December 2, 2012
You already know the iPad and other mobile devices can be extremely helpful for personal use and just plain fun, but can an iPad really be productive in business? Well, that depends on what business and job functions we are discussing. Since the release of the iPad, business users have needed the ability to do more than just read documents. As it stands now we can do a whole lot more than just read stuff.
For business use of an iPad I strongly recommend that you add a Bluetooth keyboard and stylus. These two additional devices will expand your business use capabilities dramatically. Also, there are apps such as Air Display that will allow you to use your iPad as a second monitor for your laptop. The last recommendation on hardware is that you buy the iPad it’s own data plan and hopefully you have LTE available in your area. LTE is significantly faster than 4G.
The key to successful use of an iPad in business revolves around the job function of the user. If the user can do his or her job by viewing and editing information then the iPad has a chance at success. People that consume or use information are great candidates. For example, a controller can run the corporate accounting via an RDP (Remote Data Processing) app, such as Citrix or PocketCloud, and get the information they need beyond email and instant messages including running the legacy accounting application from the iPad. Believe it or not, you can run older Windows accounting systems with the iPad touch control. Of course this requires some setup on the server side but is very possible. For events where I speak I often show Open Systems TRAVERSE running on my iPad via PocketCloud Pro (courtesy of Open Systems, Inc.) And it runs very well.
On the other hand, people that produce information are not good candidates due to the smaller keyboard, screen, hard drive, and limited applications in this area. For example, a tax preparer can easily review tax returns on an iPad, but preparing them on an iPad even with a RDP tool can be very tedious.
Also, there are some industries that just fit. For example, a large national delivery company is now fully committed to the iPad Mini because it is a powerful iPad in a smaller form factor and can be held in one had for signature on package delivery. The Mini is not expensive or hard to find if a replacement is needed. Advantage, iPad Mini.
iPads can also be as secure as you like. With 256 bit AES encryption built into the hardware all you really need to do is stop using the simple lock code in General Settings and go for a more secure passcode. You can also use the Apple Configurator, a utility to manage corporate policy settings, on either a Windows or Mac system then upload the HTML file to the iPad. This will lock the iPad and users can only reset back to factory settings if they try to go around corporate policy. You certainly want to setup each iPad so that it can be located from iCloud including invoking Erase Data setting after 10 failed passcode attempts which is located in Settings, General, Passcode Lock.
No USB port on the iPad? No problem. You can get data files from email or data sync applications. I prefer to use the data sync approach and my preference right now is Dropbox or ShareFile.
Data Sync apps:
You can read, edit, and even sign PDF files easily. In my opinion, all a business iPad user will need is the free Adobe Reader for normal use and GoodReader for large documents.
Popular PDF apps:
· Adobe Reader for iPad
· iAnnotate PDF
MS Office documents can be a challenge. Apple’s office tools Keynote, Numbers, and Pages are not really MS Office compliant. While Microsoft has announced a version of Office for the iPad it will not be here until late spring next year.
In the meantime, here are some apps that do work they just require a bit of learning and setup. If you need to view, edit, or manage MS Office documents then you need to investigate this list. The most impressive one on the list, OnLive Desktop, requires that you upload and download files via your desktop or laptop to the OnLive Desktop website. You can then edit them with your iPad. You can even pay $5 per month for the Pro version and get full flash browsing via IE 9.0 on your iPad. Other users combine Dropbox with CloudOn and they are good to go. One caveat - CloudOn has a built in auto-save mode so you don’t want to make changes to documents unless you want to keep the changes.
Popular MS Office apps:
· OnLive Desktop
For the CPA in public practice we are starting to see many iPad apps that will draw information from your practice management, tax prep, and even client’s QuickBooks data installed on their systems.
CPA firm apps:
· Mobile CS – Thomson Reuters
· Practice Intelligence – CCH (access via Atomic Web browser app)
· CCH Mobile
· CCH Tax News
· Avatax Rates
· Five Plus (coming in Jan to access QuickBooks data)
Accounting solutions with mobile apps:
Bottom line, can an iPad replace a laptop? Yes, if all the user needs to do is manage information such as email, PDF files, MS Office files (review, edit, make small changes to documents). An iPad is not good for someone who produces a lot of information. Instead it is an excellent tool for someone who consumes a lot of information with small management tasks.