How Apple's iPad Fits into the Office
That single-minded connectivity needs to change. Ideally, you'd have an iPad dock at your desk with a VGA connector, a power connector, a camera connector, USB/keyboard connector, an eventual USB/mouse connector, an eventual USB/printer connector, and a connector to your PC or Mac for syncing via iTunes.
Expanding the iPad's Bluetooth capabilities could help, such as by supporting wireless iTunes/file exchange with PCs and Macs, in addition to the current headset (for talking and listening to music and videos) and keyboard support. And as previously noted, Bluetooth mouse support would be handy. Wi-Fi file-syncing would be really great.
The iPad Network Issue
Both my work and home offices have Wi-Fi networks, so it's trivial for me to connect to the Internet and other network resources from my iPad where I usually work. But Wi-Fi is the only network technology you can use with an iPad, so if you're in a wired-only office, you're isolated unless you want to pay for lots of 3G data usage. Wi-Fi is increasingly common where businesspeople travel -- hotels, airports, conference facilities, building lobbies, and so on -- but it's not so common in older buildings' cubicles and offices. So adding an Ethernet port to the kind of hub-style dock I suggested earlier would be a good idea to get broader corporate adoption.
Plus, even where businesses have Wi-Fi, chances are very great they're not carrying even the majority of the network load. If people were to use iPads (or smartphones or other tablets) as a primary computing device across wide swaths of business, the internal wireless LANs would probably not be able to handle it, especially if Wi-Fi monitors became common (that may argue for using a technology such as UWB instead for wireless display docking).
The iPad Power Issue
The final consideration for using an iPad in a work environment is power. Although the iPad uses much less power than a PC (for example, the iPad comes with a 10W power supply, versus 85W for a MacBook Pro), it uses much more power than a smartphone. That means you're not likely to be able to charge an iPad from a USB hub or from your Mac's or PC's USB port.
The iPad won't charge from my MacBook Pro, from either of my powered USB 2.0 hubs, or from the little Apple USB power block I carry for business trips to keep my iPod Touch juiced up. So don't count on it charging from a USB socket an an airport lounge or on a plane or train. Fortunately, the 10W power supply is small, so you can carry it with you, but you'll need a regular power socket to plug it into.
iPod Touch, iPhone, and other smartphone users will have to change the behavior they've learned over the years: They won't be able to charge their iPad from any powered USB connection as they can with their handhelds. And they won't be charging their iPads when they're syncing to their desktops.
The iPad at Work: A Work in Progress
It's clear the iPad is not a perfect replacement for a laptop (or desktop PC). The connectivity issues create hassles that will slow workplace adoption, and the constrained data exchange and poor cloud-apps compatibility will restrict iPad business usage to basic office productivity work and, via thin clients or where specialty iOS apps exists, to niche field-force usage such as for hospital staff, construction foremen, and the like.
But a lot of people could say good-bye, or at least "see you later," to their laptop. And, remember, today's iPad is just the first version. Who knows? If we're lucky, iOS 4 for iPad, due in September or October, may move things along.
This article, "An iPad at the office: Can it work as a PC?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Gruman et al.'s Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com.
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