Most hard-core business people and techies consider the iPad to be a luxury item. Critics call it a toy, a great gadget with a pretty screen that’s fun to play with but not necessarily ready for the boardroom. I would disagree. With the right apps, an iPad can be a great tool for small business owners; one that could actually help them transform the way they work and even make them leaner and greener in the long run. Here are a few of our top apps for small businesses.
Notetaking for the 21st Century
SoundPaper ($2.99) is a phenomenal note-taking app that helps capture both the audio and written details of any meeting. The user can type and take notes while recording the entire conversation. Afterwards, play back the recording and just tap a word. SoundPaper will jump directly to that point in the audio. This brilliant app essentially allows the user to go completely paperless. All notes are saved as electronic files, easily found and easily stored. No more rifling through piles of paper on your desk. No more ordering notepads or filing looseleaf notes. A colleague who works in video games swears that the iPad has replaced paper in his tech-forward boardroom. If your fingers aren’t quite comfortable enough using the touch screen key pad (you non-iPhone users), there are also apps like WritePad ($9.99) which are not quite as versatile or revolutionary as SoundPaper, but still help in the note-taking, paper-saving department.
Working On the Go for Virtual Offices
When it comes to working on-the-go, the iPad is definitely designed for “cloud computing.” Apps like Box.net (free) and Dropbox (free) offer mobile access to shared documents that are stored in a virtual cloud. Sync and share files easily across multiple computers without setting up a costly and complicated IT network. These are definitely great tools for small businesses that don’t necessarily have a brick-n-mortar office space. For companies that operate as guilds of freelancers or subcontractors, these apps are the perfect tool to work efficiently (and paperless), no matter where each person might be.
Stay Informed Without Printing a Thing
Back in the day, I used to have a colleague who would print out all the things she wanted to read (news, funny stories, etc.) and stash them in a “Read Later” folder. She’d usually read them at lunch or on the long commute home. But it usually amounted to a lot of paper and a pretty thick folder, and all that paper was eventually tossed. (She also printed out all e-mails and insisted on filing them.) With the Instapaper app (free), an avid reader can simply bookmark anything they want or mean to read and get back to it later while they’re on the go. Stay up to date on current events, industry events, white papers, etc. without ever printing a thing.
Industry Specific Apps
Depending on your business, the iPad also offers a plethora of industry-specific apps. If you’re a nurse, you’ll probably appreciate 5-minute Clinical Consult ($74.99) which offers complete, structured information on over 700 conditions. Based on the popular print title, this digital version is searchable and user-friendly. If you’re a market watcher, Bloomberg (free) has an app that harnesses the world’s most trusted source for financial information to allow you to analyze world markets from anywhere at any time. You could even peruse the Wall Street Journal’s free app. Communications professionals can revel in the myriad social networking apps, from Dash Four ($1.99) (the iPad version of Four Square) to the stash of Twitter third-party platforms.
For the Green Office
Considering that most small business spend a good 10 percent of annual revenue on utilities, there are some apps that could help a small business save green and be green at the same time. For small businesses that call their home…office, there are apps to help streamline energy consumption and minimize your carbon footprint. Make your iPad a giant remote control for your lights, thermostat audio, video, web cameras, security system and much more with Control4 (free if you already have a Control4 system). Never leave a computer on overnight again with Off Remote (free), a simple app that lets you turn off your PC or Mac remotely. Or better yet, if you’re already a Zipcar member, use your iPad to locate and easily reserve a Zipcar in your area and even unlock it remotely.Ok, ok. I’m not totally certain that these apps will necessarily make a small business greener, but they could definitely make a business more efficient in the long run. Since the advent of the iPhone, the joke du jour is that no matter what, there’s always an app for that. Now with the iPad, I suspect that no matter what business you’re in, eventually, there’ll be an app out there to match your needs. In the meantime, if you’re lucky enough to have one, just watch a movie!