Never mind that 1 million iPads were sold in just 28 days--less than half the time it took to sell the same number of iPhones. Or that RBC Capital Markets estimates that iPads outsell Apple Macs by a 2-1 ratio. But deciding to put your small business on the iPad magical mystery tour is not the no-brainer that pundits want it to be. Clear iPad pluses such as its cool factor, access to thousands of apps and fabulous battery life are marred by its lack of keyboard, small screen size and limited software targeted to small business. Not surprisingly, passionate camps have formed on both sides of the iPad question. Let the tablet smackdown begin.
Can't Live With It
Chuck McHugh, president of Industrial Design Innovations, a Dearborn, Mich., automotive shipping and logistics business
The iPad is the furthest thing from Chuck McHugh's mind--which is remarkable, considering he has just spent $34,000 installing 10 design-focused computer imaging systems.
"Not just the iPad, McHugh says. "Apple was not even part of the conversation.
Industrial Design Innovations is a 26-person firm that creates shipping containers for specialty car parts for clients such as Ford, Toyota and Harley Davidson. The company's aging design tool, called CATIA, was recently upgraded from a legacy UNIX Sun SPARC server. Ford, one of the firm's biggest clients, dictated that Windows would be the platform.
McHugh saw no need to use computers that could handle both Apple and Windows software. Instead, he saved about 70 percent on the cost of Macs by using traditional Dell notebooks and desktops. "We saw significant improvement in speed and overall performance with this system, he says.
McHugh recently launched a second company within his firm called RF-IDI, which specializes in remotely tracking car parts. The system lets workers locate misplaced machine parts on factory floors using radio frequency identification tags matched to handheld computers. McHugh said the company considered many hardware and software options and landed on Panasonic Toughbooks, developing its own app out of standard languages like C++.
"There would be nothing unique for the iPad to do here, McHugh says.
Can't Live Without It
BJ Farmer, CEO of CITOC, an IT consulting and business services firm in Houston
BJ Farmer is not ashamed of his lust for all things iPad.
"I have staked my whole company on it, he says. "I told my development guys that I do not want to have a single application that does not work on an iPad.
Farmer's 18-person firm, which he started in 1995 after a career in accounting, specializes in web-based business process automation. He firmly believes that the iPad is the next bridge for even the smallest and most techno-phobic firms to step out onto the Internet business cloud.
Farmer points out that an iPad is stable, rugged and can run all day without a recharge. Entrepreneurs may not be able to create a PowerPoint or Excel file on it, he says, but the unit is the best solution for updating company files. Factor in its wow appeal that closes deals and access to work force automation apps, and the iPad becomes Farmer's small-business web access tool of choice.
He admits the iPad is far from perfect: There is no camera, which limits the use of optical character recognition, and there is no projector output, which cuts into the tablet's effectiveness as a demonstration tool. But those limitations don't dampen Farmer's enthusiasm. His firm is considering giving away iPads to customers to drive sales of its cloud-based products.
"I figure once I hand these to a client and they can see what they can do, it will open doors to a whole new level of tools," he says.