Apple's new iPad arrived Friday and will almost certainly start showing up in the workplace this week. While this month's buzz has been mainly focused on Apple's new tablet, its release was just one of several moves the company has made in the last two weeks. Consider that before the iPad even hit store shelves, Apple had pushed out iOS 5.1; unveiled an updated version of the iWork suite; rolled out a slick iOS version of iPhoto; and released the new Apple Configurator tool for managing various iOS devices in various business and education settings.
With the iPad now the de facto tablet for business and the iPhone increasingly being seen as the business choice in a post-BlackBerry world, these new offerings from Apple will affect companies of all shapes and sizes.
Here's a look at some of the cross-currents likely to play out for IT shops as new iPads show up in the hands of workers.
Business advantages of the new iPad
The new iPad's features and specs are arguably more in line with consumer use than business. The retina display and graphics performance are notable improvements, but their biggest impact will be on uses like video and gaming.
That isn't to say that business users won't see benefits. Reduced eye strain, greater readability of text and an overall improvement in graphics capabilities will benefit every iPad user in some way. But they don't offer direct business or productivity gains compared to the previous generation of iPads -- except for a handful of professionals, including those in creative, design and other media jobs. The improved graphics and video capabilities may make the iPad more suited to on-the-go media work. That very point -- that the iPad is indeed useful for content creation -- was highlighted at last week's iPad unveiling.
The improved graphics capabilities may also bolster the use of iPads in healthcare. Although the new model's display can't yet compete with top-end radiology and medical imaging workstations, the higher resolution -- 2048 by 1536 pixels -- may make it even more attractive to the industry. Though the resolution may be lower than a dedicated workstation, it's still more advanced than any other tablet on the market and higher than that of most notebooks, PC or Mac.
Similar advantages will play out in architecture and design. While the iPad isn't a full-fledged PC (or Mac) replacement in these fields, the improved display will be useful as a presentation device and will further the existing iPad's capabilities of instant collaboration during planning or design meetings.
Although the iPad isn't a dedicated videoconferencing appliance, the improved 5-megapixel rear-facing camera could be useful for those workplaces that rely on either Apple's FaceTime or multiplatform video-chat solutions. (The front-facing camera doesn't appear to have changed from the previous model.)
If there's a single feature in the new iPad that makes it a better business tool, it's the dictation capabilities Apple added to the virtual keyboard. These are the same capabilities (sans Siri) available on the iPhone 4S, and, for many users, they may prove to be a better option than using the iPad's on-screen keyboard, particularly when entering a lot of text.
Choosing between the new iPad and iPad 2
With Apple still selling the iPad 2 for $399, businesses now have more flexibility when purchasing iPads in quantity. In the absence of any further discounts from Apple, the $100 price difference between a new 16GB model and the 16GB iPad 2 means that a company buying five of the older models is essentially getting a sixth free (compared to buying the new iPad).
Apple's new iPad features a Retina display, LTE connectivity, and more -- but is it advanced enough to stay ahead of rivals?