In-Depth

iPad Apps for Microsoft Partners, Editor's Cut: Here Are 24 More

Once again, RCP slogged through the App Store to spotlight the most interesting iPad apps. Last time, we brought you 23. This time, we more than doubled that number, bringing the total to 47.

When Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs last month took the wraps off the company's second-generation iPad 2 with an upgraded dual-core processor, thinner design and two cameras, he turbocharged the market for tablet devices. The new iPad 2 enters a market that Apple has spawned, 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.

For a longer answer, look at how IT tech Michael McGowan, of Boston-based Microsoft Certified Partner NSK Inc., made himself a hero to a client who had an iPad stolen out of his hands at a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority train stop. When the client called, McGowan, who had configured that iPad, knew how to take advantage of the GPS-powered "Find My Device" feature. Logging into Apple's MobileMe service, McGowan worked with MBTA Transit Police to lead them to the vicinity of the device.

According to an account on NSK's Web site, once officers were in the area, McGowan enabled the iPad's location alert. The alarm wasn't loud enough for the officers to hear, but it prompted the perpetrator to pull the device out of his backpack, at which point the officers spotted him and apprehended him. McGowan was then able to prove the device belonged to his client by sending a message to the tablet for the officers to read: "This iPad is stolen property."

McGowan used a built-in iPad feature to work his forensic magic. But 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 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. 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.

Last month, we here at Redmond Channel Partner sifted through the App Store directory of iPad business apps (1,153, to be exact) to bring 23 of the most interesting ones to the surface. The following expanded list more than doubles that number, with a grand total of 47. 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 thoroughly 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 to edit existing or create new Microsoft Office files. A cottage industry has arisen around making Microsoft Office files editable on the Apple tablet. (Many Office files can be viewed through the Apple built-in Mail app without the need for additional software. More on Mail and Microsoft Exchange later.) Unlike many of the other tools we found, the Microsoft Office file viewers are among the most popular applications in the Apple store.

1. Quickoffice Connect Mobile Suite for iPad allows the creation, editing, formatting, accessing and sharing of Microsoft Word documents and Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint 2003 presentations. Files can be e-mailed or shared on remote storage services provider sites like MobileMe, Dropbox, Google Docs and SugarSync. The suite, from Quickoffice Inc., is 20.9MB and costs $14.99.

2. Office2 HD is another suite for viewing, creating and editing Word and Excel files and also uses online services as storage repositories. The 5.1MB app, which supports use of an external keyboard, costs $7.99 from Byte Squared Ltd. The company says PowerPoint support is under development.

3. Documents to Go - Office Suite is another iPad option for working with Office Word and Excel files, and it also supports PDF documents. The 9.3MB download from DataViz Inc. comes in a $9.99 Standard version and a $14.99 Premium version.

4. Pages is the Apple word processor originally designed for the Mac OS and ported to the iPad with an overhaul that includes support for multi-touch gestures. In addition to creating documents from scratch, users can import Word docs and other file formats. Documents can also be shared in Word formats or PDF formats. The app costs $9.99 and is a 51.3MB download.

5. Numbers is the Apple spreadsheet from the iWork suite for the iPad. Many users in the App Store complain about the ability of Numbers to convert and render Excel documents, but it's a brand-name option that's continuing to be developed. Cost is $9.99 and size is 69.9MB.

6. Keynote is the other major component of the Apple iWork suite for iPad. A presentation suite, the product is designed to support the importing and exporting of PowerPoint files. Also $9.99, the app requires 66.9MB of space.

7. GoodReader from Good.iWare Ltd. is one of the more popular PDF readers in the App Store. While not technically related to Microsoft Office, PDFs are ubiquitous in any business setting, and the ability to annotate PDFs can be critical. Unusual features of GoodReader include the ability to mark up PDFs by scrawling messages and making lines, arrows, and freehand drawings in a variety of colors and styles. The app costs $4.99 and takes up 12.5MB.

8. Excel to List is a funky little Office-based app that turns Excel files into list formats that can be taken on iPads and other Apple portable devices. Modified lists can be exported back to Excel on PCs. The app from iApp House comes in a free Lite version at 4.3MB and a $3.99 full version at 4.4MB.

9. Dropbox is a popular app for syncing and sharing files online, but in the context of Microsoft Office users, the tool handles a number of less-common Microsoft Office file types. Made by Dropbox Inc., the 5.9MB app is free, as it relies on the online service, which is also free for up to 2GB of storage; it's $9.99 per month for up to 50GB and $19.99 for up to 100GB.

Integration with Microsoft Servers
Another popular category for app developers is integrating iPads with Microsoft server-based applications, such as SQL Server, Exchange Server and SharePoint Server, or administering Windows servers.

To be clear, the ability to connect the built-in Apple Mail client to a corporate Microsoft Exchange Server costs nothing more than the cost of the iPad (assuming a wireless network is available in the background). Microsoft Exchange is the first option in the drop-down list when configuring the iPad for e-mail. Nonetheless, one company is up to its third version of Microsoft mail connection software.

10-12. Mail Access 2010, 2007 and 2003 for iPad are three versions of a $7.99, 0.2MB app made by OKD Ltd. 2010. All three versions are roundly derided by users in the App Store, but the software is designed to connect to Outlook Web Access.

13. DataGlass SQLServer lets DBAs, IT pros, executives and analysts access SQL Server databases in the backroom for ad hoc queries, raw data or to create reports. The tool is compatible with SQL Server 7, 2000, 2005, 2008 and 2008 R2. The 7.8MB app is a free preview from impathic llc, which also makes versions of DataGlass for Access.

14. 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, 9.8MB version is free, while a Pro version costs $19.99 from SketchMD Inc.

15. 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 7.2MB tool for free in a light version or for $14.99 in a full version.

16. ShareOffice for iPad offers remote access to the 2007, 2010 and online versions of SharePoint from Fairuse Inc. in a 1.5MB package for $12.99.

17. Filamente - SharePoint Client is also offered in a free light version and a $12.99 full version from Aircreek Inc. Both are 2.5MB.

18. Rover Retriever is another approach for giving users access to files from SharePoint. The 4.3MB app from Rover Apps LLC is free. Software called Rover Gateway is required on the server for Retriever to work.

19. The WinAdmin iPad Edition is a slim 0.5MB 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 Server 2000, Windows XP Professional, Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista (Business, Enterprise and Ultimate), Windows 7 (Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate) and Windows Server 2008.

Remote Desktop
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 RDP and other technologies to connect PCs to iPads.

20. Citrix Receiver for iPad is a free 6.4MB 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.

21. 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 11MB 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.

22. VMware View for iPad, released on March 9, marks the entry of the virtualization giant into the iPad remote desktop fray. The free 6.1MB app requires VMware View 4.6 or later from the IT department for the iPad app to work.

More options in this category are:

23. Jump Desktop (Remote Desktop) from Phase Five Systems at 10.2MB and $19.99.

24. Remote Desktop RDP from MochaSoft Apps, which includes Wake on LAN support. It's a 1MB download for $5.99.

25. iTap RDP (Remote Desktop for Windows) from HLW Software Development GmbH ($11.99, 4.5MB).

26. LogMeIn Ignition ($29.99) from LogMeIn Inc. allows direct control of a Mac or PC in a 3.9MB download.

27. GoToMyPC, also from Citrix, for connecting to Mac or PC is free but requires a subscription with GoToMyPC after a 30-day trial period (5MB).

28. Connect My PC, $4.99 and 1.7MB, 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.

29. Cloud Connect Pro from Antecea Inc. allows viewing and control of Windows, Mac and Linux systems. The 15.8MB download costs $19.99.

30. KineticExtend for iPad comes from Acpana Business Solutions Inc., also known by its subsidiary's name, KineticD, and formerly known as Data Deposit Box. The online data protection specialist offers the 0.6MB, remote desktop app for free, and it connects to a free trial of KineticSecure or an activated account.

Business Applications
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 are quite ready for primetime, but partners' mileage may vary on the positive side due to broad and deep experience with Dynamics CRM.

31. 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 12MB download. A free version is called Mobile CRM.

32. Mobile Edge for Microsoft Dynamics CRM is another offline-capable client that users can synchronize when they return to coverage areas. The 3.4MB app from iEnterprises Inc. is free.

33-35. MS CRM+ for Dynamics (Online) Content & Activity Manager from Softtrends Software Pvt. Ltd. is a $19.99 2.9MB 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-premises versions of Dynamics CRM 4.0 and later.

Heterogeneous Kit
The value Microsoft partners often offer is expertise not only in Microsoft software and solutions, but the ability to integrate those technologies with best-of-breed enterprise software or customer legacy systems. In that light, several apps lurking deep in the App Store will apply to partners serving the enterprise or upper mid-market.

36. iDatacenter is a lightweight app for administering a virtual datacenter, including monitoring a virtual machine (VM), physical host or datacenter and restarting, shutting down or moving VMs. The $1.99 0.5MB app by Nym Networks gets its real power from the server it connects to, VMware vCenter Server 4.0 or later is required.

37. MyRouters Pro for iPad. Speaking of administering enterprise systems, developer Edwin Lam created a tool for network administrators to manage Cisco and Juniper routers. The 1.6MB app is $3.99.

38-39. F5 BIG-IP Edge Client (free, 2.7MB) and F5 BIG-IP Edge Portal (free, 1MB) are from F5 Networks Inc. and both are front-ends for enterprise deployments of various F5 products, including Access Policy Manager, Edge Gateway or FirePass SSL-VPN.

40. IBM Lotus Notes Traveler Companion is a free app made by IBM Corp. to allow users who synchronize Lotus Domino mail using IBM Lotus Notes Traveler Companion server software to view encrypted mail.

41. Mobile Edge for Lotus Notes Applications is a free app (3.4MB) for replicating any Lotus Notes database to an iPad for offline work. The tool from iEnterprise Inc. requires server software.

42. Bizbox Direct - SAP R/3 & ECC Workflows is a pricey app at $149.99 with no trial version, although developer MilliApps LLC says "limited promo codes available to select few." The 3.5MB tool is designed to allow connections to SAP HR, CRM, Solution Manager and other systems for workflow functionality.

43-47. DataGlass Oracle, DB2, Sybase, MySQL and PostgreSQL all offer similar functionality to DataGlass SQLServer (see No. 13) but for non-Microsoft platforms. File sizes range from 7.8MB to 10.6MB.

We don't imagine that we've even come close to finding all, or even most, of the apps out there with some business potential for Microsoft partners and their clients. The built-in apps are a solid place to start -- either to configure Exchange through the Mail client or, should worse come to worse, to help a customer retrieve a stolen device.

From there, the apps should only get more important with time. In a report in December, IDC analyst Scott Ellison projected that the 10.9 billion apps downloaded worldwide across all device types in 2010 would increase to 76.9 billion in 2014. "The extension of mobile apps to every aspect of our personal and business lives will be one of the hallmarks of the new decade with enormous opportunities for virtually every business sector," Ellison said.

Most of those apps are for personal use rather than business purposes, and the bulk are for smartphones. Still, as the debut VMware app shows, IT vendors are starting to jump into the iPad apps game more seriously. It can't hurt for Microsoft partners to start testing the available apps and thinking through scenarios that might make sense for customers.

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