Apple Expert Touts Business Use Of iPad

Nathan Eddy is a contributor to eWeek and TechWeekEurope, covering cloud and BYOD

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An Apple expert believes that the surprisingly low price of Apple’s tablet device, the iPad, makes it a valid proposition for small businesses

The newly launched Apple iPad, which has been touted as a “magical and revolutionary device,” but one expert thinks it could be suitable for small businesses.

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At the iPad’s unveiling, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced a starting price of $499 or £307 (for a 16GB Wi-Fi-enabled iPad), with unlimited data plans for $30 (£18.46). The top-end model is a 64GB version with 3G capability, which would retail for $829 (£510) when it reaches store shelves in a couple of months. The question now is, who will feel the need to buy one?

For the past year and a half, the small to medium-size business (SMB) market has been gravitating toward netbooks (smaller, cheaper notebooks with limited computing power) to improve mobility and reduce cost among company road warriors. With the average netbook retailing for between $400 (£246) to $600 (£370), this puts the iPad within an SMB’s budget range.

However, the iPad requires additional accessories, such as a stand and keyboard (the iPad offers a near full-size virtual keyboard), the aforementioned data plan and perhaps software additions like iWork applications (at $9.99 or £6.14 an app).

Michael Oh, president and founder of TechSuperpowers, an Apple care and retail specialist and founder of Codex Development, specialising in mobile applications, said the device’s potential appeal for small businesses is one of the hidden stories of the launch.

“It’s not about the features, it’s not about the specifics – it’s more about what it can be used for, and that price is the biggest feature out there,” he said. “One of the important things is that it’s not a mobile browser anymore. This is a full-screen browser, which means software as a service [SAAS] or any web-based app your business has instantly becomes the killer app for small businesses on this. It’s suddenly the easiest, lightest, cheapest option.”

Oh said for a small business like his, which requires a staff of field technicians, the iPad’s price makes it a strong contender. “From a small business owner’s perspective, for my guys that are out there in the field as technicians, I think those guys can do a lot with an iPad,” he said. “I would say I would strongly consider moving my field guys to this, and mostly because of the price. If I moved to the iPad, it’s purely because I’m willing to give up some of their functionality they have with the laptops, but that’s an equation I can balance. The browser experience on this is superior to a netbook at the same cost. That to me is critical: The browser is now the main application.”