The newly launched Apple iPad, which has been touted as a ‘magical and revolutionary device,’ has been criticised for being nothing more than an over-sized iPhone. Having said that, the surprisingly low price of the tablet could make it a valid proposition for small businesses.

The iPad is undoubtedly a delightful product. But what’s the market? Surely it’s not actually a small coffee table, without legs? It looks cool, but seems rather pointless. What are we actually going to use it for? It’s not a replacement for a laptop so you’re now going to have to carry an iPhone, an iPad and a Mac Book to ensure all your browsing and communication needs are covered.

 

iPad: Best for business apps on the go?

The small to medium-size business (SMB) market has been gravitating toward netbooks (smaller, cheaper laptops with limited computing power) to improve mobility and reduce cost among company road warriors. With the average netbook retailing for between £250 to £370, this puts the iPad within an SMB’s budget range.

The real bummer is that the iPad requires additional accessories, such as a stand and keyboard (the iPad offers a near full-size virtual keyboard), data plan and perhaps software additions like iWork applications (around £6.14 an application).

It seems the iPad is not about the features – it’s more about what it can be used for, and that price is the biggest feature. One of the important things is that it’s not a mobile browser anymore. This is a full-screen browser, which means software as a service (SaaS) or any Web-based app your business has instantly becomes the killer app for small businesses on this. It’s suddenly the easiest, lightest, cheapest option.

For a small business which requires a staff of field technicians, the iPad’s price makes it a strong contender. Field technicians could do a lot with an iPad. But if you move to the iPad, remember that you’ll be giving up some of the functionality of a laptop – an equation you need to balance. The browser experience on the iPad is superior to a netbook at the same cost. If that’s critical and the browser is now the main application, the iPad could be killer.