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Inspired by the iPad

The Omni Group turns its attention to business apps for Apple's new device.

Apple's January announcement of its new tablet computing device triggered a full-on sprint among application developers, giving them 66 days to adapt their successful apps from the desktop or the mobile phone to the iPad, a tablet PC, if they wanted to be on-screen for the iPad's April launch date. For The Omni Group, it represented the opportunity of a lifetime.

"It's the first platform that really has made sense for our applications," says founder and CEO Ken Case.

The group is the Seattle software developer behind the Omni web browser for the Mac and popular productivity applications OmniFocus, OmniGraffle and OmniGraphSketcher. The firm has five productivity apps for the Mac, but only one--OmniFocus, a self-organization app that Case calls "a to-do list on steroids"--has been available for the iPhone. That's because its other apps, such as OmniGraffle, a diagramming and website mock-up program, wouldn't have translated well to the small iPhone screen. The roughly 9.5-inch-by-7.5-inch iPad changes all that.

"It's clear that this is the direction computing devices are going in," Case says. "Touching a screen to push text and scroll the screen is a much more natural way." Having business-focused apps ready by the iPad's launch date "is our chance to get in on that future, and the extra visibility that comes with it," he says.

Adapting apps for the iPad after working on the iPhone and Mac was made simpler by the fact that some of the operating system underpinnings are the same as the Mac's, and some of the programming layer elements and APIs are the same as the iPhone's. But one fact made the job harder: "With the iPhone, we had our hands on one for a year, but we didn't have an iPad in our hands, and Apple couldn't guarantee us we'd test one before launch day," Case says.

He had one-half to two-thirds of his staff working on adapting OmniFocus and OmniGraffle for the iPad. But he says the overtime was worth it. "We want to put all five of our apps on this platform, but inspired by the iPad, we now have ideas for at least five more."

Dan O'Shea is a Chicago-based writer who has been covering telecom, mobile and other high-tech topics for nearly 20 years.

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This article was originally published in the May 2010 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Inspired by the iPad .

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