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Review: Apple iPad Delivers Basic Office Tools

The iPad handles office fundamentals pretty well, but a significant e-mail weakness and its lack of cloud support are among the reasons it can't seriously be considered a laptop replacement.

iPad teardown shot, via the FCC.
(Click for larger image and for all 17 iPad teardown photos. )
When Apple introduced the iPad in January, it pitched the device as a superior alternative to netbooks. It's an ultra-portable Internet device that can be used for e-mail, Web browsing and other content consumption. The iPad's use case as a media consumption device is fairly obvious. It is a great platform for watching movies, reading books, listening to music, and tackling e-mail. But can it really replace a laptop, netbook, or other dedicated computing device? Here's what we found.


Before we get into some of the productivity software, first things, first: If you can't type on it, you can't be productive with it. (First a note about how I type. I was never formally trained to type. I started off as a hunt-and-peck typist, and have become extremely fast at it. I do not type by touch.)

The software-based QWERTY keyboard of the iPad works just the same as on the iPhone or iPad Touch. It provides a narrow keyboard when held in the portrait orientation and a wider, more usable keyboard when held in landscape orientation. Typing in portrait mode devolves into a hunt-and-peck-with-your-thumbs affair just as you'd type on the iPhone or iPad. It's not horrendous, but it's not speedy, either.

I was able to peck out e-mails this way, but because the iPad's screen is much larger than the iPhone's it is a lot more work for your thumbs to type this way. Typing with the iPad in landscape orientation is much better.

When placed on a flat surface, using the iPad for typing works well, but it works much better if propped up by the Apple-made iPad case. The angle is much improved for typing and for viewing the display. Typing on the flat, glass screen of the iPad mostly works. The keys are definitely smaller than those of an netbook or laptop, but they are big enough.

The big plus is Apple's predictive typing software. It corrects spelling as users type, and really makes up for any fat-fingered failings. My typical typing speed is about 55 words per minute. On the iPad, I was able to get up to about 40. That's a fairly large dip, but it's not terrible.

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Google in the Enterprise Survey
Google in the Enterprise Survey
There's no doubt Google has made headway into businesses: Just 28 percent discourage or ban use of its productivity ­products, and 69 percent cite Google Apps' good or excellent ­mobility. But progress could still stall: 59 percent of nonusers ­distrust the security of Google's cloud. Its data privacy is an open question, and 37 percent worry about integration.
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