Sitting somewhere in the murky no man's land between smartphones and traditional laptops, and retailing for a hefty $499 minimum, Apple's iPad still remains a large question mark from a small-business owner's standpoint. While some ambitious entrepreneurs have found ways to make the tablet PC work for their particular operations, others continue to wonder why they should toss their trusty old notebooks. Looking for an excuse to add one of these must-see devices to your own IT budget? Here are five ways it can help you potentially add to the bottom line--and enjoy the added personal benefits like cutting-edge digital publishing, streaming audio/video and game-playing capabilities it offers on your next business trip:
1. Product and video demonstrations: Despite its lack of Flash support, the iPad's internet-connected access, touchscreen interface and organic web surfing experience make it an excellent way to demonstrate online products and services. Businesses that rely on video to tell their story via reels, testimonials, commercial spots, product demonstrations and more will also find the gadget's dazzling 9.7-inch display a great method to get the point across. As a multi-function device, it's further possible to jump between slideshow presentations and pulling up online traffic stats on-demand, making it a solid all-purpose solution when screening examples for retailers, trade partners and prospective clients alike.
2. Endless functionality: Arguably the gizmo's greatest strength--beyond its powerful A4 processor, 3-D graphics capabilities and user-friendly front-end--is its massive level of support from the third-party software development community. From mobile invoicing and customer relationship management programs to apps that let you track mileage and monitor flight statuses in real-time, a legion of bedroom coders continue to push the device further than even its creators ever imagined. A few quick software purchases and downloads is all it takes to transform the iPad into a portable translator, inventory management system, voice recorder and more. Buy one, and you may never need another gadget again.
3. Access to digital publishing: Via a range of software solutions from the iBooks app to Kindle suite and support for the ePub format, the iPad puts a massive library of publications at your fingertips. Whether you're looking to parse the pages of today's newspaper, read a few chapters of the hottest new business book or enjoy immediate access to a full spate of corporate training manuals, it makes a much more ergonomic, practical and transportable solution than traditional carrying methods. Added bonuses include massive cost savings, less waste and fewer shipping charges for all parties involved. Think of it as your very own personal digital newsstand.
4. Note-taking options: Allowing users to jot down notes on command, scribble out detailed technical sketches or simply dictate important memos, the iPad may prove a lifesaver for executives who feel overwhelmed by today's incoming torrent of information. Using built-in features and downloadable apps, it's possible to more effectively manage your calendar, quickly spot holes in your schedule at a glance and even remember what to pick up on your next office supply run. The closest many entrepreneurs will ever come to having a personal assistant, it can oftentimes prove just as handy in terms of keeping you from drowning under a sea of daily minutiae.
5. Constant connectivity:
No matter if you choose to access online functions through a wireless hotspot or high-speed cellular network, the iPad lets you keep up with e-mail, monitor emerging trends around the web and stay abreast of breaking headlines. Using the device, you can stay in touch with colleagues across time zones and continents, remain on top of shifting stock prices and catch topics relevant to your industry as they storm the international newswires. Those who've been holding out on purchasing a smartphone, given usage patterns that lean more toward data-intensive tasks than reams of conference calls, may find it a welcome alternative.