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From Web conferencing to to-do lists, a growing legion of business apps built for the mobile workforce are finding favor with iPad devotees
User picks: 7 hot iPad apps for business
In three short years, the tablet has become a mainstay of the modern mobile workforce, thanks in large part to the popularity of the iPad. Increasingly indispensable to workers on the go, tablets -- and the iPad in particular -- have presented software makers with unique challenges and opportunities for meeting the needs of the multitudes of business professionals on the move. And fill the void they have.
The variety of business applications fitted for the iPad is quickly proliferating. Mobile payment processing, task management, remote system access -- options for iPad users are robust and maturing. Here, users share their experiences with some of their most indispensible iPad business apps.
Cisco WebEx for iPad and iPhone
Cisco’s mobile Web-conferencing software has gained traction among iPad enthusiasts. “Having WebEx on the tablet makes it easy to accomplish my work regardless of where I am,” says Nancy Crouch, deputy CIO at Wake Forest University. “The video and audio quality are excellent.” Crouch does find WebEx on the tablet somewhat confining, though. “The WebEx experience on a laptop or desktop is a more full-featured experience.”
Another user stressed collaboration. “We use Cisco’s desktop WebEx extensively for all collaborative data-sharing project needs,” says James Brogan, director of technology at Kohn Peterson Fox Associates. “Expanding this technology to the iPad has been a natural extension to our collaboration technologies. We can now collaborate remotely, from clients’ offices, building sites, hotel rooms, [or] home.”
DataViz Documents to Go
DataViz Documents to Go is a go-to app for many tablet users working with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF files. “I use it mainly to take notes with me on service calls,” says Cookie Segelstein, owner of The MacMama, an in-home service company for Mac users. “I also use it to access my spreadsheet of student info when I teach fiddle, which I keep in Dropbox. I log onto that via a hotspot on my iPhone when I am in the studio.” Segelstein also lauds the app’s search capabilities, but she says she would like to see the tablet app fitted with the ability to add and edit images in documents like PowerPoint presentations, as well offering the ability to print.
Intuit GoPayment enables tablet users to process credit card payments on the go. “It’s been really convenient being able to use the iPad along with the credit card swiper because the GoPayment interface on the iPad is simple to use,” says Lesa Wallace of Lesa Wallace Handbags, who uses the software when selling leather bracelets at festivals and arts and crafts shows. The software also allows adjustments for taxes based on location. A portion of the proceeds is donated to charity, so Wallace may fit the application with a custom interface allowing customers to choose a charity. While not running into any issues with GoPayment itself, Wallace said she has had to take the tablet’s protective case off to use the mobile credit card reader.
This point-of-sale application tracks sales in real time at restaurants and grocery and retail stores. “We use it as a cash register,” says Rony Henoud, owner of Darn Good Food, a restaurant in San Francisco. The restaurant has been using Revel POS for more than a year; the app allows for remote reporting and making changes to the menu. It also costs less than old-style point-of-sale systems, Henoud says. “The functionality of it from a management perspective is fantastic.” The app is cloud-based; Darn Good Foods does not need to maintain a server in its restaurant. Although the app can slow down when wireless connections are dropped, processing continues seamlessly when wireless capabilities return, Henoud says.
This “social help desk” app assists with customer service. Men’s clothing site Bonobos.com uses Desk.com on both iPads and iPhones mainly for customer-facing service and for routing some internal processes, says John Rote, vice president of experience at Bonobos. He also uses it for social media work, responding to cases on Twitter and Facebook. “I end up doing a decent amount of social media work through Desk.com on an iPhone or a tablet,” Rote says. While Bonobos does not use Desk.com to track sales, it does use the app to track volumes of inquiries, as well as customer service levels. The principal limitation Bonobos has found is using the tablet to access internal systems, including Web administration and CRM.
TeamViewer enables remote control access to other computers and can be used to attend online meetings. Peter Gilbert, an independent IT support admin at PG Systems, uses it on several systems, including an iPad Mini, to troubleshoot clients’ PCs and devices. “I transfer files with it; I chat with clients all the time on it.” While the tablet screen size does limit TeamViewer, Gilbert nonetheless finds the TeamViewer on the tablet “very handy.” The software offers the capability to drag a finger on the screen to take control of a remote client’s cursor. Oddly enough, TeamViewer cannot be used to access another iPad or an iPhone, something Gilbert describes as an Apple limitation, not the fault of TeamViewer.
The Wunderlist task management tool enables creation of to-do lists that can be shared with colleagues and friends. “I leave Wunderlist open all day, and as new tasks materialize, I enter them straight into the Wunderlist Inbox list. It's quick, simple, and means that I can get back to working on whatever it is I was working on previously,” says Jeremy Roberts, a blogger at Cloud Productivity. “I use Wunderlist to keep up-to-date on not only my blog, but a number of other projects I'm currently working on. A big component of task management is a regular review process. I have a task in Wunderlist that is setup to repeat every Friday afternoon.”