What is your holiday season going to look like?
The holidays are around the corner. The road rage of parking at the shopping mall and elbowing your way through the aisles to get that special something for our loved ones (and those mooching off of us) is upon us. It's amazing how the happiest time of the year has become such a stress-inducing labour of disdain. For many, it's become so hopeless that they have reduced the love of gift buying down to stocking stuffers of gift cards ("let them figure out what they want!").
Another big transition is the giving of virtual goods.
Everything from Facebook Credits to loading up someone's iTunes account to buying tractors in Farmville or subscriptions to Netflix. Virtual gifts have truly become the gift that keeps on giving. There's no doubt that the future of technology is both portable and virtual. Look no further than the pervasiveness and explosive growth of the smartphone and tablet market. One of the hottest holiday gifts this coming season (for the young and old alike) is Apple's iPad. Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder and CEO, described the iPad as the device that lies in between your computer and your mobile device during his presentation to launch the tablet in January. The staggering media hoopla surrounding the device (Oprah recently chose the iPad as one of her "favourite things") has helped it become a runaway success. Competitors Dell, BlackBerry, Samsung, Google and others are rushing tablets to the market (some are available, while others are said to be arriving in the first half of 2011) in a hope to capture market share.
The App Economy.
Beyond the physical tablet are the apps (or software) that people load onto these devices. The app economy continues to blossom with thousands of developers creating powerful applications every single day that not only make the iPad such an incredible experience, but they are also pushing the device to do things that you can't do on laptops and smartphones. While most first-generation tablets are best suited to the consumption of media, they are also becoming amazing tools for business.
Here are some of the best iPad apps for business professionals...
- Dropbox. Not only is this a great looking app, but it's a crucial one. Dropbox allows you to back up all of your important files to a secured online location. This makes all of your files synchronized online. So, if you're running Dropbox on your laptop, your files will be updated and backed up - in real time - and readily available from your iPad when you need them. The iPad app and 2 GB of storage is free, the premium edition pricing is based on storage space and a monthly fee.
- iA Writer. It's not simple to type on glass, but we're all going to have to get used to it. iA Writer helps with this transition. The font type is beautiful and the typing view is clean. You can even lock the screen to focus on the sentences you are currently working on, instead of being distracted by the entire document. iA Writer not only gives you a word count but an estimated length of time that it will take to read your document. You can easily email the text file or have it sync directly to your Dropbox. iA Writer is $4.99.
- FlightTrack Pro. I've clocked more air miles than I care to admit. If you travel for business, you need FlightTrack Pro. This app (especially when combined with TripIt Pro) offers the most robust flight tracking and travel experience optimizer that I have come across. It gives you details like gate information, alternate flights, seating information from SeatGuru, push alerts for delays and cancellations and even a screen with the percentage of time your flight is delayed (and by how long). The best part? Airlines don't like telling you when a flight is delayed (they like having everyone at the gate), but FlightTrack Pro seems to be tied into another system because on countless occasions it has notified me long in advance of a delay while the airline says the same flight is on time (it's still wise to always double-check with your airline). FlightTrack Pro is $9.99.
- Flipboard. This iPad only application grabs your Twitter and Facebook feed and turns it into a beautiful magazine. It's best at grabbing the links that people are talking about and it shows you (in a stunning layout) both the articles and tweets. From there, you can comment, share or save the content. You can also choose pre-defined pages (business, technology, etc ...), so you're not only a reader of a magazine, you are also the editor and publisher as well. Flipboard is free.
Digital currency is also a great gift!
If you're still stumped and don't know what to get the iPad totting business professional in your life, consider an e-gift certificate for Kindle, iBooks or Kobo and this way they can buy some e-books. If they're not big on business books, magazines like Wired and The Economist also offer iPad-based digital editions of their monthly magazines via monthly subscription. Did you ever really think the day would come that a virtual gift would be more valuable than a physical one? If that doesn't speak to the changing landscape of business and the new consumer, I don't know what does.
What iPad apps do you think are critical to Marketing and Business professionals?
The above posting is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business - Six Pixels of Separation. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:
- Montreal Gazette - Dreaming of a geek Christmas with every Tweet I write.
- Vancouver Sun - The iPad, the business professional, exciting applications, and the holiday season.