Where the Apple iPad Fits into the Business World

It’s here! After eons of speculation, Apple’s Steve Jobs finally unveiled the iPad. Apple’s new touchscreen smartphone/laptop hybrid has a 9.7-inch screen, is half an inch thick, and weighs 1.5 lbs. It comes with WiFi, Bluetooth, and Apple’s own A4 chip.

Jobs demonstrated today that his new multi-touch toy is an appealing hybrid of functionality, convenience, and fun. But what does the iPad mean for businesspeople? What are its most convenient uses for folks in the working world? Most importantly, is it a game-changer?

We included some key details on the iPad below, including software and hardware features most useful for businesspeople. First, the nitty gritty:

Prices
16GB: $499
32GB: $599
64GB: $699
3G model: $829

All models except for the 3G ship in 2 months. The 3G ships in 3 months.

Data plans
250MB/month: $14.99/month
Unlimited: $29.99/month
(Through AT&T only.)

Software

For $9.99 a piece, you can load up your iPad with useful and fun apps. Watch the iPad video here. Highlights:

The iPad runs almost all existing iPhone apps, as well as apps customized only for the iPad. Developers, get ready for another gold rush.

iWork: The new iWork app has slides that help you move between screens and applications. This makes working more fluid and integrated–faster, potentially.

Numbers: A soft numeric keypad makes it easy to work on a spreadsheet remotely.

Email: A soft keyboard in the lower half of your screen makes it easy and fast to type an email.

Newspapers: Several major newspapers, including the New York Times, have apps for the iPad. These layouts mimic print newspapers, and look beautiful.

iBooks: The iPad shows its potential as a Kindle-killer through iBooks. Pull a book off a digital bookshelf in the iBookstore. Examine it with your fingers. Buy for $14.99. Then, read pages that look like real paper pages. Aesthetic and slick.

Games: These don’t have much to do with business, except as a stellar way to pass time during boring meetings. iPad games have overlays that let you control by touch. The iPad boasts superior graphics on a mobile platform that’s just the right size.

Brushes: If your job involves design or sketching, Brushes is a fun app. You can sketch and paint directly onto your touchscreen.

Hardware

Keyboard dock: You can plug a keyboard into the iPad’s keyboard dock. Then, you place the iPad in front of the keyboard, so it acts like a monitor. This makes the iPad as convenient and comfortable as a laptop.

Syncing: The iPad syncs with all your other devices via USB. Everything can sync at the same time (not just by application). This is good if you do a lot of work on the road.

Projector: You can connect the iPad to a projector using a cable. Again, handy if you travel a lot on the job, eg. for presentations.

Battery: 10 hours of battery life. Nice.

Chip: Designed in-house by Apple.

Service

Service, as with the iPhone, is through AT&T. You don’t need a contract. As with the iPhone, you get free use of AT&T WiFi hotspots.

All models are unlocked and use new GSM Micro SIMs.

Overall Rating for Business

The iPad isn’t designed exclusively for business. At best, I can see it fitting people in certain niches, like designers, anyone who works on the road, and anyone who likes working and reading on their commute. It’s not an iPhone, Blackberry, or laptop killer. Instead, it’s useful if you happen to be the kind of person who could use one.

A Game-Changer?

Could the iPad revolutionize the way we use computers? Yes, if everyone ends up adopting the multi-touch model. If multi-touch tablets become a form of ubiquitous computing. If schoolkids start taking tablets to class instead of books, and tablets with keyboard docks become the laptops of the future. Apple might be onto something here, a new standard that the public hasn’t yet adopted. That might be one reason for its aggressive pricing: Apple wants everyone to have an iPad.

I’ma wait this one out. I don’t see any reason to buy a Tablet right away. But I–and you–might feel differently in 6 months, if the model takes off.

Time will tell.