There are a lot of reasons to rely on the Apple iPad as your sole or primary mobile computing device. It is smaller, lighter, has longer battery life, and offers a more functional user interface than a notebook for staying productive on the go. Apple’s iOS is a “mobile” OS, while Windows and Mac OS X are “desktop” operating systems–you do the math.
Still, out of the box the iPad is primarily geared for Web surfing, watching movies, playing music, and reading eBooks. It takes a little tweaking to get the right tools in place to optimize the iPad for use as a mobile computing platform for business, and not just for entertainment.
Typing: OK. This is not a tool, but the lack of a physical keyboard is a common jab made at the iPad when it comes to considering it as a productivity tool for business. Let me just say that the vast majority of you use the two-finger hunt and peck typing method anyway, and are not 100 word-per-minute typing speed demons. The iPad display sensitivity is the best I have seen on tablets and smartphones, and you should be able to hunt and peck your way around just as fast as you do at your desktop keyboard.
E-mail: E-mail is arguably the most important function of a mobile computing device. You need to make sure the account is set up properly. The iPad e-mail settings can be configured to delete the message from the server when it is removed from the Inbox, after seven days, or never. You need to also make sure that your PC e-mail software is configured to leave the message on the server for a period of time as well so that both devices can get the message rather than one stealing it before the other.
A better option is either to use an Exchange e-mail account, or a webmail service like Google’s Gmail. With Exchange, the Inbox and folders on the iPad are kept in sync with the information on the Exchange Server and the PC, so there is no worry about the one device getting the message before another. With webmail, both the PC and the iPad would be accessing the same information on the Web so there is no reason for conflict.
Productivity: You need to be able to work with documents while on the go. You might not write the next great American novel on your iPad, but you at least need to be able to open and edit Microsoft Office files. Get the DocumentsToGo app so you can view, edit, and create Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. DocumentsToGo also lets you view Adobe PDF and Apple iWork files, and it can view, edit, and sync with online file storage such as Box.net–which we will cover next.
Files: One of the hardest parts about having both a desktop PC and a tablet as a mobile device is syncing and managing files. For one thing, Apple’s iOS doesn’t provide any direct file and folder structure like a desktop OS, and even if it did, it would be a pain to remember to sync the files you might need while on the go. The better solution is to adopt an online file storage solution like Box.net or SugarSync. If you use online file storage by default from both your PC and your iPad, the files will always be available online to both platforms and you won’t get stuck without access to a critical file.
Access the Network: Sometimes you might need to connect to applications or data hosted on company servers. Of course, you don’t want to be connecting to company resources using the insecure connection at your local neighborhood Starbucks. A VPN client like Cisco AnyConnect can let you connect securely to the applications and data you need. To use the Cisco AnyConnect app, your company has to be have the right Cisco VPN tools and licensing in place. There are other VPN options, though, including the VPN tool built in to iOS.
Access Your PC: After all is said and done, there may still be some software that runs on your PC that you simply can’t replace or emulate on your iPad. That is where remote desktop solutions come in. Apps like Citrix GoToMyPC and LogMeIn Ignition enable you to establish a remote connection back to the PC sitting at your desk, and work with the software and data on it as if you were sitting in front of it.
By installing the right apps and adopting a few simple practices, the iPad can be everything you need in a mobile computing platform. Even better, it can deliver in a tablet form factor that is thin, light, and has the battery endurance to last all day.
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