For seasoned tech observers, the greatest surprise at last week’s iPad 2 unveiling was the appearance of black roll-neck aficionado Apple CEO Steve Jobs to do his customary presentation.
The iPad2 itself is, as widely predicted, slimmer and faster than before and has evolved from zero cameras to two. The jury is still out as to whether it’s a must-buy for small businesses when it arrives in Australia on 25 March.
“The industry so far is torn between deciding whether the enhancements in the iPad 2 are sufficient in light of the announcements by Motorola, Samsung, and LG to launch dual-core Android tablets,” says Joseph Hanlon, associate editor at CNET.
“No one was blown away by what was announced, but many tech analysts seem to think Apple has added just enough new components to make the iPad 2 a worthy competitor.”
Hanlon feels that the iPad 2 will be high up the list of desirable devices for certain types of small businesses.
“If a significant portion of your work life involves any sort of display, the iPad 2 is worth considering,” he says. “The new HDMI adapter will mirror the iPad’s screen to a larger compatible display, and the iPad’s touchscreen and gesture controls should make for some compelling presentations.
“It really depends on what sort of work a business is involved with. The new cameras should mostly be disregarded for photographic purposes as the low resolution image sensor makes both cameras only suitable for video conferencing.
“The extra horsepower could come in handy, but only if a business relies on processing intensive applications. Business should take an ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ approach it upgrading a fleet of iPads.”
Whether you are looking to purchase the iPad 2 or are happy with the original, the business potential of the devices is only unlocked through the array of available apps.
Here we run down 10 of the best iPad apps for small businesses to consider.
1. Dragon Dictation
There are several voice recognition applications out there, but Dragon Dictation has pushed its way to the front of the queue for entrepreneurs on the move.
The app is powered by a simple but easy-to-use system that allows you to speak and instantly see your text or email messages. Dragon claims that its voice diction is five times faster than typing on the keyboard.
The software has a correction feature to clear up any verbal spills and has a list of suggested words if you don’t speak clearly enough.
The app allows you to quickly form everything from text messages to longer-form emails. It also gives you the opportunity to update your social networking applications, such as Facebook and Twitter, and send notes and reminders to yourself.
2. Time Master
Already a must-have for many independent contractors and freelancers, Time Master allows you to make sure you make the most of your time, both in terms of efficiency and cashflow.
The app allows you to keep track of your time and expenses, allowing you to ‘punch in and out’ for particular projects. The app calculates the billing rate and allows you to display reports and timesheets for clients.
The timing system runs even if you’re not running the app and it can calculate extra billable expenses such as kilometres travelled or meals consumed. Worthwhile if you have a bad habit of letting client money that’s rightfully yours slip through your fingers.
“If billing is an essential part of your business then Time Master is your best friend, especially with the iPad’s 10-inch screen real estate,” advises Hanlon.
Reading PDF files on an iPad is pretty easy. While there isn’t a native way to view files, you can download and view PDF attachments on emails fairly easily.
But business users often require a little more than that and GoodReader delivers. This app is not only a useful document viewer – it’s actually a powerhouse full of features.
Users can connect to their DropBox, Google Docs and MobileMe accounts to view any type of attachment including PDF and Office document file.
Once you download a file, you can go to the ‘Manage Files’ option to rename it, delete it or email it on to someone. You can also transfer files when you’re on a Wi-Fi network.
One of the best features of this app is the ability to make annotations. If you’re reading a PDF file you can draw and make notes on the file itself, save the file with those annotations attached and then email them on.
You can also read MS Office files but you’ll need a dedicated editor to play with and change them.
GoodReader is simply one of the best apps available on any platform and is an essential for any heavy iPad user.