3 min read

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. )
Odds and Ends

I didn't miss Flash on the iPad at all. There, I said it. In the browsing I did over the weekend, I had no problems with Web sites and viewing content. Either the Web sites I visit don't make much use of Flash, or there's less of it out there than we think. For all those complaining that the iPad doesn't support YouTube, get over it. The dedicated YouTube application works just fine. For those looking to watch on the iPads, well, I guess they are out of luck for a while.

I also didn't miss a Webcam. I fired up Skype and tested a few calls over Wi-Fi. Skype has yet to really optimize its application for the iPad, but the iPhone version worked well enough to permit Skype-to-Skype calling. Without a camera, it doesn't support video chats, obviously. I don't conduct video Skype calls or other video chats often enough to really miss it -- yet. Who knows if or how that will evolve over time, and if Apple will bring in camera support on future versions of the iPad.

Google's HTML5-powered Gmail Web app for the iPad is outrageous. It works unbelievably well for Gmail users, and outclasses the native e-mail program in some respects, such as better access to Labels, filters, and starred items. I truly hope Google and other developers can kick out more HTML5-based Web apps. If it does, it will change the iPad's abilities drastically.

Verdict: The lack of Flash is a non-issue. Google's HTML5-powered Gmail Web app for the iPad is a winner.

Bottom Line, Does It WORK?

Despite the iPad's strengths when it comes to fun and media consumption, it hardly surpasses netbooks in terms of its ability to help professionals do their jobs out in the field.

Mobile professionals will be able to manage their inboxes, no doubt, and make sure they don't fall terribly behind in office communications with the iPad. The e-mail program works well enough for basic message handling, but if your workers rarely send an e-mail without an attachment, the iPad is going to get old quickly.

If video chats are important to the way your company interfaces with customers or business partners, you can scratch the iPad off your shopping list. If full Microsoft Office power and compatibility are a must-have, your IT team would do best to buy an iPad and test out the Apple-made applications to see if they are going to be adequate before deploying any.

The iPad's light weight, small form factor, and portabilitydo make it a great device for a day trip out of the office. I fully expect to leave my full laptop behind when traveling out of the office for a few hours or even a single day. For my needs, the iPad doesn't go far enough in media production and creation to replace my laptop. Not by a long shot. My guess is that's the same assessment most business professionals will come to, as well. The iPad is not a laptop replacement, not yet. With tweaks, it might be.

For now, businesses are best to stick with what works.