7 Awesome iPad Apps for the B2B Road Warrior

b2b-ipadI don’t know about you, but I use my iPad as a replacement for a laptop when on the road. Even before Microsoft released Office for iPad I stopped lugging my thousand pound beast with me when traveling.

Not only have I discovered apps that make it easy, but I added a keyboard case to close the laptop replacement loop. I use one made by ZAGG. It is lightweight, responsive, and looks great. The fact that airport security doesn’t make me take my iPad out of my bag is a major bonus.

But this post is about apps, so here are my top 7 for conducting “business as usual” while on the road.

1. Document Storage

To make a mobile device truly productive, you need to store your files in the cloud. I’ve been using Box for years – even before I had my iPad. It’s highly intuitive, can sync folders and files from your computer, and the iPad app plays well with other business apps to create a fairly seamless file storage experience. You can get a 50GB personal account for free with more storage and business accounts available. New functionality is added regularly with one of the latest versions providing a highly functional file viewer that allows you to read those files locally. Though I haven’t tried any yet, Box “One Cloud” offers a myriad of other integrated business apps.

2. Word Processing and Spreadsheets

I’ve used Quickoffice for as long as I’ve owned an iPad. My only rub with Quickoffice was the Powerpoint functionality and I’ve got an excellent solution for that below. Recently purchased by Google, Quickoffice provides all the word processing and spreadsheet functionality I need. It allows you to open, edit, and save Word, Excel, and Powerpoint files in the latest formats. Quickoffice integrates with Google Drive for document storage and Box (and other apps) allow you to easily open documents stored in the cloud in Quickoffice. Quickoffice allows you to store files locally as well, but I recommend storing most docs in the cloud so as not to use up your precious iPad storage. Quickoffice is free though it may not be for long.

3. Presentations

If you despise Powerpoint as I do, you’ll love Haiku Deck. Haiku Deck is built on the premise that presentations are about how we engage with the audience not with the number of animated bullet points a presentation has. Haiku Deck has numerous, beautifully designed templates to choose from as well as a library of high quality royalty free photos. You can create beautiful, visually oriented presentations in minutes and share and edit them in the cloud. Added bonus – Haiku Deck will display and promote them on their site and via Twitter. The app is free but there are in-app purchases for some of the templates and photos.

4. PDFs

iAnnotate PDF enables PDF editing and more. Anything you can do with a Word doc you can do with a PDF in iAnnotate. You can actually open up to 8 PDFs at once and work on them concurrently in a well-designed, easy to use interface. iAnnotate seamlessly connects with Box as well as other cloud-based services. You can create new PDFs and easily share them. There is also PDF security available. Added bonus – you can do all of the above for .DOC, .PPT and image files. Though iAnnotate PDF costs $9.99, you’ll find it to be well worth it.

5. Desktop Access

LogMeIn Ignition may be my favorite app for the road warrior. LogMeIn enables you to quickly and easily remotely log in to a PC or Mac as long as you can connect to the internet. It takes only a few minutes to set up, and access is even faster. Though I haven’t tried it Internationally, I’ve accessed my home computer (in Iowa) from both coasts and everywhere in-between. I primarily use it for file transfers though I have used it for remote printing and controlling programs that live on my PC. When I first discovered LogMeIn it was free. Now it costs a minimum of $64.99 a year with other pricing plans available. Though one of the more expensive iPad apps, if you truly are a road warrior you won’t want to leave home without it.

6. Digital Signatures

DocuSign makes an iPad app which enables you to quickly and easily sign and deliver documents while on the road. You can sign documents for free though full functionality costs as little as $9.99 per month for individuals. Docusign conforms with the e-sign act, so signatures utilized on these documents are acceptable by law firms and financial firms – I closed a mortgage with mine. The functionality is incredible as you can sign without a writing implement, send documents to multiple people to sign, and even complete face to face signing with multiple signers! You can also send and store your signed documents via this extensible app.

7. Project Management

Trello is a free app whose tagline is “organize anything.” Trello allows you to create “cards” where you can establish lists, task lists, images, documents, and enables team-based communication around those items. Cloud-based, it flawlessly syncs across multiple devices. I’ve just started to test this with my team but I’m betting I’ll love this as much as the other apps on this list – which is why it made it to number 7!

Ok road warriors, what indispensable apps have I missed?

Photo credit: Flickr

The Best Free iPad Apps for B2B Marketers

Now that Apple has sold 3 million iPads, the platform is worth looking at for B2B marketers. As I have written before about the iPad, in my initial use of the device, it is not a laptop replacement. It is much more of a consuming device, rather than a creating device. This post will focus on the best free apps to use on the iPad. A future post will look at paid apps. These apps take advantage of its compactness and portability and its touch screen. It is a great device for travel, providing you don’t have heavy duty document creation requirements on the trip. I am basing this on my personal experience with the iPad, even though I have talked to others who do more with their iPad than I do with mine.

Nothing below is so compelling that it will make you rush out and buy an iPad tomorrow, but there are some neat apps available, and when you start to consider the 2nd generation iPad (that’s the one that’s coming with a camera, maybe available this fall), you’ll have a head start on some free apps to look download.

Dropbox (iTunes link) is the best way to sync documents between multiple devices, not just a way to get files, photos and presentations on your iPad without using iTuens. It requires an online repository for your documents, which is free for up to 2GB of space. If you are using an iPad for sales presentations and to share other product materials, this is best way to make sure those out in the field always have the latest versions. Someone back at the office can manage the Dropbox account, which is loaded on each iPad, and each time the Dropbox app is opened, it syncs the latest documents. Other popular programs that sync documents on multiple devices are Evernote (iTunes link) and Box.net (iTunes link).

Feeddler RSS Reader (iTunes link) is the best approach to keeping up with your RSS reader. An important part of marketing today involves reading the latest blog posts and articles to stay current and share these finds with your network. Fill your Google Reader with blogs and fly through with the touch of your finger. This app won’t make you read faster, but it will help you navigate faster and easier. If you don’t currently use Google Reader, create an account just to add this list of 330 B2B Marketing and Sales Blogs and keep up with the latest ideas and trends. One complaint is that the free version does not allow you to post to Twitter. You need to upgrade to the Pro version for $4.99. That is definitely worth it if this keeps you on top of your reader.

If you are looking for a more magazine-like experience in your daily reading, try Flipboard (iTunes link). This new app is all the rage among iPad owners. It connects to your social graph and presents articles that those in your network have shared. There are lots of options for curated content as well. It has a very intuitive and touch friendly interface and content is sharable on Twitter and Facebook, depending on the source.

Dragon Dictation (iTunes link) is a well-known iPhone app that transcribes speech and lets you post updates to Twitter or send emails. If you speak slowly and clearly, it works pretty well. There is also a keyboard for correcting any mistakes before sending your messages.

Both WebEx (iTunes link) and GoToMeeting (iTunes link) have apps for the iPad, bringing the the most common, online collaboration platforms to this portable device. All the functions you are used to from both of them programs are included. It’s good that both platforms are available since most marketers do not pick which of these programs to use. As many webinars use these programs, you can easily join in from outside your office, or even from a conference room without your laptop. As companies continue to explore online options in place of travel, these types of programs will continue to grow in use.

Remote Desktop Lite (iTunes link) is a way to log in to your Windows desktop and access all your files directly from your iPad. I have not used this program, as I don’t have a Windows desktop, but now that Microsoft has released Windows 7, the remote desktop functionality is pretty mature, and the app is tapping into that. This is a good app if you are traveling without your laptop and you forgot to save files in a syncing folder. Bring them up just like you are sitting at your desk. You computer does need to on for these types of programs to work. There is also a full version available for $5.99, but even the developers encourage everyone to try the free version first.

If you have an iPad, what free apps have you found most helpful? If you are still looking at an iPad, what are functions that your would expect apps to provide?

My iPad for Business 1 Month Update

When I bought my iPad, I posted a review of Day 1 using an iPad for business. Reader Christine Thompson left a comment this week asking how it has been going and what other challenges I have run into.

Note Taking
I learned on the first day that I needed a program to take meeting notes and I settled on Pages ($9.99), which is Apple’s word processing program. This is a stripped down iPad version. If you are a whiz at Word and use lots of its nifty functionality, which most people don’t, you will be hampered by this programs. It has all the basics, but that’s it.

As I have continued to attend meetings and take notes in Pages, it has become a bit frustrating. If you are someone who takes copious notes at meetings and constantly refers to them, you would be supremely frustrated. If you want your iPad to be your note taking device, as I do, you want to keep your notes on the iPad in an organized fashion. That is not possible. After you create a new document, an image of it is created in the visual list that you can swipe across. The visual list, with large images of each document, is the only way to access the documents. These are shown in the order that they were created. There is no way to change the order or put documents into folders. To rename a document, click on the default name below the image and change it. Make sure you turn the iPad so it is in portrait mode, as that is the only way to bring up the visual list of documents. And don’t try to combine documents from different programs. Each programs’ documents (Pages, Keynote, Numbers) lives within that program.

The way I approach organization in this cumbersome scheme is to create one document for each client or project and add a date to it with each new set of notes. If that doesn’t work for you, you can always sync these documents to your computer using iTunes, or just email yourself and put the documents in folders as you normally would. This creates version control issues, and you can never be sure which version of your notes contains what you are looking for. The benefit of keeping your notes on your iPad is that you have all your notes together from previous meetings. Again, your frustration level with this is based on the volume of notes you take and how much you refer to them.

Others have used Evernote on their iPads, and this automatically syncs their notes across devices. You can also tag those notes for easy organization. What have your note experiences been on your iPad?

Last week I took a business trip armed with just my iPad. I agonized over not bringing my laptop, for fear that I would not be able to do certain things (like video editing on the plane), but since it was just a one day trip, I figured I would be fine. I had sent the presentation to the conference organizers, so I didn’t think I would need to present from my iPad, but I was ready anyway. I have Keynote ($9.99). I have the $30 iPad to VGA connector. I even uploaded the presentation to Slideshare as a back up.

The hotel lobby had wifi, so it was no problem connecting to email, Twitter, and even Skype to check-in on our perpetual group chat with folks back in the office. I had written several offline blog posts on the flight down, using Pages, and once I was connected, I wanted to publish one of them. This was a problem. It turns out that the WordPress iPad app does not recognize paste. You can only enter text into the post field. Seriously, no paste. I jumped over to my web browser to log in to WordPress and try it from the dashboard. But no luck. The main panel is not scrollable in the iPad version of Safari. I wound up having to get another blogging app (BlogPress $2.99) to post before I gave my presentation.

Even though I did not present from the iPad, it brought some oohs and ahhs from the attendees. They even joked about a drawing to win my iPad, but I rejected that.

On the flight home, I had wifi, so I tried to take advantage of the Netflix movie streaming app, but it was not to be. The service was not consistent enough for streaming. It was great for email and Twitter, so I went with that.

After using an iPad for business for nearly a month, I still like it’s portability and the ease with which you can carry it around, travel with it, and show others things on the screen. I am not really bothered by the lack of multitasking, because when I am using my iPad, I really don’t want programs running in the background to pop up alert of new messages. And no matter what Steve Jobs says, according to the TSA, when traveling with an iPad, it is just like a laptop and you have to put it in its own bin.

iPad for Business: What I Learned on Day 1

This past weekend, I purchased an iPad. Apple sold 300,000 of these tablet devices on the first day so I wasn’t alone. And by the way, in the usual iPad conceit of many bloggers, I am writing this post on my iPad as another demonstration of its functionality.

Since this device was released on the weekend, it made it easy to understand the iPad as the consumer device that it is. It is a great personal entertainment device to consume music, videos and photos, whether you stream content over wifi, sync existing media through iTunes or buy it directly from the iTunes store. I would assume that this was part of Apple’s release plan.

While understanding that this is not a laptop or business device, I wanted to use my iPad exclusively in place of my laptop for a full day of work. Here’s what I learned:

I spend a good part of my day going to meetings and I usually take my laptop. On this day I only took my iPad. Granted it is just walking down the hall, but it is easier carrying the smaller and lighter iPad. This let me keep up with email and Twitter during the meeting. Since there are no background services, I did not get any on screen notifications of mentions or any of my search terms. This makes Twitter less real time, unless you keep checking the stream.

Note taking
I started the day without any specific apps to handle note taking. I didn’t think I would use the notes app, which is the same app as on the iPhone and very limited. I thought I could use Google docs, would avoid any syncing, duplication and version issues. I very quickly found that Google recognizes the iPad as a mobile device and serves up the mobile versions of its apps. That means that docs is a read only program on the web. You can view all the existing docs you want, but you can’t edit any of them. You also can’t create new docs. By the end of the day I had downloaded the Pages app ($9.99) for note taking. One word of advice about the iPad user interface. Many applications have different functionality in landscape mode (horizontal) and portrait mode (vertical). For example, the only way to get from an open document in Pages to your list of documents is to turn your iPad vertically which brings up a My Documents button in the upper left.

One the things that appealed to me about the iPad was the opportunity to use it for presentations. If I need to take a quick trip somewhere just to give a presentation, can I really travel without my laptop. I started to answer that question by downloading Keynote ($9.99), which is Apple’s equivalent to Powerpoint. It is easy to copy existing presentations to the iPad using the file sharing function in iTunes. You find it under the apps tab when looking at your iPad in iTunes. Scroll all the down or you will miss it. You can import Keynote or Powerpoint files for display on your iPad.

If you will be presenting on a large monitor or projector, you will need the VGA out connector. The thing that is different about this output is that it does not mirror your display from the iPad. It just displays native iPad content like Keynote, YouTube videos and photos. So when you are connecting to the projector, make sure you open Keynote so you can make sure the connection works. The presentation shows on screen and the iPad shows that it is in video out mode with forward and back arrows. It does not display speaker notes.

And finally, Keynote on the iPad only exports as Keynote or PDF, so if you make any changes on the iPad, you will need Keynote on a Mac to get the presentation back to Powerpoint.

The last thing I learned in my first business day with the iPad was how to use PDF. By default, the iPad uses the quick viewer to view PDFs that you receive in email or find on the web. This means you can see these documents, but that’s about it. By downloading the Good Reader app ($0.99), you get more functionality. This app uses the file transfer function associated with iTunes, so you can add PDFs directly to you iPad for later viewing, or sales presentations. You can also download PDFs from the web. These files are only viewable through this app, as there is no way to see what files are on the iPad.

Another way to use PDFs is to convert them to the ePub format and view them with the ipad’s book reader, but that conversion seems unnecessary if you use the Good Reader program.

That’s what I learned in my first day of business use with my iPad. One final note about the keyboard. My typing has already improved, and I’m sure it will continue as as I type more.

Did you get an iPad, or are you thinking about it, and what are your thoughts about its uses for business?

5 Ways Apple’s iPad Will Impact B2B Marketing

Before you come through the computer and smack me, yes, I am adding to the endless amount of blog posts all dedicated to Apple’s newly released iPad. With this tablet device Apple is trying to create a new category of portable computing device. How will this device impact your planning as a B2B marketer?

Initially this device won’t be a major factor to B2B marketers, because even if it is very successful, it will take 6 to 12 months to have enough devices in use to warrant attention. The device, which won’t even be out for a couple of months, offers users the ability to consum all types of media on the go using a software interface that many people are accustomed to due to their use of iPhones and iPod touches. Starting this summer B2B marketers need to begin looking at their web analytics to determine how many people visiting online sites are using this device, as well as the iPhone.

5 Potential Impacts Of The iPad On B2B Marketing
New device and adoption aside, in the future this device, or one similar, could have several important impacts on digital B2B marketing. Now is the time to think ahead and position for these possible changes in your business.

1. Improve Product Demos
– The iPad will likely be most utilized in the business world for demonstrations. If you are a B2B company, especially a software company, this will be a great device to show off products and demonstrate new features. The iPad’s ability to display keynote presentations will also make it easy to shift from up-close demos or product sheets to slide presentations. I could see sales teams using this type of device to go over pricing and calculating business impacts of a product in real-time.

2. Trade Show Info Capture – Speaking of sale people, I would imagine that we will see iPads in the hands of savvy B2B sales people at a variety of industry tradeshows. A device like this removes the need to get people into a booth and have them in front of a computer to get their contact information into a CRM tool. I can see companies developing internal applications for the iPad that can easily add people into remote CRM systems and enter them into giveaway contests at the booth.

3. Less Flash Ads – An issue that some people have about this device is that it does not support Adobe Flash, a software that enables us to view many of the videos and advertisements on the web today. If devices without Flash like the iPad increase in popularity, it could motivate B2B marketers to produce less flash advertising, as it would be invisible to iPad and iPhone users.

4. More Multimedia Content – Regardless of its success, the iPad reinforces a trend that shows the way people consume media is changing. People are becoming more accustomed to a multimedia experience. For example the New York Times on the iPad includes video clips in articles that are viewed on the device. As B2B marketers strive to remain effective story tellers, becoming multimedia focused will be key.

5. Need For Customized Customer Experiences – With this new category of device, Apple has create yet another user experience to go along with the iPhone and traditional personal computers. The ways in which people interact with information on this type of device is different. Subsequently, B2B marketers need to plan digital experiences that are different for each device.

Cool new gadgets don’t replace boring online content. Take time to ensure you are telling a compelling story online now, because as digital information consumption changes, so will your marketing executions.

What do you think about the role of tablet computers in B2B companies?