An iPad Review: Why It Is Not A Serious Business Tool

This site has written previously about trying to justify the iPad as a business tool. Now having owned one for almost a month, my experience with the iPad is that it’s just a shiny toy.  A really bright, shiny toy that winks and whispers seductively “Play with me, I’m fun.”

If one wanted to push the iPad’s capabilities, you could lie to yourself and your company’s purchasing department and call it a business tool. The same way a 3-legged horse could be entered into the Kentucky Derby:  It’d finish the course, but only after the TV cameras were turned off.

At least the 3-legged horse is still a horse. This tablet does not feel like a computer, anymore than a Xbox feels like a computer. The iPad is an entertainment and information browsing platform.

After 3 weeks of ownership, here is my iPad review and practical user’s guide to why it is not, and never will be, a serious business tool.

Different viewing angles of the iPad

My biggest grief is that there is no Flash or Flex support. From this business user’s standpoint, Jobs was wrong. I need Flash compatibility when browsing because there are too many important business-related websites that integrate that technology.

Here is a list of business-based and entertainment sites that currently cannot render correctly on the iPad (at least with their full intended functionality):

  • Google Analytics, Google Webmaster tools, and many other Google widgets and apps
  • Hulu.com
  • Compete.com
  • Any Flash entry page (sorry all you ad agencies),
  • Video demos made in, you guessed it, Flash
  • Cool dynamic link bait widgets
  • Most film, TV, and studio-related sites
  • Any Flash games
  • PC-based games like World of Warcraft. Not that games are a business tools issue, but sometimes you need to take a break.

Here is an even longer list of Flash sites you won’t be seeing on the iPad soon either (although some do have iPad apps):

  • Kongregate
  • Sony Pictures
  • Nickelodeon
  • Miniclip
  • South Park Studios
  • Warner Brothers
  • Armor Games
  • BBC (app)
  • Wall Street Journal Online (app)
  • National Geographic
  • Nifty
  • Spiegel
  • Google Finance
  • Blip TV
  • Dailymotion
  • Buzznet
  • Justin.tv
  • TBS
  • TNT
  • BET
  • Crackle
  • Atlantic Records
  • Sony Pictures
  • Epix HD
  • Moviefone
  • Warner Brothers
  • Yahoo Movies
  • Crunchyroll
  • Angry Alien Production
  • Dude Studios
  • Ted Talks
  • Ecoda Zoo
  • NASA – Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • PBS Kids
  • Touchspin Periodic Table
  • Sky Sports
  • NHL Video Center
  • FIFA World Cup
  • Formula 1 Races
  • NBA Video
  • Amazon
  • Burberry
  • Prada
  • HTC

Flash, Flex, and Adobe Air are not the only technologies excluded from the iPad. What isn’t well known is that sites built with Microsoft Silverlight are also not playable on the iPad.

Other reasons the iPad is not a real business tool:

  1. No tabbed browsing. My poor Firefox browser; I have at least 30 tabs open on any given work day, and all are one click away.  Safari on the iPad, with its multiple document interface browsing page (MDI) feature, is two clicks away. A single click makes all the difference.
  2. Don’t even think of dual screens or dual browser viewing.
  3. No native Microsoft Office support.  Want to open an Excel spread sheet?  Don’t try too hard.  At least you can save your Office files into pdfs and read them. Fortunately spreadsheets never need to be altered.
  4. No USB port. Though there is a work-around: MobileMe is only $99 a year. For that price, who needs a $2 USB drive. No USB port also means no easy way to hook up to a printer and print documents. Forget using any other standard non-Apple external device or peripherals with your iPad; including monitors, external storage, or projectors. About now, one realizes that Apple has no intention of meeting the needs of the business user.
  5. No Photoshop. If you don’t have any images on your website or blog, you won’t miss that feature. I unfortunately miss it every day.
  6. Limited ability to run dual apps. Get a new iPhone if you want that luxury
  7. Data entry. Ever tried to type a text document by pounding a piece of glass? Buy an iPad and try it. Bluetooth keyboards are rather sketchy and don’t fit into my iPad satchel.
  8. No unlimited data service anymore. Don’t have one yet? Then forget I ever brought this issue up. Since my house, work, favorite bar, favorite coffee shop, and second favorite restaurant all have free wi-fi, I’m over paying for unlimited data service anyways–by $5 dollars.

There are some work-arounds to many of the issues raised, but I don’t like work-arounds. We don’t live in a work-around world. I want my Hulu, err I mean Google Analytics, now. Yes I do know that either the world will adopt HTML 5 standards, or most of these sites will build apps to appease Apple, but the future is not when I’m writing this article.

Bottom line: Apple did not intend this device to be used as a business tool, so neither should you.

Does that mean I regret the iPad? Not at all. The toy is fun, and novel, and I can read a novel on it.  Plus it gets stolen from me almost every day, because here are the things the iPad does do well and for which it is designed:

  • Instant on – no boot time
  • Instant entertainment
  • Reading digital documents
  • Browsing non-Flash, non-Silverlight websites
  • Shopping on non-Flash, non-Silverlight websites
  • Playing non-Flash casual games
  • Email
  • Buying iPad apps
  • Listening to your iTunes
  • Social media
  • Watching H.264 and MPEG video file formats on sites like YouTube and NetFlix
  • Drawing attention to yourself from people who say “Look, it’s a big iTouch.”

6 comments

  1. Jim – spot on, that’s why I refused to even check it out. It’s a shiny toy that you take to show off to people or make a fashion statement (like other Apple toys). It’s not something I can use to blog on the go, or make a living as a business tool as you outlined.

    I am thinking to get a netbook just for blogging, when I travel. :)

  2. Very well written review! I got a netbook, and then regretted not getting an iPad. Of course, much of what I need to do with a computer wont actually work with an iPad. Yet another case of grass appearing greener on the other side.

  3. The flash thing is just absurd. My company makes timesheet management software, and most of the reports/analytics are presented using Flash. Of course, we are hardly the only ones doing this – even Google finance uses Flash! Imagine, a business user in finance domain not being able to use the financial tools. I am not sure if even HTML5 will fix this specific issue per se.

    The lack of USB is just another ridiculous thing – so I cant even connect it to my camera?

    1. Amrinder,

      Over time, I’ve actually converted the iPad into a serious business tool. It requires a lot of pre-planning and having specific apps on there but I take that now on my business trips versus lugging my gigantic laptop through airport security. I will admit that if I missed something in the planning, it does cause annoyance because I have to juggle work arounds that take up time.

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