The iPad for commercial real estate
These days more business people see the obvious benefits of adopting tools and services that compliment a virtual business environment. Working anywhere, anytime while continuously engaging with your team and clients is critical to the success of any mobile business professional. Within the next couple years, I believe most of the applications you use will be “in the cloud”. In that case connecting to the cloud is what it’s all about, and this article explores how Apple’s new iPad could help get the job done.
What is the iPad?
The iPad is a device made by Apple that falls into the category of a “tablet computer”. It’s larger than a cell phone and smaller than a laptop, weighing approximate 25 ounces. The 9.7 inch screen is touch-sensitive like the iPhone, eliminating the need for a mouse to navigate. The battery lasts for roughly 10 hours of constant use. While it does not have a physical keyboard, the onscreen keyboard is large enough to type comfortably. In fact this article was written on an iPad.
The iPad is not a novelty toy or something designed for just game playing. It’s a serious business tool that offers a whole new way of working. It may not replace all of your office objectives like graphic design and heavy data entry tasks, but that’s not why you’d use an iPad anyway. The iPad’s ability to keep you connected to the web in a way that’s portable, accessible and convenient is the key.
The iPad comes in two versions: Wi-Fi only, which requires a wireless signal in your office, home or any of the ubiquitous public Wi-Fi “hotspots” to connect online; and a 3G version which allows you to connect wherever there’s a cellular network. The latter option includes Wi-Fi capability but does require a monthly data plan. Either version runs almost all of the 250,000+ apps (programs) written for the iPhone, and also boasts a growing library of iPad-only apps. Your software choices are numerous.
The iPad’s Role in Your Day
An iPad could play an important role in your day by keeping you constantly connected, which allows you to stay productive. By implementing the right software applications your day could go something like this…
Before you leave home you start your day by checking email on your iPad. You see a message from a team member reminding you of your meeting first thing this morning. You check your online calendar to confirm the time and location. You make your way to your appointment using the iPad’s GPS. Upon arrival you spend a few minutes reviewing the notes from your online CRM describing the details of your previous meetings, and checking the company’s web site.
Once inside, you use your iPad to show your client a multimedia presentation about your firm and an electronic brochure on a property listing that might meet their needs. Back in the car, you make some notes in your CRM about the results of the meeting, schedule a follow up on your calendar and fire off a “thank you” email to the prospect.
As you get ready to leave you notice a “For Lease” sign across the street that wasn’t there yesterday. You pull up the Loopnet app and get all the information about the new listing before heading off to your next meeting. Without your iPad, you’d have an awful lot of things to remember to do later, and your day has only just started!
Competitors to the iPad
The iPad doesn’t have much competition yet, although that could be changing. Several manufacturers have announced the impending release of their own tablet computers. But as of October 2010, Apple has already sold over 8 million iPads, making it the fastest selling electronic device in history. Whether the competition can catch up remains anyone’s guess. The success of the iPad suggests that a new genre of mobile computing devices has arrived. No matter what you choose, be ready to move fast to ensure you’re keeping up.
Limitations of the iPad
As compelling as this evolutionary device is, it has its limitations like anything else. There are a few major ones to know about. Flash video does not play on either the iPad (or iPhone), which prevents viewing of some websites that contain these elements. You won’t find iPad versions of MS Word or Excel, although there are several compatible apps which allow you to create and edit documents in those formats and sync them back to your PC. The iPad is not the kind of device that you’ll load up with a lot of business files in the conventional way. If you like to have access to lots of saved reports, brochures or other large documents then check out an online file sharing or project collaboration service. Remember that the idea is to keep everything in the cloud. Also ensure that you’re comfortable with the 3G data subscription costs if you choose that version, which run from $14.99 to $25 per month through AT&T.
The Bottom Line
The key to success with the iPad strategy is its ability to provide almost instant access to the cloud no matter where you are. Consider this device as a possible laptop replacement and a tool that you’d use in the field to stay connected to your cloud-based applications. Obviously your software choices are really important as any program that’s not accessible online does not fit. Your efficiency is truly hampered when any piece of the puzzle is anchored to an office-based device.
Embrace simplicity. Google search has one button, as does the iPhone. The iPad doesn’t have a standard keyboard. These are compromises that nobody would have considered feasible just a few years ago. Now they’re lauded as visionary because ease-of-use and simplicity trump sophistication and complexity. Give serious consideration to the overhead that your current software and hardware imposes. They waste time and decrease efficiency. How many of those fields and features are you actually using in your CRM, for example? Stick to the basics and strive to streamline your work flow to reinvigorate your business. It could pay off like no other innovation you could choose to implement.