What a great trip so far! WHD.global was a fantastic conference and we got to meet with a number of customers and partners. For the few days the conference was running, the city of Rust, Germany, became a small town full of true computer and hosting geeks. Definitely our type of people! Interestingly enough, a local Rust resident remarked that they would be glad when the conference was over so that they could get their WiFi back… That should be a good indication of how we took over the town!

As I’m still traveling through Europe, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to further evaluate the iPad as a replacement for a standard laptop computer and road testing its effectiveness in that capacity.

Observations on the iPad for Business

  • Right off the bat, I needed to use LogMeIn… into a 27-inch iMac with the incredible resolution of 2560×1440.
  • I can’t discuss the new iPad without mentioning the resolution and display. On a normal iPad, you need to zoom in and out constantly to work on documents, read websites, etc., but this is no longer necessary with the new high-resolution iPad display. Word documents, spreadsheets, image files and websites are all completely legible and unbelievably crisp and clear. I can honestly say there is a clear business benefit to the new iPad because of the improved resolution and display.
  • I have an Android phone and have constant issues with our standard Microsoft RAS VPN server. However, with the iPad and with the iPhones I’ve had, there is never an issue. I’m not sure how this continues to be a problem for Gingerbread devices, but it’s a shame.
  • Speaking of issues with Android and Microsoft compatibility, we use NT authentication to protect our development sites, internal reporting servers, etc. Working with this authentication schema is also a challenge for Gingerbread devices, although it seems that BETA versions of Firefox work around this on Android. By comparison, the standard Safari browser on iOS works flawlessly.
  • I did hit one snag working on the iPad. It’s not a hardware issue, but more of a software one. Many of our corporate documents are in Dropbox. Some of our Word and Excel documents are password protected as they contain sensitive information. Unfortunately, the Dropbox viewer on iOS doesn’t support this level of security and neither does Quick Office for the iPad. Therefore, I had to contact the office to have some documents and information sent to me instead. There is another app that may work (Documents to Go), but I have not tested it to see if it has a similar limitation.
  • Another thing I noticed, although it’s not a limitation of the iPad so much as it is a call to action for website owners and their designers: To prepare for customer and partner meetings, I review their websites and other materials in order to better understand their businesses. Unfortunately, I found that nearly 50% of the sites were not able to handle the browser on the iPad very well. Areas where pull downs were being used on their sites would not work, making it nearly impossible to read those sections if there wasn’t an alternative navigation scheme in place.
  • Our Exchange ActiveSync and iOS integration is awesome, but I get some pretty largeHTML emails from time to time that I have to review and provide feedback on, etc. Unfortunately, when you reply to emails like that, the iPad carries the HTML over to the reply and slows down the compose window. In some cases, this butchers the entire message. I wish there was a way to reply and strip the HTML to prevent this from happening.
  • As good as our Exchange ActiveSync implementation is, there isn’t a method to create folders in mail on the iPad. When I work with a new partner, I normally create a folder and move communication into the new folder. I can’t do that using the iOS mail client. However, our webmail interface (which works on the iPad) and our new mobile interface coming in SmarterMail 10 (which we are currently ALPHA testing on our production servers) DOES allow you to create folders and move messages into them.

That’s just a little bit of what I’ve learned so far. There have been a number of benefits from a consumption standpoint that I might discuss in my next post, including things like integration with my Plex media servers at home and using Photostream throughout the trip.

All-in-all, the iPad has really worked out well no matter which country we’re in or the connections we use. However, the overall impression, while positive, leaves me feeling a bit lost without the power and flexibility of my computers. We’ll see if that dissipates over time.

3 thoughts

  1. Tim,

    I really wish that you would add support for message flagging for Exchange ActiveSync. As it is now when I “mark” a message on the iPad it isn’t flagged online nor on my Android phone connected via EAS. It would be nice to be able to flag a message and have it sync in all EAS locations and webmail. Also add support for the reply and forward flags. It would help me since I use different devices (iPad, Android phone, webmail).

    As it is now if I mark a message as important on the iPad or my phone when I use webmail I have no idea that I marked a message as important so I could follow up on it later. Same with reply and forward without either remembering or looking in sent items I have no idea if I replied to a certain message.

    I’ve asked for this feature for a while now, is it something that is just not possible for you to add?

    I also noticed that notes were not a sync-able option with SM EAS but my GMail account setup gave me the option to sync them. Not sure if that is a limitation of SM or the iPad EAS implementation.

  2. We intended to release SmarterMail 9.x with ActiveSync 14.1 support but we were unable to get it completed in time and the changes had a bigger impact on the product than expected. SmarterMail 10.x is already in Alpha and 14.1 is now supported and we have included the flagging features. In addition, we are also providing remote wipe capabilities for devices that have been lost etc.

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