Since the iPad was announced, and subsequently launched, there has been a lot of talk about the viability of the platform, the fact that it doesn’t support Flash, and that it will likely take a huge chunk of business away from the mobile gaming companies. While all true, like any mobile device, businesses should be taking a long hard look at what it can do for them.
With built-in WiFi, 3g and Bluetooth, the iPad is well equipped to handle tasks that the average technogeek (like myself) wouldn’t usually ask of it. The Medical Industry could be the first industry to have big gains, especially since they have been proponents of tablets and laptops for a long time already. There are already a solid variety of apps available to Doctors and Nurses for the iPhone, and the larger format of the iPad would only lend itself to a more comprehensive selection. The easy targets here are patient information retrieval and recording, although you could have prescription databases that include pictures of the pills, along with all of the other information on screen at the same time. Lengthy patient surveys could be streamlined into the database rather than having to be recorded from paper forms, x-rays, ultrasounds and test results could be viewed real-time allowing doctors to more clearly explain test results.
Surveys and questionnaires are good places to go nuts too. With apps like those from exZact Data Collection, an iPhone (and soon an iPad) is turned into mobile data collection device, with custom form building tools. There is also always a simple online form too, and by using HTML 5, you can get the device to recognize field types to bring up specific keyboards for number, name, or email fields to speed data entry. This would be great for large events like the X Games. Sponsors could show up to events sporting iPads to collect data for email lists and contest entries, which could ultimately allow remote selection of contest winners, and they could be notified on the spot.
That’s just the start of it. Sure you could do this with a laptop, netbook, and other tablets like the HP Slate, it’s just not the same, and here’s why. The iPad isn’t a computer, unlike the Slate which will run Windows 7. It isn’t susceptible to the same problems that a computer is. It boots faster than my netbook by at least twice, and I’ve never had mine freeze, crash, or anything else that I have experienced with all of my other computers. This is also a negative though. The iPad OS is a closed application system and you either have to develop using Apple’s SDK, or run a web form of some kind. It’s not perfect, but it’s a solid device with a boat-load of potential.
These are just a couple of ideas and industries that could use the device, there are a lot more, and it will be very interesting as this device, and the tablet market matures, to see how businesses take advantage of a new tool.