Is Apple’s iPad mini good for business?

At a starting price of $329, Apple’s new iPad Mini should be looked at if you are preparing to deploy tablets to your workers. It’s price places it at 35% cheaper than its full sized brethren and 50% lighter too. Still, the 329 price mark is higher than the $250 (half price) that most people were expecting.

Google’s Nexus 7 is an attractive rival, especially at its starting mark of $199.  At that price, it has several edges over the iPad Mini.  Hardware wise it has greater pixel density for a sharper screen and a quad core processor to power it all.  Software wise, the Nexus 7 has turn-by-turn directions.

However, if you have the money, Apple offers some interesting functionality.  The iPad Mini has a rear facing camera and access to a significantly larger library of apps.  For a $130 premium, the little iPad can get 4G cellular connectivity.

Looking over the available data, we would have to say that the iPad Mini has limited appeal.  It would be ideal for the office that has already embraced Apple products.  The iPad Mini has excellent cross compatibility and sharing capabilities with products that share its logo. If you are planning on distributing tablets there are less expensive options out there.  Click here to learn deploying Apple products.

Sales at Light speed

At first there was barter.  People exchanged goods and services for other goods and services.  But this was bulky and inconsistent.  Then came species based currency, gold, silver, silk and even seashells served as a medium of exchange.  However, they were heavy and difficult to transport, maintain, and safeguard.  Paper money and currency promises followed.  These forms of money ran on promises and faith.  Finally, we’ve entered the stage where there is so much faith that there can be no physical representation of the medium exchange, like a credit card or a wallet app.  Then what’s the next step?  It’s time to bridge the digital and physical world.

Lightspeed is an app that has just received 30 million in venture capital and it aims to enhance the brick and mortar shopping experience.  The way it works is that sales personal carry around iPads.  When a shopper comes in and wants to make a purchase, the sales rep can show them other items in the store on the iPad.  This way the sales rep can show the customer a dozen different items without having to run around the store.  Also, the customer can look at items that are carried by the retail, but are not currently in stock. When all browsing is concluded the app can accept payment and signatures or print/e-mail an invoice.

Will it work?  Well, according to an IBM survey, 79 percent of all Canadian shoppers prefer purchasing items in a physical store.  However, that same data showed that the majority of them found information online.  Lightspeed seems to combine the best of both worlds.  Customers get the secure feeling of being able to touch and see the item in person while being able to quickly browse and ask questions from a live sales representative.  From on site IT services to clothing stores, the digital world will keep encroaching on the real one.  Whether or not that is a good thing is yet to be seen.

Smaller iPad May Come in the Fall

Since it was introduced, the iPad has been by far the biggest player in the tablet space. And it doesn’t just have a big market share—compared with a number comparable devices that have come out in the last few years, it’s actually really big.

The iPad has a 9.7-inch screen, compared with about 7 inches for the Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire and the Samsung Galaxy’s smaller versions. Now, the Wall Street Journal reports that Apple is preparing to introduce its own smaller tablet.

Citing unnamed sources, the story says Apple has told component suppliers to prepare for mass production of a tablet with a less-than-eight-inch screen in September. Rumors of a smaller cousin for the iPad have been floating for some time.

The tablet market is growing rapidly. Market research firm IHS iSuppli predicts that tablet sales will rise 85 percent to 127 million units this year. The iPad held a 62 percent share of the world market for tablets last year, and its dominance is even greater in work environments.

As more variations on the table theme—notably the Microsoft Surface Tablet and Google’s Nexus 7—roll out, Apple must be feeling some pressure to diversify its offerings. But being the big guy in the room comes with complications. One report last year found that the biggest competitor for the iPad is actually the iPhone, which, of course, has only a 3.5-inch screen. That raises the question of whether a smaller Apple tablet will function mostly to subdivide the company’s enormous market.

iPads at Work

If you use a tablet at your job, chances are, it’s an iPad. In fact, according to a recent report by Good Technology, the chances are, very, very good. A full 97.3 of tablets activated by enterprise users over the first quarter of 2012 are iPads, up slightly from 94.7 percent the previous quarter. In contrast, a recent analysis of overall tablet sales showed Apple with a somewhat less intimidating 61.4 percent of the market.

Good — which offers IT support to help companies implement “bring your own device” programs—based the report on the use of mobile devices among its customers, which include half of the Fortune 100 and other big players in industries like finance and healthcare. It found that, overall, the number of its customers deploying mobile devices grew 50 percent over the past year, while the number of devices used by the average company more than doubled.

When it comes to smartphones, Apple was still the first choice, though not by quite such an impressive margin. It represented about 73 percent of the smartphone market.

Smartphones remain considerably more popular than tablets, at least for the moment. The iPhone was the single most-activated device overall, with more than half of the market. Android devices—almost entirely smartphones—represented just over 20 percent of the market.

On another note, if you’re using any kind of mobile device at your job, there’s a pretty good chance you work in financial services. That industry accounted for 36.1 percent of mobile device activations over the quarter, followed by business and professional services with 17 percent and healthcare with 7 percent. IPads were disproportionately popular in the Life Sciences industry, which Good said likely reflects use by lab workers and sales staff at pharmaceutical and biotech companies.

While Apple seems to be blowing other companies out of the water in the enterprise space, Good notes that it can’t rest easy. The first Windows 8 tablets debuting later this year, and new Windows phones like the Nokia Lumia just barely out now, are likely to shake up the market considerably.

A New Tablet Contender: Windows 8

At the World Mobile Congress, Samsung unveiled a new tablet which runs on Windows 8. It’s poised to become an actual contender against Apple’s iPad, which currently dominates with 57 percent of tablet market. Windows 8 brings an impressive array of tools to the fight including: better functionality, Skydrive capabilities, and backwards compatibility. Microsoft has an up hill battle, but it may be able to gain an edge in the business arena.

Functionality will be key for Microsoft if they wish to break Apple’s hold on the tablet market. While the iPad totes brand recognition and a large library of apps, it does have the connotation of being a toy rather than a tool. It’s a similar dichotomy that the iPhone has with the Blackberry. Microsoft can get down and be all about business. The Windows 8 user interface will use the Metro system which was introduced when the Windows Phone made its debut in 2010. This system displays tiles that depict information like temperature and stock prices. They are constantly updated to keep the user informed on changing situations. It would be interesting to see if apps are created for business it support and other customer service industries to keep track of open and incoming tickets. This is just one of a whole host things that Windows 8 can do to appeal to the business sectors. They’ll have to work that angle to compete. If the Apple commercials with Justin Long teach us anything, it’s that Microsoft never be as cool.

Staying on top of being productive, the Windows 8 client will also have Skydrive. Skydrive is a cloud service with over 10 petabytes of storage space. This service will permeate the PC version as well as the mobile. Thus, data gathered in field can seamlessly be accessed at the office without any lag time. Microsoft is also pushing for all its apps to use Skydrive. It’s clear that this move is to match iCloud’s quest to make all electronic devices become one.

The final piece of the puzzle is backwards compatibility. Tablets running Windows 8 will be able to run Microsoft Office programs in their fullest form. This could be deal maker for small to medium businesses. For example, an accountant at the main office can go to an off site vendor and run Excel to keep the books with all its features. Windows 8 also supports mouse and keyboard use, unlike the iPad, so anywhere can become a convenient office.

Android may have fallen flat on its back. It has only sold about 12 million units compared to 48 million units of iPad sold last year alone. The door is wide open for a new contender and Microsoft seems ready. The days of bygone eras have returned. Windows 8 appears to be a business oriented construct to duke it out with iPad’s suave demeanor.


About Apple’s new iCloud service, and its impact on business

Cloud services have been a hot topic in recent years – companies are moving further and further into the cloud, while consumers seem a bit slower to adopt.

Apple’s new iCloud services is poised to bring consumers (and small business owners) radically forward with a highly integrated cloud offering designed to keep all of your technology in sync at all times.

What iCloud does:

In the past, if you had a laptop, desktop, smart phone and a tablet computer, they all had their own data and none shared very well with each other.  Your smart phone might sync with one of your computers, but that leaves the other two computers “in the dark”.  Multimedia like music and pictures are very rarely common across all computers.  In short, it was pretty hard to keep all of your data straight, and very inconvenient to keep everything in line with each other.

iCloud seeks to change that by keeping all devices in sync with one another at all times.

How iCloud works:

For small business owners, iCloud keeps your calendar completely updated across all devices, in real time.  Your emails and business documents are also automatically updated, so you can always be sure that you’re working from completely up-to-date information.

For consumers, your multimedia (like music, books and pictures) are also kept up-to-date across all of your devices.

Advanced iCloud features:

In addition to keeping all of your devices in sync, iCloud also offers special add-ons designed to keep your family and close friends “in the loop” at all times.

One such feature is the “Find My Friends” feature.  “Find My Friends” allows your friends to see where your iPhone is on a map at any time.  This option can be extended to your friends or family for a limited time – say, a day while you’re on the ski hills or in the shopping mall, or for a longer period, in case you’d like your friends to know where they can meet you for drinks!

Another handy feature is the “Find my iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Mac”.  This is very much like it sounds – it allows you the ability to see exactly where your device is.  Accidentally left your iPhone somewhere, but not sure exactly where?  Just bring up this iCloud feature on your Mac, and you can see exactly where your iPhone is, on a map, in realtime.

You can even have your iPhone display a message to someone who finds it, so they can return it to you!

In Conclusion:

The iCloud service changes the way that devices interact with each other for the better.  Rather than having many devices that are independent from one another, iCloud makes transitioning between them completely seamless.

What’s new in Apple’s iOS 5 – Part One

iOS 5 is Apple’s latest version of their mobile operating system, designed for use with their iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. Announced in early June 2011, it brings a host of new features designed to enrich the user’s experience.

What’s most interesting about this version of iOS is its movement towards allowing the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch to exist without the need for a desktop or laptop to sync to.

iOS 5 updates the device automatically and all applications can work without a “home” computer. It’s another step in the direction of total autonomy, particularly for the iPad.

Other new features of iOS 5:

  • Revised notifications: Any iPhone or iPad user can tell you that the system notifications can be pretty annoying.  They pop up and interrupt whatever you’re doing, no matter how important the message is.  Apple has heard this feedback, and have revamped this area in iOS 5.  Notifications are now unobtrusive and will be displayed on the lock screen

Check back next week for part 2 of our look at Apple’s iOS 5.

Sent from my iPad – a Review

This was going to be my first blog written from an iPad, unfortunately, it seems Safari does not yet like WordPress. Oh Well.

I wanted to write a brief review of my new iPad. The short of it, as you may have already heard elsewhere – is it a cool toy? Yes. Is it a laptop killer? No.

The iPad is a 9.7″ touch-screen with a 1024×768 resolution. My model came with Wi-Fi only but there will be a 3G model available soon. The cost for this model was $499 and the cost for the 3G model will be $629.The iPad can play a variety of audio and video formats, and can run apps from the iTunes app store. There are specific apps written for it or ported from the iPhone, but you can run iPhone apps on it directly, albeit with a smaller size or poorer resolution.

As always, Apple makes the experience pleasant, from shipping (and arriving on time) in an easy t   open container, to quick setup. I had my Exchange email and calendar syncing within 2 minutes. I am not an iPhone or a MAC user, but can definitely get used to the smooth display, great graphics and fast Internet (compared to my Blackberry Storm2).

Some downsides – weight is a major one for me. It comes in at about 1.5lbs, which does not seem like a lot, but when you are trying to hold it, type and do other things, it feels heavy. I personally don’t care much for a camera, but would be nice to have for the sake of video conferencing, if this was to be a true “laptop replacement”. Also, my recommendation would be to not bother with the 3G model – 3G is too slow anyways. Wait for Verizon to roll out 4G, and by that time I think the iPhone and the iPad will be available on that network. And AT&T still hasnt earned its’ stripes as a carrier for businesses.

To sum up, iPad is a nice device to have laying on your couch in case you need to look something up, watch a quick video or send an email. But it will not replace a laptop for small businesses or knowledge workers in corporations. At least not until iPad 2.0 is out.