But the truth is that even though the iPAD lacks some multimedia features, you could transform your iPad into a notebook computer, and the trend seems to be that iPad owners are increasingly seeing Apple’s eye-catching tablet as a viable notebook computer alternative.
There are a few key benefits to using your iPad as a laptop alternative. Let’s start with the iPad battery, it lasts and lasts for a while up to 10 hours on a charge, I haven’t come across on a laptop and netbook that can do that. The iPad weighs about 1.5 pounds, while most laptops and netbooks weigh anywhere from 2.5 pounds and up. And the later iPad models include built-in access WIFI networks and to mobile broadband without the need to get locked into a term contract with a wireless provider.
Main disadvantages for me when compared to a laptop or netbook is that the Apple’s iOS, the iPad’s operating system, doesn’t support Flash, which can limit how you experience some web sites -of course that will change when Adobe’s Edge is released. As of the moment, the iPad doesn’t support multitasking, and it has no webcam and no real option for adding one.
Putting those limitations aside, if you equip your iPad with the right mobile tools -carring an iPad instead of a laptop can be liberating .
Here are the top five services, apps and accessories that will turn your iPad into an essential part of your small business technology arsenal.
1. AT&T 3G Data Plan and Wi-Fi
An iPad with 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity is ideal for mobile professionals. You can get online anywhere there’s 3G coverage to check email, surf the Web, access your computer in the office, watch YouTube videos, to name a few. The iPad 3G data plans are reasonably priced, and there is no contract to sign. My customers at L.I. Computer Repair use this option, and they love having the ability to connect to the main office from wherever they are, in addition to getting all their email on the device.
In addition, if you connect the iPad to your home network, and you are a Cablevision customer you can watch live TV, On Demand, setup your DVR, or even use it as a remote control for your cable box. I love this feature.
2. Apple’s iPad Camera Connection Kit and AirPrint
The iPad Camera Connection Kit is designed to give you two options for importing photos and videos from digital cameras. But what Apple doesn’t tell you is that the kit can connect other USB devices to the iPad, which lacks its own USB port.
For example, using the connection kit, you can connect USB keyboards to the iPad for more comfortable typing. You can also attach USB microphone/headsets which, when used with an iPad audio recording app, can turn your iPad into a podcast studio.
The AirPrint allows you to simply connect to a printer and print wirelessly. AirPrint Works with AirPrint-enabled printers
3. A USB Keyboard
The iPad has an onscreen keyboard, and it’s perfectly usable, especially in landscape mode. But typing on the keyboard can be painful after a while.
You’ve got options, fortunately — though one of the best options isn’t officially supported by Apple.
There are a couple of Apple keyboards the iPad officially works with. One is Apple’s Wireless Keyboard; which connects to the iPad via Bluetooth. (Third-party Bluetooth keyboards also work with the iPad.)
The other option is Apple’s iPad Keyboard Dock; which, as its name implies, combines an iPad recharging dock with a full-size keyboard.
Your best option I’d say, a USB keyboard — connected to your iPad via the iPad Camera Connection Kit. Not all USB keyboards will work, however. So when purchasing one look for a compact, basic USB keyboard that lacks backlit keys, USB ports, or any other extra features that might draw power.
4. A Dropbox Account
For your iPad to be a worthy rival to your laptop, you need easy access to the files on your laptop’s (or desktop’s) hard drive. That’s where Dropbox comes in.
Dropbox is a free iPad app for syncing files across multiple devices and in the cloud. First, you create a Dropbox account (you get 2GB of storage for free) and a Dropbox folder on your main computer. Then, the files in your Dropbox folder are automatically copied to and synced with the Dropbox folder on your other computers, as long as those PCs and Macs are connected to the Internet.
The Dropbox iPad app provides read-only access to your files. To make edits on an iPad, you can choose to open a selected Dropbox file in a program like the iPad versions of Apple’s applications, or in Documents To Go Premium, which supports text, spreadsheet, presentations and other file types.
5. Documents To Go Premium
Documents To Go has made it possible for handheld owners — going back to the days of PDAs — to view and edit Microsoft Office documents on their devices. The Documents To Go Premium iPad app carries on the tradition. It’s an essential app for anyone who works a lot in Word and Excel and wants to replace their laptop with an iPad.
Documents To Go Premium plays well with Dropbox (and other online services such as Google Docs). It enables you to access all your Dropbox files on an iPad, as well as edit the files and save them back to your Dropbox account (where they’re automatically synced with your computers).
The process is fairly seamless, though there are some downsides. Navigating between folders within your Dropbox folder in Documents To Go Premium can be slow and confusing.
The Bottom Line
After you spend some extra money in apps and adapters you can trick your iPad to be your laptop alternative. But even with its deficiencies I think it is fair to say that they are more than compensated for by the iPad’s size/weight, battery life and instant on.