Would I Use an iPad on a Business Trip?

Jim Machi : Industry Insight
Jim Machi

Would I Use an iPad on a Business Trip?

A couple of weeks ago, I discussed the use of iPhones in the enterprise and mentioned iPads will runneth over the enterprise, but many will end up not being used.   In fact, if CES from last week is any indication, tablets of all sorts will descend upon us like locusts (and depending on your point of view, it could be a plague).

What did I mean, though, when I said that many iPads would end up not being fully utilized?  Well, let me tell you my experience with using an iPad so far.  You also have to know that I am not a Mac user, nor am I an iPhone user.  So those environments are somewhat alien to me and surely color my viewpoint here.  So I’m judging the iPad without the benefit of knowing those environments.

The first thing you notice coming from the laptop world is that the iPad is not a computer.  The way I look at it is that the iPad is meant to be a great internet on-ramp vehicle, and a great vehicle for viewing video content, and that it is.  Reading web sites (though it can’t render flash), and reading email, and viewing pictures or videos is non paralleled.  The screen is bigger, and the clarity great and so reading email and content embedded in emails is much easier than on a Blackberry. 

When I was in the Unix world in the early 1990’s, we dreamed of having devices like this so that servers (Unix powered servers of course as NT did not exist yet) would rule the world.  All content would be on these servers, and these slimmed down devices would access them.  At that time, we called then “thin-clients.”  There was huge rage about them at the time, all started by the Unix companies.  Go look it up in Wikipedia.  I just did using my iPad thin-client, and the reading was easy smiley-smile.

So to me that is what the iPad is.  Within those limitations though, could I still use it every day at work?   It does seem to be difficult to create content on this and there is no way I can ever use this to replace my laptop.  Just no way.  I create too much PowerPoint content for instance, and work too much with spreadsheets and word processing, to do it on this.  At least within my capabilities on it right now.

So let’s talk about whether the iPad can be used on say, an overnight trip.  One where I’m travelling heavily, will be reading email, and need to give a presentation at a customer or whatever, and then head back to the airport.  In other words, one where I know I won’t have time to create or edit content anyway, so why not try and travel lighter?

The first thing I did was take my iPad and see how it presented on a projector – kind of like if I was at a customer.  First of all, I found that the iPad only projected when you went to YouTube, or played movies.  It didn’t project when a PowerPoint was clicked on, or a PDF file, or even when you went to a web site.  Clearly this would not pass muster at a customer.  So I rummaged around the internet, found out that indeed this was correct, and that I needed to download an app called “Good Reader.”  So I did that.  And I sent a few PowerPoint files to myself and also some PDF files and it can project them, and the app can also save them in a directory. So that’s good.

The issue with the PowerPoint file though, is that it’s kind of messed up when viewing from the iPad – some characters get changed, etc.  This is because there is no PowerPoint in the Apple world.  So I will now need to download Keynote and the make sure that when the PowerPoint files get imported into Keynote, they are edited to make sure it’s all correct.  And I will do that for some key presentations.  Or if you know you have presentations that don’t need editing, convert them to PDF and then view them through Good Reader.  So that will work too.

So, getting back to my original question – would I use an iPad on a business trip?  Once I download Keynote, and get my key presentations over and modified, yes, I will with one caveat that I’ll get to in a sentence.  Clearly, if I’m in a Mac world to start, I wouldn’t have this issue, but this is the reality I’m in.  The caveat though is also about what else may be requested of me while I’m away?  For instance, what if someone just wants me to send them a file?  And I don’t have it on my iPad since it’s on my laptop.  This is a big deal since it might be a day and half in this business trip example.  So if indeed I go back to my thin-client mentality and put my key files on a shared central directory/server, then I could do this. 

And I’d happily take my iPad on these short business trips.  So, I have some work to do first – download Keynote and make sure my key files are on a shared work directory someplace so that I don’t hold anyone up.   While I will move to do this, how many business people will?  If your company already has moved to a shared directory concept (and we are moving that way so it’s not a stretch for me) it’s OK, but if this is foreign, it’s a culture change.  And that’s why I say I think many of these iPads in the enterprise will be used sparingly over time – because in the end, many of us right now have not trained ourselves to be users of thin-clients.

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