Must-have iPad apps for business professionals

With the right apps, you can turn the iPad from consumer device to business productivity tool.

With less than 48 hours until the official launch of the Apple iPad, the App Store is beginning to populate with apps for the new tablet device. The first iPad apps include the requisite entertainment--like the Netflix movie-streaming app, or Need for Speed: Shift--but there are also a fair number of apps targeted specifically at business professionals.

I realize that there are techies out there who bristle every time the iPad is mentioned as any sort of business or productivity tool. To some, anything with a half-eaten fruit logo is -- by default -- not meant for enterprise endeavors. This group will no doubt hold out for a Windows 7 tablet like the HP Slate, or perhaps a tablet based on the upcoming Google Chrome OS.

[ The big question that remains to be answered is if the iPad can succeed in business without Microsoft Office. | Discover what's new in business applications with InfoWorld's Technology: Applications newsletter and Killer Apps blog. ]

Fair enough. However, the initial reviews are in and it seems that the Apple iPad is exceeding the expectations of even skeptical tech media. It may not replace your laptop anytime soon, but the iPad appears to be more than capable of handling the majority of tasks as well or better than the trusty notebook.

If you are a business professional looking to leverage the iPad as a mobile business platform, here are some of the apps you should probably have in your arsenal:

  • Webex Cisco lets you attend meetings anytime and anywhere using your iPad. The app is free and you don't need to have a Webex account to attend a meeting (you do need a Webex account if you want to schedule or host a meeting, though). The Webex app for the iPad uses the sizeable iPad screen to view documents, applications, or remote desktops and also includes simultaneous two-way audio so you can actually join in the conversation.
  • Instapaper Pro This app is a universal app -- you only have to pay for it once, but it will work across the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. Instapaper Pro allows you to cache Web pages to your iPad to read later. If you are reading an article or blog post online, you can save it with Instapaper Pro and carry it along in your iPad to read later while you are commuting, or standing in line somewhere.
  • Memeo Connect Reader Many businesses embraced Google Docs as a productivity platform. The Memeo Connect Reader app lets business professionals take their Google Docs with them on the iPad -- even when the iPad is offline. Memeo Connect Reader can view a wide variety of file formats natively -- including Microsoft Office formats, and it automatically syncs up with Google Docs to ensure you always have the most current data on your iPad.
  • iWork for iPad The applications that make up iWork are parallels of the core Microsoft Office tools. Pages does word processing like Microsoft Word, Numbers works with spreadsheets like Microsoft Excel, and Keynote does slide presentations like Microsoft PowerPoint. The iWork for iPad apps can import files from iWork '09, as well as from Microsoft Office -- enabling business professionals to take important files and documents on the road to review, edit, or present them. Each of the three iWork apps is $10 in the App Store.

This is just a small sampling of the iPad apps geared toward business and productivity functions with the tablet. You can trust that the volume and scope of iPad apps for business professionals will explode beginning Saturday, when the iPad officially launches.

The iPad is also being hailed as a flexible, and cost-effective tool for disabled users. Businesses are obligated to make accommodations for qualified disabled workers, and the iPad has the features and apps to address many of the needs and replace specialized equipment costing thousands more.

While the reviews suggest that the iPad is excellent at what its designed to do, and that it will prove to be a more than adequate laptop replacement in many cases, IT administrators and business professionals need to keep the security limitations of the platform in mind before trusting confidential or sensitive data on the iPad.

Tony Bradley is co-author of Unified Communications for Dummies. He tweets as @Tony_BradleyPCW. You can follow him on his Facebook page, or contact him by email at tony_bradley@pcworld.com.

This story, "Must-have iPad apps for business professionals" was originally published by PCWorld.

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