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You built your mobility strategy, found a primary business need for tablets for your team, and made everyone happy by presenting them with shiny new iPads. Congratulations for being the best boss ever -- but now what?
There are literally thousands of great business iPad apps out there to help your crew do other necessary mobile functions and get the job done faster. You've undoubtedly already heard about iPad business apps like Pages, Numbers and Keynote (iPad versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, respectively); and at 10 bucks a pop, those programs are a bargain considering what you'd pay for the Microsoft desktop originals. As inexpensive as those great apps are, however, there are plenty of free business apps for the iPad.
Here are our top 10 free best business iPad apps:
- Evernote: There's a reason that Evernote regularly appears at the top of everyone's favorite apps lists alongside premium paid apps, and that reason is that this is a tiger in your tank. Use Evernote to remind you of everything you don't want to forget -- data clipped while surfing, notes from client meetings, dictated audio recordings and the photo reminder of where you parked your car at the airport.
- Find My iPhone: The problem with mobile devices is that they're, well, mobile. That's a pretty significant amount of capital walking out the door every afternoon, so mitigate your risk with Find My iPhone. It uses the iPhone's or iPad's internal Global Positioning System to locate the physical device, then gives you the option of locking it remotely or even wiping it completely in the event that your sensitive data has fallen into the wrong hands. Considering that the app is free, you absolutely should install this on your iPad or iPhone, especially if you're the type to misplace your keys more than once a week.
- WebEx: An iPad-ified version of the desktop Cisco Systems original, WebEx lets you view meetings and participate in conference calls from without being tethered to your desktop. You don't even need a phone, because WebEx gives you the option of using the iPad's built-in speaker and microphone. Another nice feature is that WebEx will give you a pop-up reminder of who is talking, even when multiple people are speaking. One feature lets you take screenshots of the presentation by holding down the power and the home button at the same time.
- Whiteboard Lite Collaborative: If Apple's Penultimate is too pricey, take a look at Whiteboard Lite Collaborative. The ubiquitous conference room whiteboard goes mobile with this free app, which lets two or more users connect using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, and update the screen with finger swipes or a stylus. This simple app also comes loaded with a few little games like Tic Tac Toe.
- Square: Square, launched by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, lets users do credit card transactions (Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express) on the spot. It requires a postage stamp-sized credit card reader, which the app designers will send you, that plugs into the headphone jack. Users will need access to a wireless network to make the transaction. Square is compliant with the Payment Card Industry Level 1 standard to ensure that your customers' data is safe, Dorsey says.
- Dragon Dictation: Do you hate the onscreen keyboard on the iPad? This app uses the iPad's microphone and voice recognition to translate your short spoken message into text. You can narrate emails and text messages in 30-second speech bursts -- that's actually a fairly substantial paragraph's worth of typed information. Dragon Dictation is consistently listed in the top lists of business apps, and there's good reason why: When tested by SearchCIO-Midmarket.com on an iPhone, Dragon Dictation did better than Google Voice at recognizing the speaker's words.
- Citrix Receiver: Your techs need to reboot your server, but they're waiting for a latte at the Starbucks down the street. Citrix Receiver lets them access their desktops and take the needed actions -- all before the barista even calls out their drink order. Of course, if you want to take advantage of this free app, know that Citrix Systems assumes that you've already invested in the Citrix virtualization Xenapp or XenDesktop technology.
- DataGlass Oracle: Like Citrix Receiver, this app allows you to browse your Oracle servers remotely via your virtual private network and firewall. This app comes loaded with file-saving and data-manipulation technology that allows your team to create reports and charts from within the app, or download data into a comma-separated-values document and use it with the program of their choice.
- Dropbox: When Steve Jobs announced the iPad, the biggest gripe was the absence of a Universal Serial Bus port. That lack makes data exchange software worth its weight in gold. Enter Dropbox, with its simple file transfer system that lets you exchange data on multiple platforms, such as smartphones, desktops, laptops, and of course, iPads. It's especially handy as a backup device for your iPad data: Just drop everything in and let it churn. The first 2 GB of storage is free.
- Spotfire: TIBCO Software's new release of Spotfire for iPad gives you the power of business intelligence data-crunching right there on your tablet. After chewing through the numbers, Spotfire lets users share reports via publishing on the Web or exporting via PDF with one touch. Spotfire doesn't seem to be watered down too much, because you can drill into a full-blown analysis or run a predictive analysis on its handy dashboard without remembering complex formulas.
As the old adage goes, sometimes the best things in life are free. That certainly holds true in many cases when it comes to great business iPad apps. You don't even need to fill out an expense report. What could be better than that?
Let us know what you think about the story; email Wendy Schuchart.