Microsoft Outlook Integration
I was surprised and very impressed with the iPad’s integration with Outlook email, contact management and calendaring. As a frequent remote user of these programs, the iPad interface is much better than the traditional web-based Outlook server access to those features. As I mentioned above, I was also pleased by the full-size touch-screen QWERTY keyboard. I’ve tried to use an iPhone keypad, but it just wasn’t a fit for me.
While I think the iPad wouldn’t replace a laptop for travelers who need full computing and processing functions, it really was a good fit as far as providing me with virtually all of my mobile computing needs during a conference event. I had full access to anything web-related that I needed, as well as a great email and scheduling system, access to news and information, my digital music, and I was able to rent two movies by download and watch them on the device while traveling. And when traveling, my tech needs are less than when I’m reviewing technology products or when hunkered down in deadline mode, just as your needs as a tax and accounting professional are different when you’re at a tradeshow or visiting a client office than when you’re more involved in a client engagement at your office.
Therefore, in the near-term, I see the iPad as a great device for users who don’t necessarily need traditional “computer program” capabilities, but are more interested in total access to basic work communications (email/contacts/etc.), full Internet mobility in a larger view format than a phone, and great entertainment options. So it can definitely replace a laptop for those who mainly use their laptops just for communication and basic document functions when traveling, or can act as a mid-range tool such as the way I used it at the conference. In the longer term, however, as more and more professional and personal software programs go to web-based (SaaS) platforms, a device such as the iPad may be all that a professional needs.
So, while I’m not running out to buy the latest MacBook, getting an iPhone or joining the other Apple Kool-Aid drinkers, I will say this to the Mac fans: As far as the iPad … I get it and I love it.