Apples iPad has always had the potential for being the ideal cloud device. Its easy to use, and it has good communications capabilities. Plus, it has a screen thats large enough to be useful, and its easy to keep with you so its there when you need it. But can you use the iPad for anything thats useful in business, such as working with Microsoft Word documents?
As I discovered when I was working on a project involving Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps for Business, the iPad and its Safari browser work just fine.
Yes, this means you can run Microsoft Office applications on your iPad, as long as theyre in the cloud. You can also run Googles application suite the same way. In fact, Safari was one of the target browsers Microsoft worked with when it developed Office 365. The problem with using your iPad to run Office applications in the cloud was that the process could be very slow unless you were using a good, fast WiFi solution. That meant that you were kind of stuck using the iPad in your office. That hotspot at Starbucks may be convenient. However, its not secure, and its not fast, especially if half your neighbors are in the same Starbucks working on their resumes.
Enter Long-Term Evolution (LTE) technology.
The addition of 4G LTE networking changes the equation entirely. Where once you were forced to use pokey 3G solutions that ranged in speed from slow to slower, theres now a real option that lets you use those Office applications over a wireless network, and have them perform as theyre supposed to perform. And it doesnt matter whether were thinking of Google Docs or Microsoft Word; theyll perform just fine in an LTE environment.
While you probably wont want to use your new iPad to create massive spreadsheets or to write a thousand-page novel, theres no reason why you cant use it for most normal office tasks. The advent of LTE means that you wont have to deal with the frustrating latency that plagued many 3G solutions, and you wont have to spend your time watching progress bars as documents or other items load. Youll get performance similar to what youve had with WiFi, assuming you had fast WiFi and a good network connection behind it.
Ultimately, performance is a critical issue for cloud applications. You need to have your data pop on to the screen as close to instantly as possible. When things slow down, productivity suffers. Worse, patience runs out.
The capability to support LTE, as well as the IT departments ability to prepare the data center to take advantage of this new networking technology, is a key part of why the new iPad is such a boon to business. Verizon Wireless already has the United States effectively blanketed by LTE. AT&T isnt there yet, but the company is rolling out LTE to a few new cities every week. Most likely, the company would have been much farther along by now if it hadnt consumed its resources in an ill-fated attempt to take over T-Mobile.
Whats most important about the iPad and LTE is that it frees knowledge workers from their desks. While the 3G version of the iPad did that to some extent, it takes the nearly instantaneous access to knowledge to allow these workers to be really effective in a mobile environment. Now, with an LTE-enabled tablet, workers can be productive wherever they are. This is something that until now you could only do if you had a wireless network card in your laptop, or didnt mind working on from the tiny screen of your mobile phone.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind when thinking about using your new iPad with the cloud.
The first is that Apples iCloud isnt the cloud were talking about. iCloud, while handy, is really just cloud-based storage. Thats also true of many of the cloud providers we see advertised. They are great places to put your data for safekeeping, but theyre not the same thing as working in the cloud.
What were looking at instead is the ability to do those things that people do most often in the workplace. Get a document for editing or for approval. Read the document; make changes, if necessary; and save the document. Maybe the job will also require converting the document into a PDF file, or sending it along to someone else to review. You can do all of these tasks on any iPad, but those tasks only work well if youre in range of WiFi, or if you have LTE. Big documents start getting less convenient when things slow down.
You should also know that the new iPad isnt the only LTE-capable tablet out there. Verizon Wireless sells the 4G LTE-enabled Droid Xyboard from Motorola, which appears to have replaced the Xoom, and it features the same speed and the same cloud access that you get from the new iPad. Its an Android tablet, which many people prefer to the iOS-based iPad, and its also very fast.