So What's an iPad Good For?

ImageThe library where I work recently purchased three iPads with an eye toward making a practical test of whether this new technology could be of use. The result has, so far, not been encouraging.

It recently fell to my lot to take a new look at this issue and figure out how iPads or other tablet computers could be useful in this business environment, so I conducted an informal survey at work and on Facebook to get an idea of what people were actually using the things for - and thereby perhaps get a sense of what we might use them for.

Before the list of uses, I would like to make an observation:

The most enthusiastic iPad users listed ways in which it excelled as an personal device. Its utility as a shared asset, such as we have in our library, seemed very limited.

Uses:

  1. Taking notes at meetings (notes propagate to all linked devices)
  2. Doing things at meetings that have nothing to do with what's going on at the meeting (let's call it "multi-tasking")
  3. Email
  4. Video conferencing (Facetime/Skype)
  5. Carrying large numbers of documents (business documents and e-books)
  6. Accessing and updating client data in the presence of the client
  7. Along with a light weight projector, making PowerPoint (or KeyNote) presentations
  8. Running other gadgets (DJ work, theatrical productions)
  9. Processing customer transactions ("Square")
  10. Searching the web
  11. Carrying it around to show things to people.(demonstrations, impromptu training)
  12. Taking video and photos
  13. Social networking
  14. Music player

So that's, in my particular professional context, where it seems to stand.

In the short term, I think we will need to move away from the Socialist model of shared ownership and focus on the iPad as personal device. Its strengths seem to be in its value to an individual and since its uses as a shared device are not apparent, it sits in a drawer and quietly runs down its battery.

Walter