The iPad: An Excellent After-Hours Device

Technology is a small business owner’s friend–it can increase productivity exponentially. I first discovered this when I was working for a restaurant in the late 1990s. (I recounted the story here: The fax machine is broken! Hurry, get a website!)

A lot has changed since those days. Today, everyone is excited to be the first to own new technology. When the iPad first came out, people stood in line for hours to be among the first to get one. (Speaking of lines, I stood outside the first McDonalds in Moscow for almost four and a half hours to get a Big Mac in 1990. What people will do to be the first to get something. . .

But when you’re making technology choices for your small business, it’s not all about being first with the coolest new toy. There are three questions a small business owner should ask to determine when it’s time to buy a technology tool:

1) How will I recognize and learn about new technology that I should be implementing?

2) What problem in my business will this technology solve?

3 ) Do I need it (even if I can afford it)?


Question 1 above was asked by a business owner a few months ago on a panel I was part of for 270inc. My fellow panelist Patrick Haley, owner of BridgePath Scientific, gave this answer:

“A technology board of advisors is a great way to go about doing that. Invite five or six people from your community to sit on a technology advisory board for your organization. Offer to buy them a meal every three to four months, and just talk about what you do as a business and what you should be doing.”

The answers to Question 2 and 3 will depend on you and your business applications. Let’s look at both of these questions when it comes to the iPad.

The iPad is an excellent device. Our family has two of them. The iPad is good in bed – what I mean by that is, if you want to watch a movie in bed, the device is light and easy to hold or prop up; the screen quality is excellent for watching movies. My kids love it, and it is incredibly easy to use. There are tons of apps from productivity to puzzles to games. It’s also great for email. If you’re considering the iPad for business, be aware it may not be ready to replace your desktop, laptop or other small business devices you rely on.

You need a iPad for your business  if you:

  • Travel a lot
  • Have a desktop but no laptop
  • Have to show customers products online
  • Need customers to fill out a form and you can use the iPad to do this
  • You go to a lot of conferences and take notes
  • You need to take payments from customers (an iPad app can do this)

You may not need an iPad for your business if:

  • You don’t need to go online frequently
  • You are always close to a computer
  • You have custom software that you need to run on desktops

Changing technology that gives you double the efficiency and saves time is definitely a winner. Examples of this type of technology are moving from dial-up to broadband, or having a website so customers can find information about your business instead of having to call you.

But before buying an iPad, ask yourself if you are buying technology for technology’s sake or solving a business problem. The iPad is an excellent after-hours device; every family should have one. In its present form, however, not every business needs one. This will no doubt change as more productivity apps and tools get introduced.

Are you using an iPad for your business? What are your thoughts?


Shashi Bellamkonda Shashi Bellamkonda is CMO of Surefire Social, AKA "Social Media Swami" at SurefireSocial. Visit Shashi Bellamkonda's blog. He is also an adjunct faculty at Georgetown University. Shashi is a regular contributor to the Washington Business Journal, DC Examiner and other tech blogs like Smallbiztechnology and Techcocktail. Shashi has been in the list of Top 100 Small Business Influencer Champions list for 2011 and 2012.

10 Reactions
  1. Not sure if I buy your argument about the iPad yet (but maybe in a few years). In relation to the tablet vs. the laptop, it’s fairly clear among popular media that the iPad 2 is no laptop as it relates to the full functionality and performance (specifically typing speed).

    Laptops still command a great deal of respect because there isn’t much that they cannot do and standards to exist. The same is not true considering a single company (Apple) that has tried to control the way we use technology by deciding on what we can and can’t have in it. In a few years as the tablet market matures and competition creates options, gadgets like an iPad will certainly offer the versatility at a fair price point that makes it valuable. Until then, I’ll stick with my trusted and reliable laptop.

  2. Martin Lindeskog

    I think that the iPad will become a great introduction to people who are not used to computers. I want to have an iPad as business tool eventually, because it is great for presentations, nice companion on business trips and a convenient way of staying in touch with your business contacts on the go.

  3. Pawel Grabowski

    Hi Shashi, I have and use iPad for my business, at least certain aspects of it. For me the iPad is great for all the social media, networking work as well as all the research I have to do and basic office tasks.

    I manage most of my social media profiles from it and it’s easy and fun. However it’s not much of an use when it comes to my main work, writing. It’s hard to type long text on it. It’s good for jotting down quick notes, drafting posts and so on though.

    Overall, it’s a great machine and for me, it practically replaced my Mac when it comes to smaller tasks.

  4. Hi Shashi,

    I agree with your comments about the iPad and also Martin’s comments about it being a “great introduction to people who are not used to computers.”

    My father-in-law (WWII Vet) retired before computers came to his workplace, and is now “finding the Internet” through his iPad.

    I blogged about the iPad for seniors a few weeks ago.

  5. After initial field tests we are now rolling out iPads to all sales staff. They have proved as popular with customers as they have with the sales guys.

    Presentations look great and video is fabulous. Long battery life, with email & Citrix to access central systems, even on 3G, they are a winner. Transferring files via Dropbox means support staff can update the sales team on the go.

    Printed presentations will now be a thing of the past for us, saving paper, ink and ultimately money,

    A great device, well worth a trial in your business.

  6. Shashi,

    Thanks for all the cool iPad info.

    I’ll admit it;

    There are only 2 Apple devices in the entire Franchise Kingdom, and they’re not in my possession!

    I just have no desire to switch to a Mac, nor do I really want (or need) an iPad.

    I figure that if I can’t use it to add productivity to my business, I just don’t need it.

    I did use one, once. It was ok. It wasn’t really life-changing for me.

    But, for you…”The iPad is good in bed.”

    The Franchise King®

  7. Valdecir Carvalho

    Agasto, i’m a Wedding Photographer In Sao Paulo, Brazil and I use my iPad to show my portfólio and prive sheet In client meetings. i use Aldo to Read magazines, newspapers, email while on the road, twitter and so on. To stay connected and available to my clients when I’m not in front a computer. I don’t carry my laptop anymore.

    It’s also a play center for my 3 years old girl. She has tons of apps installed and she uses it a lot while I’m in home.

    First time here, thanks for the app Zite and my IPad. 🙂


  8. I liked when you said about the iPad being a device to use in bed since this is something I do almost daily. I have an Desktop, a Macbook Pro (using right now) and an iPad and i cant imagine using it for heavy work.

    However when the subject is entertainment, reading or some easy tasks iPad is just a perfect solution.

    I think that it could be a business solution , but depends on what you work at. For now I imagine if I had a restaurant I could use and iPad as a Menu, but not to act as standard menu showing the options, but also showing the food like a video (with smoking coming out from it for example).

    That would cause a much better impression on my costumer and would make a great experience.

  9. Hi Shashi – I’ve just recently received an iPad from a client for whom I’m doing some marketing work around a couple of mobile applications. To find out how much “work” I can replace using the iPad, I decided to take a couple of days and run my business from that device. The experience had its ups and downs to say the least. It’s definitely easier to carry around to meetings, take notes and run presentations. In fact, that will be its primary use.

    But, I’ve found that it’s a little more cumbersome to manage my business than I had expected. I thought that since most of my work happens “in the cloud” the iPad could easily replace my laptop. Not so. My business runs on Google Apps and some of my favorite apps just aren’t as easy to use on the iPad as they are on the laptop.

    I wholeheartedly concur with your assessment – great accessory. Now the question is do you want to pay for the fun?