stand for the broader tablet market.
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Arguments will continue over whether the iPad is a worthy mobile business device or simply a consumer toy, and whether tablets are capable of usurping the position currently held by laptops. Meanwhile, software vendors and app developers are diligently working to ensure that the tools people need for work are available--particularly when it comes to virtual meetings.
Various tools are available for online collaboration and meetings for the iPad. Three that stand out are Cisco WebEx for iPad, Adobe Connect Mobile, and Fuze Meeting for iPad. WebEx is one of the most widely used and recognized online meeting platforms; Adobe Connect enjoys widespread cross-platform usage; and Fuze Meeting provides a robust online meeting platform without the costs associated with other presentation and meeting tools.
Cisco WebEx for iPad, one of the first apps to recognize the business value of the iPad, demonstrates some powerful capabilities of the Apple tablet. The Cisco app lets users attend WebEx meetings using the full iPad screen, and provides Voice over IP audio capabilities. With WebEx for iPad, you can view all content shared in the meeting, see who else is attending, and engage in individual or group chats with other participants.
Adobe, which recently launched Adobe Connect 8, provides an iPad app that permits users to participate in mobile meetings from the tablet. The Adobe Connect Mobile app has features similar to those found with Cisco WebEx for iPad, and in addition it lets meeting attendees rotate, pan, and zoom to create a customized personal view of the meeting content.
Fuze Meeting makes it possible for a person not merely to virtually attend a meeting from an iPad, but to facilitate and lead the meeting presentation from the iPad. The app lets users schedule meetings, invite attendees, and start and lead meetings right from the iPad. The meeting organizer can share content from the iPad--including Apple Keynote and Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, documents, and videos--with meeting attendees. The Fuze Meeting iPad app can also function as a remote control to push slides and presentation content when the user is physically present in a conference room.
One thing that separates Fuze Meeting from the Cisco and Adobe apps is cost. The Cisco WebEx and Adobe Connect iPad apps require that the meeting presenter use a licensed copy of the core presentation software. Fuze Meeting requires that the presenter have a Fuze Meeting account, although registering for one is free.
With Android, BlackBerry, Windows 7, and WebOS tablets on the horizon, the iPad may soon be the tip of the tablet iceberg. Virtual meeting apps like these will help solidify the tablet's status as a business tool and not just as an extravagant niche gadget.