4G-Powered iPad Offers New Business Productivity in the Cloud

NEWS ANALYSIS: The new iPad will work just fine with most cloud applications. This has a lot to do with LTE technology and the ability to move data from the data center to the tablet.

Apple€™s iPad has always had the potential for being the ideal cloud device. It€™s easy to use, and it has good communications capabilities. Plus, it has a screen that€™s large enough to be useful, and it€™s easy to keep with you so it€™s there when you need it. But can you use the iPad for anything that€™s 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 they€™re in the cloud. You can also run Google€™s 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, it€™s not secure, and it€™s 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, there€™s now a real option that lets you use those Office applications over a wireless network, and have them perform as they€™re supposed to perform. And it doesn€™t matter whether we€™re thinking of Google Docs or Microsoft Word; they€™ll perform just fine in an LTE environment.

While you probably won€™t want to use your new iPad to create massive spreadsheets or to write a thousand-page novel, there€™s no reason why you can€™t use it for most normal office tasks. The advent of LTE means that you won€™t have to deal with the frustrating latency that plagued many 3G solutions, and you won€™t have to spend your time watching progress bars as documents or other items load. You€™ll get performance similar to what you€™ve 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 department€™s 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 isn€™t 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 hadn€™t consumed its resources in an ill-fated attempt to take over T-Mobile.

What€™s 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 didn€™t 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 Apple€™s iCloud isn€™t the cloud we€™re talking about. iCloud, while handy, is really just cloud-based storage. That€™s also true of many of the cloud providers we see advertised. They are great places to put your data for safekeeping, but they€™re not the same thing as working in the cloud.

What we€™re 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 you€™re 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 isn€™t 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. It€™s an Android tablet, which many people prefer to the iOS-based iPad, and it€™s also very fast.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...