Sometimes when we judge a book by its cover, we are left wondering if what we got was worth the wait. In January, 2010, amid nearly a decade of rumors and promises, Apple announced one of its most groundbreaking products to date. So significant, that it has the potential to change the paradigm of the entire personal computer format. Even the name “iPad” represents more than just a product. It represents an “idea.” But ideas can be mere marketing fluff or truly the revolutionary shape of things to come.
What separates an idea from a product is whether it is embraced by the market as a toy or a tool. Many so-called “revolutionary” toys that integrate well with PCs are released to the marketplace annually. But a tool not only has potential staying power — it can also serve as a foundation for real innovative change in the world of personal computing.
Smart Business spoke to Chris Jones of ATW Management Inc. about what makes the iPad an inventive toy as well as an innovative tool that businesses can use as a foundation for new ideas.
What were your first impressions of the iPad’s look and capabilities?
After months of standing poolside, we finally dove into the iPad pool and, like that initial shock of diving into a swimming pool, there was also a jolt of the expected — and simultaneously unexpected — change in temperature. Take the design for instance, the first thing you notice is it is the ultimate in clean simplicity. The surface is mainly a 9.7-inch, 1024 x 768, multi-touch display surrounded by a glossy black bezel. The only initial interaction is with Apple’s ‘home’ button, which is reminisent of the ‘start’ button in most of today’s sport roadsters. Like the roadster, the iPad is small, revs up with power, and is a beauty to behold, but the design is simple enough to enable the focus to be on the powerful interaction with the screen — which is kind of the point.
In our quest to define the iPad as a tool, we chose the 16GB model with Wi-Fi + 3G in order to integrate it into the company network as well as create a virtual private network into various applications utilizing a Wi-Fi outside of the office. The iPad contains a PA Semi-designed 1 GHz A4 system-on-a-chip, an 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1, and can be purchased in capacities of 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB.
Did you find it to be functional and user-friendly?
As mentioned earlier, the iPad is all about its screen, and the 9.7-inch LED backlit IPS display is certainly impressive. Colors are vibrant and can be cranked up to intense brightness, which makes the image quality for HD sharper than most TVs. Due to the IPS (in-plane switching) for the display, viewing angles are remarkable broad, which comes in handy with the calendar and contacts applications. Information is easier to see due to the layout, and the constant need to scroll is minimized as with the iPhone.
And speaking of iPhone, it’s not difficult to realize that the iPad’s interface is nearly identical to the iPhone due to the fact that it is built on a derivation of the same iOS operating system. This makes actual navigation on the devices identical as well. So far, every single application used on the iPhone has worked on the iPad in our testing. A few applications have had a noticeable decrease in the quality of the graphics but this is irrelevant for most business applications. (When it comes to games and watching videos, it’s quite nice to have the larger screen for the whole multimedia experience, but the iPad has already been established as a great toy.) In a business setting, the ability to use the same applications on both the iPad and the iPhone justifies the money invested in them in the first place.
If you haven’t noticed, we have yet to discuss windows, files and folders, which are commonplace in the PC world. Initially, this environment along with multi-tasking was practically non-existent. But we need to realize that the iPad is not a common computer in the usual sense. It is, rather, a hybrid version of its not-so distant cousin, the iPhone. Once you embrace this concept you will be able to play, purchase, surf and even accomplish some work with this ‘computer’ that’s so easy to use nearly anyone can understand it immediately.
How can businesses use the iPad to their advantage?
Businesses are finding more ways to integrate and manage the iPad. Lots of new applications can transform the iPad to that innovative tool. For the road warriors and workers on the go utilizing public Wi-Fi networks, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) with its encrypted tunnel is a requirement for secure access to the data and resources on the business network. Apple also provides support for certificate-based and two-factor authentication for improved security.
The iPad has a native support for Cisco IPSec, L2TP over IPSec, and PPTP. These three VPN protocols are compatible with the vast majority of VPN solutions and allow the iPad to connect with the business network without any additional network configuration or third-party applications.
And speaking of third-party applications, solutions have been developed that enable business professionals the ability of utilize the iPad within the company’s network. ‘Good for Enterprises’ enables IT administrators the ability to provision, manage and update a variety of smartphone platforms without ever touching a handheld device. All functionality ranging from the camera to the Bluetooth features can be locked down from a single, Web-based portal. The IT administrator can also determine which company applications can be accessed and which smartphone applications are allowed a secure connection. In the event of a lost or stolen smartphone, the IT administrator can even remotely wipe all access settings and secure data, which is beneficial for small and medium-sized companies that do not have an established smartphone standard.
The ‘Array Networks Desktop Direct’ application for the iPad (and iPhone) as well as the ‘Citrix Receiver’ software offer users remote access to their desktop and all the software and tools available securely remotely. This opens the door for all Windows applications via the iPad without risking data. The user is provided a complete view of the remote computer desktop utilizing the iPad’s full screen size. The application eliminates Windows compatibility problems and security risks by transmitting on video all keyboard and mouse information. Applications and data remain secure on the office computer. Access for multiple desktops boosts productivity for those managing more than one office computer and saves time by enabling multi-tasking.
There is no question the iPad is quite an elegant computing device for consumers. But this revolutionary ‘toy’ may soon serve as the foundation for new innovative ideas. Those same consumers, who also happen to be employees, now have a secure means of getting work done anywhere in the world. Although the iPad was not originally created to do everything a laptop can do, business applications are making that a reality and we are witnessing a toy evolve into a tool.
Chris Jones is the network/infrastructure administrator at ATW Management Inc. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (866) 452-0563.