The numbers don’t lie: By the end of 2010, some 500,000 iPads are expected to have landed in customers’ shopping carts all across Germany. Meanwhile, more apps are joining the some 300,000 already on offer for the device every day, making it increasingly difficult to keep track of them all. Market researchers estimate that users all over the world will download five billion apps in 2010 alone, with Germany accounting for 755 million. In our opinion, however, only a select few iPad apps are suited for serious everyday use in business.
In addition to some publishers’ attempts to provide digital apps as a substitute for their printed newspapers and magazines, these handy offerings primarily include productivity tools that make users’ daily work easier and address the shortcomings iPad evinces in its default state.
Audi is just one major company introducing tablet PCs into its automobile production, aiming to replace its paper-based entry of parts and components with digital records in a pilot project. This was also a topic of discussion at the SAP Automotive Symposium 2010 – for further details, check out “Automotive Symposium: €145 per Car”.
SAP is pursuing similar considerations; tablet PCs like iPad can, after all, be a convenient substitute for heavy, unwieldy file folders. However, this applies in particular to marketing and sales – areas that work more or less exclusively with text, e-mail, and presentations. Here, we can only concur with the skeptics who assert that the device is anything but ideal for creating such files.
iPad is much more about impressing customers on their turf and helping your company demonstrate its innovative nature. The question is, which apps does an everyday (virtual) office environment need to finally force laptop and desktop PCs into retirement? Can they offer enough functionality to cover e-mail, appointment scheduling, directions, presentations, social media, travel expenses, vacation applications, and company car management – all outside of the Windows world?
From a technical standpoint, Apple has made significant strides since the days of the first-generation iPhone and iOS 1.01: Its devices now support Microsoft Exchange Server and IMAP access, as well as encrypted Internet usage through (IPSec) VPN, WPA2, and SSL/TSL. However, iPad’s file structure is not currently open for modification by company-internal IT departments.
Meanwhile, iPad trumps ultraportable laptops in terms of battery life thanks to its low-power LED display and processor. The device can make it through an entire day of business without needing a recharge.
Have we roused your interest? Then read on for an overview of what we consider the best tools and programs to make your workdays more productive and less dependent on your laptop.
- Office2 HD 3.6
- Numbers 1.2
- SAP Business One 8.8
- Reeder 2.1.2
- Read It Later Pro 2.2.1
- Dropbox 1.3.1
- Dragon Dictation 2.0.3
- SAP Business ByDesign 2.5
- Citrix Receiver 1.1
- SAP BusinessObjects Explorer / BI OnDemand
- VLC Player 1.1.0
- Smart Bring-Me-Back 1.0.3
Next page: Text and spreadsheets with Office2 HD
Text and spreadsheets with Office2 HD 3.6
A series of iPad apps have emerged with the aim of replacing their Microsoft Office counterparts. The cumbersome process of e-mailing documents to the device is no longer required thanks to the ability to transfer files through Windows Explorer and a wireless connection, while access to a cloud service such as MobileMe or Dropbox makes things even more convenient.
The latest version of the app Office2 HD, for example, includes support for Word files in .docx format. A few swipes of the finger are enough to edit a text or modify an Excel spreadsheet on iPad, and all files stored in the app’s “inbox” folder eventually land in the device’s flash memory. As in the previous version, users can open, but not modify PowerPoint presentations. A video-out option for presentation purposes would also be a welcome future addition, eliminating the need for another add-on.
All things considered, the €5.99 price tag on the iPad-native Office2 HD comes with plenty of mobile functionality for Microsoft Office formats. It requires just 4.3MB of space and is available for download through iTunes.
Next page: Numbers, Apple’s own take on spreadsheets
Colorful charts in Numbers 1.2
In addition to its 16 predefined templates and nine different diagram types for new files, Numbers – Apple’s own offering in the field of charts and spreadsheets – is capable of importing files in Numbers and Excel format. The color combinations available, however, can’t measure up to those of a full Excel installation.
With the release of iOS 4.2.1 for iPad, Numbers has acquired the ability to print charts and tables over a wireless network and export them in PDF format. Print previews are now also possible – although this feature would be hardly noteworthy on a laptop.
SAP Business One 8.8: ERP for small businesses
Previously only available on iPhone, the app version of SAP Business One 8.8 has now come to iPad, as well – along with both its eye-catching interface and unbeatable price. The free app enables customers who already use SAP Business One as their ERP software to access their business processes using Apple’s tablet device.
Users can work with everything from business data and contacts to reports and balance sheets, and the results produced on iPad are nothing if not pleasing to the eye. Employees can create diagrams, analyze business processes, approve vacation requests, manage inquiries, and deal with customer information – all while on the move. Just like the desktop version of SAP Business One, the iPad app supports 25 languages, along with secure SSL/VPN connectivity.
Those interested in the iPad variant can now put it through its paces immediately through access to a demo server. SAP Business One needs only 6.1MB of space and is available for download here on the App Store.
In a head-to-head comparison of the iPhone and iPad versions of SAP Business One, the latter will likely leave users with a much better impression. Along with the device’s larger screen, the improved usability of the iPad app facilitates a higher level of productivity in selecting and working with data.
Next page: Tracking thousands of articles with Reeder
Track thousands of articles with Reeder 2.1.2
Of the many RSS readers available for iPad, Reeder is one of the best ways we’ve found to keep abreast of the latest news. The app synchronizes with Google Reader and handles the categorization of feeds and their entries. If desired, Reeder can list thousands of articles – updated every minute – and display a lead text and feature image along with each headline.
When selected, many articles forward users to the Web site of the corresponding content provider. The status bar, meanwhile, provides a discreet indication of when synchronization is underway upon starting the app before returning to its normal appearance.
Reeder takes up 2.3MB of space, and the “pro” version (recommended) is available for €3.99 through iTunes. Also on offer as an intriguing plug-in for Reeder is Digest, which can be downloaded only from within Reeder itself for €3.99. With it, users can download articles and read them later while offline, much like in a magazine.
Next page: Another way to Read It Later, offline
Read It Later Pro
Read It Later Pro enables users to select any content they have stored on their iPads – with Reeder and Digest, for example – and arrange it as they wish in a magazine-style format. Since all of the information is available even without an Internet connection, Read It Later is also suitable as a means of archiving important articles and other documents for later use.
The app requires just 3MB of space and is available for €3.99 on the App Store.
Next page: Dropbox – free storage in the cloud
Dropbox 1.3.1: Free online storage
Dropbox is a service that lets users store up to 2GB of files in the cloud for free. It’s also an easy way to share files among different users and computers. Using the cloud service only requires registration and a few clicks to install the corresponding software – on a PC or Mac, for example.
The process with the free Dropbox app for iPad is similar: Following installation, a “My Dropbox” folder appears, containing all of the files the user already has stored. Of particular note is the option to generate links through which even non-registered users can download files. In our opinion, there’s no better way to access files in various formats while on the go – and it’s even free. Just as a side note, all Dropbox file transfers are encrypted.
The Dropbox app takes up a mere 5.9MB of space and is available free of charge on the App Store.
Next page: Speech recognition with Dragon Dictation
Dragon Dictation 2.0.3: Quality speech recognition
Many business users are no doubt aware of the company Nuance Communication, whose speech-recognition software Dragon NaturallySpeaking went head-to-head with IBM ViaVoice in the early 1990s. Its current app, Dragon Dictation, is based on NaturallySpeaking technology. In quiet environments, it’s astonishing how well the app recognizes speech on iPad without a high-quality external microphone. Even lengthier texts come together on the first try, after which the dictated speech is uploaded to a Dragon server for processing. A few seconds later, the corresponding text is transferred back and displayed on the user’s iPad.
The latest version of Dragon Dictation (2.0.4) requires 4.8MB of space and is free for download from the App Store.
Next page: Compact ERP with SAP Business ByDesign
SAP Business ByDesign 2.5: SAP Business Suite, Condensed
We’ve reported extensively on SAP Business ByDesign and its free app variant for iPhone in this space, and an iPad-optimized version offering an ergonomic interface will soon join them. Meanwhile, the numerous small businesses that have been using the comparable application SAP Business One for some time may be interested in the recently released iPad app of the same name – also available free of charge on the App Store.
The iPhone version of SAP Business ByDesign 2.5 requires 8.9MB of space and can be downloaded for free through iTunes.
Next page: Virtual desktops through Citrix
Virtual desktops through Citrix Receiver 1.1
At many larger companies, virtual desktops are a standard office tool; they enable any employee to access his or her usual desktop environment from essentially any computer while on the move. In our view, not many of those who work in the field will be able to do without the Citrix Receiver app, which provides full, secure remote access to Windows and other systems.
Following account setup, users of this iPad client software can access all of the applications their internal IT department has made available for remote use. When opening an application like Microsoft Outlook, for example, the app starts a virtual instance of Windows. Provided that companies’ IT managers do their homework and make the necessary adjustments, Citrix Receiver could become an indispensable tool in the business world.
Version 1.1 of the Citrix Receiver app takes up 8.4MB of space and is a free download on the App Store.
Next page: SAP BusinessObjects
SAP BusinessObjects Explorer / BI OnDemand
The SAP BusinessObjects app actually provides two different functions: During startup, users can choose between SAP BusinessObjects Explorer and SAP BusinessObjects BI OnDemand. The fact that the software is actually two apps in one and still free is astounding.
SAP also provides 10MB of storage and a spreadsheet containing up to 2,000 rows in the cloud at absolutely no cost (for more details, see the article “Cloud for Free: BI on iPhone”). The SAP BusinessObjects app requires just 2.4MB of your iPad’s flash memory and is available through iTunes.
Next page: VLC, the do-everything video player
VLC Media Player 1.1.0: Video in any format
What else can you say about VLC? Already well known for its Windows and Mac OS X versions, the media player is now also available as an iPad app. In business settings, VLC Media Player is excellent for presenting videos of products or other content; the way it simultaneously activates the device’s video-out function when playing a video – thus transmitting a synchronized signal to a connected projector, for example – is worthy of particular praise.
Along with the common MPEG formats (and their corresponding containers), VLC Media Player supports files encoded in Apple’s MOV/H.264 standard. Users looking to play virtually any video format thus need look no further than this app; copying videos to your iPad is also child’s play, requiring just a drag-and-drop to the VLC icon displayed in iTunes.
Bring-Me-Back 1.0.3 by smart
The Bring-Me-Back app was designed by smart to make searching for your parked vehicle a thing of the past.