I am definitely not an Apple fan boy. In fact, even though I’ve been a long-time mac user, I’ve earnt myself a bit of a reputation as an iPad hater. However, one thing Apple have done really well recently is to popularise the tablet format. Tablet computing devices are by no means new. The Windows tablet has found itself applications in all sorts of corporate settings, from health care to car production. However, it has never really gained mainstream popularity. The same can’t be said for Apple’s ‘magical’ iPad!

Last week, while I was in Austin, Texas, for South by South West Interactive (probably the world’s largest festival of digital media technology), I finally gave in. Apple, never one to miss a PR opportunity, had established a ‘pop up’ store in the centre of Austin. With 40,000+ geeks in town, and timed to directly co-incide with the iPad 2 launch, it was like shooting fish in a barrel for them. Every single day, from launch, the store (which only sold iPad 2s!) sold out.

By day 2, surrounded by swarms of excited new iPad 2 owners, my will power finally gave out. Well, actually, I decided I really ‘needed’ one for development purposes… Apple made the purchase process almost dream like, with a dedicated Apple employee guiding you through the choice of product, recommending apps to install on it, and helping you choose an oh-not-so-optional cover to go with it. Even posing for photographs. Here I am, 10 minutes later, unboxing the iPad 2:

So, what does this have to do with what we are doing here at SocialOptic? Well, a couple of things. Firstly, we are seeing more and more iPads, and other tablet devices, in use in business, and are being asked to develop applications for them, which we are doing. The mobile version of Milestone Planner already works on the iPad, but we are now investigating how we use its capabilities to enhance the Milestone Planner experience on tablet platforms. The combination of a touch interface and a handheld format make it a very compelling platform for updating plans in real-time during meetings, and the 3G functionality means that you can have access to your plans from anywhere.

Tablet devices help staff work ‘outside of the box,’ breaking down the barriers that make many business applications boring, hard to use and non-intuitive. With tablets, the style of interaction is fast, intuitive and rewarding. That becomes even more powerful when real-time collaboration is involved.¬†Watch this space, as they say. We are loving the magic.