New markets for the Apple iPad?

The Apple iPad is finally here.  And the first batch of die-hard Apple fans have waited in line for hours, purchased them, and hurried home.  The blogs are simply overflowing with comments.

But I think the iPad’s impact in business applications will be much more far-reaching.

Today, there are a wide variety of hand-held applications in use in a wide variety of industries.

For instance, some doctors use laptops connected to wireless networks in their office to reference and update their patient records.  Other doctors use Palm, Windows-mobile, Blackberry, or even iPhone devices to review information, record observations, and order treatments, tests, and/or medications.  Patients are also issued similar devices to collect, record, and report treatment results.

In a similar manner, discrete manufacturers often use personal computers or hand-held devices to provide instructions (including images), to manufacturing personnel, technicians and the like.

This means that every software provider that wants to offer solutions to these industries has to develop, test, and deploy their products for each one of these devices.  They also have to develop, test, and deploy server-side components that are usually unique to each hand-held device.   It is hard to even list all of the testing permutations that each of these software providers must currently endure, especially if you take into account the various operating systems versions that must be supported for each hand-held device.

Into this environment comes the iPad.  If it is just another device, then each of these software providers must adopt yet another device and devote even more development, testing, and deployment resources.

But what if the iPad can achieve enough popularity with businesses so that it replaces one or more of the current hand-held devices?   What if users become so thrilled with the iPad’s large touch screen user experience so that they don’t want to use any of the other devices?

Imagine how much more productive these software companies could be if they only had to develop, test, and deploy a single version of their application — for the iPad.

I’m not an Apple fan in general, in fact I’m writing this post on a Microsoft laptop and use a Windows mobile phone.  However, I’m a big fan of software products and recognize that if you have fewer platforms to support, you should be able to get better products to market even faster.

But on the other hand, I expect a lot of iPad-like devices in the near future just as there are now a number of iPod-like devices, which will make the lives of these software companies even more complicated.   I just hope that the end result is a much better user experience for the users of these devices.

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