23 Intriguing iPad Apps for Microsoft Partners
We slogged through the App Store to bring the most interesting iPad apps to the surface. Some are free, others are expensive but all have potential for integration into Microsoft partner-provided solutions.
Steve Jobs recently unveiled Apple's second-generation tablet, the iPad 2, with a next-generation processor, thinner design and two video cameras. When the device ships March 11, it will enter a market that Apple has made, with 15 million first-generation iPads sold in nine months.
Whether you think iPads and tablets are business-class devices or not, the consumerization of IT is real and people are voting for iPad with their pocketbooks right now. Is there money in it for Microsoft partners? Short answer: There's incremental business in almost everything. A lot of developers and vendors have been putting together iPad apps that have fairly useful applications for the types of heterogeneous solutions Microsoft partners typically deliver. If you haven't yet run across the customer who wants to know how you can make the solution you're implementing at his or her company work on the boss' iPad, you probably will soon.
Finding those apps on the Apple iTunes App Store isn't that easy, though. The site is designed to highlight the new and to reinforce the success of the top sellers. For obvious reasons, game and entertainment apps rise to the top in a system like that. Low-volume, long-tail business apps, of value to a niche population like Microsoft-focused solution providers, will naturally drift down to the depths of the system.
Here at RCPmag.com, we slogged through the App Store directory of business apps (1,153, to be exact) to bring the most interesting iPad apps to the surface. We separated out the MBA primers, the business books, the apps with titles written in Chinese characters and other chaff, to highlight only the relevant apps. Some are free, others are expensive, some get rave reviews by App Store users, others are roundly panned, but all have potential for integration into Microsoft partner-provided solutions.
Microsoft Office Integration
One of the first things any customer will want to do (at least after they get hand cramps from playing Angry Birds) is try looking at their Microsoft Office files. A cottage industry has arisen around making Microsoft Office files viewable on Apple's tablet. Unlike many of the other tools we found, the Microsoft Office file viewers are among the most popular applications in Apple's store.
Quickoffice Connect Mobile Suite for iPad allows the creation, editing, formatting, accessing and sharing Microsoft Word documents and Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint 2003 presentations. Files can be e-mailed or shared on remote storage service provider sites like MobileMe, Dropbox, Google Docs and SugarSync. The suite, from Quickoffice Inc., is 20.9 MB and costs $14.99.
Office2 HD is another suite for viewing, creating and editing Word and Excel files and also uses online services as storage repositories. The 5.1 MB app, which supports use of an external keyboard, costs $7.99 from Byte Squared Ltd. The company says PowerPoint support is under development.
Documents to Go - Office Suite is another iPad option for working with Office Word and Excel files, and it also supports PDF documents. The 9.3 MB download from DataViz Inc. comes in a $9.99 standard version and a $14.99 Premium version.
Integration with Microsoft Servers
Another popular category for app developers is integrating iPads with Microsoft server-based applications, such as SQL Server and SharePoint Server, or administering Windows servers.
DataGlass SQLServer lets DBAs, IT pros, executives and analysts access SQL Server databases in the backroom for ad-hoc queries, raw data or create reports. The tool is compatible with SQL Server 7.0, 2000, 2005, 2008 and 2008 R2. The 7.8 MB app is a free download from impathic llc, which also makes versions of DataGlass for Access, mySQL, DB2 and Sybase.
Sketch Reports is another tool for accessing SQL Server, in this case for SQL Server Reporting Services. The tool displays reports from the reporting services folder. A basic, 9.8 MB version is free, while a Pro version costs $19.99 from SketchMD Inc.
SharePlus Office Mobile Client is one of several tools for Microsoft SharePoint Server. The product acts as a client for Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint Online, including the Business Productivity Online Suite. SouthLabs offers the 7.2 MB tool for free in a light version or for $14.99 in a full version.
ShareOffice for iPad offers remote access to the 2007, 2010 and online versions of SharePoint from Fairuse Inc. in a 1.5 MB package for $12.99.
Filamente - SharePoint Client is also offered in a free light version and a $12.99 full version from Aircreek Inc. Both are 2.5 MB.
WinAdmin, iPad Edition is a slim, 0.5 MB app for remotely accessing and managing Windows computers using Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). Operating systems that can be managed remotely with the $8.99 tool from Carter Harrison LLC include Windows 2000 Server, Windows XP Professional, Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista (Business, Enterprise and Ultimate), Windows 7 (Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate) and Windows Server 2008.
A lot of users will want to be able to see their desktop, or at least access their desktop files, from an iPad, and a lot of tools aim to meet this need, which opens many possibilities for having a PC (or a datacenter serving virtual desktops) at the center of a connected computing experience. A number of apps leverage Remote Desktop Protocol and other technologies to connect PCs to iPads.
Citrix Receiver for iPad is a free, 6.4-MB download from Citrix Systems Inc. for secure access to virtual desktops, applications and data. When it comes to trusted Microsoft strategic partners, Citrix has set itself up as the gold standard over the years. Solution providers who are joint partners of Citrix and Microsoft now have a Citrix tool for pushing desktops and apps to the iPad.
Wyse PocketCloud RDP/VNC (Remote Desktop) is another offering from an old hand in the thin-client, remote desktop world that has made the short leap to the iPad. Wyse Technology Inc. offers a free version and a $14.99 Pro version of its 11-MB tool. Interestingly, Wyse positions its tool for accessing applications running on your Windows desktop as a way around Apple's lack of support for Flash.
More options in this category are:
Jump Desktop (Remote Desktop) from Phase Five Systems at 10.2 MB and $19.99.
Remote Desktop RDP from MochaSoft Apps, which includes Wake on LAN support. It's a 1 MB download for $5.99.
iTap RDP (Remote Desktop for Windows) from HLW Software Development GmbH ($11.99, 4.5 MB).
LogMeIn Ignition ($29.99) from LogMeIn Inc. allows direct control of a Mac or PC in a 3.9-MB download.
GoToMyPC, also from Citrix, for connecting to Mac or PC is free but requires a subscription with GoToMyPC after a 30-day trial period (5.0 MB).
Connect My PC, $4.99, 1.7 MB, from Hana Mobile LLC, supports Windows XP Professional, Windows Vista (Business, Enterprise and Ultimate), Windows 7 (Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate) and Windows Server 2000, 2003 and 2008.
Cloud Connect Pro from Antecea Inc. allows viewing and control of Windows, Mac and Linux systems. The 15.8 MB download costs $19.99.
Another area ripe for iPad apps is Microsoft Dynamics CRM. We found five applications bringing customer relationship management to iPad-wielding sales pros. User reviews on the Apple iTunes App Store suggest none of the apps is quite ready for primetime, but partners' mileage may vary on the positive side due to broad and deep experience with Dynamics CRM.
Mobile CRM Enterprise from Resco spol. s.r.o. is intended for mobile sales professionals, allowing them to take a copy of their companies' Microsoft Dynamics CRM data with them and access, update and manage them on the local copy, which gets synchronized later. The app costs $49.99 and is a 12 MB download. A free version is called Mobile CRM.
Mobile Edge for Microsoft Dynamics CRM is another offline-capable client that users can synchronize when they return to coverage areas. The 3.4 MB app from iEnterprises Inc. is free.
MS CRM+ for Dynamics (Online) Content & Activity Manager from Softtrends Software Pvt. Ltd. is a $19.99, 2.9 MB client for connecting to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online. A $99.99 version, called Mobile CRM+ for MS Dynamics CRM Hosted & Onpremise, is for mixed environments and works online or offline. A third version, Mobile CRM+ for Contact & Activity Manager for $19.99, works with on-premise versions of Dynamics CRM 4.0 and later.
We don't imagine that we've even come close to finding all or even most of the apps out there with strong business potential for customer solutions. Is there an iPad app that you love to recommend or integrate for customers? Let other partners know in the comment section below.