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Apple's iPad has a niche in a lot of professions

For students, lawyers, real estate agents and others, the iPad fits a niche

April 4, 2010 05:54 AM ET

Computerworld - Most iPad owners will most likely use their shiny new tablet to read books and magazines, watch movies, TV shows and YouTube videos, and do typical Internet tasks like check e-mail and surf the Web. But what about putting it to use in different business situations? Does it fit in at work?

In a recent survey, more than half of mobile phone users reported that they would use a tablet device like the iPad for business. There are, of course, many reasons a business or education user might want one -- for online research, reading downloaded texts and other content, working with Office-type apps such as Apple's iWork, and collaborating with others via e-mail and Web-based portals. But professionals in specific industries or particular jobs will likely find numerous ways to integrate the device into their workdays.

Over the past several weeks, I've talked to a diverse range of professionals about the new iPad, including doctors, lawyers, educators, IT staffers and others. And while many said they'll know more about exactly how it will fit into their businesses days after they've had a chance to try it out, I did get a broad consensus about how it will be used. Mobility, connectivity and ease of use came up often as the main attributes it offers, regardless of profession. But exactly which of those attributes is most important depends on who you ask -- and the task at hand.

What seems clear is that, more than anything else, the iPad offers versatility.

Students

Students and iPads go together like backpacks and textbooks. Assuming textbook publishers embrace the idea of digital texts, the iPad should be an ideal device for students. The lower costs of digital textbooks, the inclusion of multimedia features and the ease of carrying a single lightweight device instead of several bulky and heavy books are all clear advantages for students.

But digital textbooks are just one use for the iPad. Being able to access the Internet anywhere, anytime (as long as you have the 3G iPad) offers its own advantages. From middle school through graduate programs, students will have ready access to resources like Wikipedia, Google and other general or academic search engines, specific education and scholarly sites, and collaborative technologies like class wikis and blogs.

Apple's tablet, the iPad
Apple's tablet, the iPad, could wind up in use in a lot of places.

Self-directed learning services like Apple's iTunes U, online schools and courses, and an array of other online learning and discussion resources add even more value to the iPad as a learning tool.

Educators and trainers

The iPad also offers a lot of advantages to forward-thinking educators, who can integrate it into the classroom in a variety of ways. The $499 entry-level price (for the 16GB, Wi-Fi-only model) makes it a credible alternative to computers, and it's less disruptive to the learning process; students and teachers can switch between digital content and more traditional lecture-style teaching as easily as if they were using a traditional textbook.



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