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Apple has really come out with an amazing foundation upon which outstanding productivity enhancing products can launch. Being an MS Windows guy for the past 24 years, I’m starting to wean myself away from carrying a laptop with me all the time, in favor of carrying the much lighter weight iPad. The bottom line is I simply love the device, and when I combine it with cloud services, I can really get mobile. Now that I have a significant portion of what I love to do in the “cloud”, I have a lot more freedom to do the things I love without being attached to a heavy laptop.

Aside from the standard email, web browsing, book reading and movie watching that everyone uses the iPad for, I’m focused on making sure I can use it as a first rate productivity tool. In addition, I’m finding that there is a cost benefit as well as a health benefit to the device. Businesses, if they are not already doing so, should experiment with this technology to learn how they can standardize, save time and money, and provide health benefits to staff who are highly mobile.

If there is one element of business that I’ve learned can be impacted positively by cloud services, its collaboration technology, and it only continues to improve with endless options. Google and Zoho have cloud-based apps that work well on the Safari browser that comes with the iPad, covering disciplines such as project management, accounting, document management, etc. While I’ve experienced glitches, they are easy enough to work through as long as I keep things simple. Just understand that there are limitations, and follow the 80/20 rule (meaning, you can probably get at least 80% of your work done in such a utility, and then pull it into a more advanced tool to polish it up if needed).

Another collaboration tool that is working well for me is Tungle, a cloud-based service to create a unified view of all personal and business calendars, including the calendars of family members (now I can keep up with them!). It took a little time to set everything up, but now that I have all of my calendars, and those of my wife and kids in one universal calendar view, it has become a huge time saver for me. At the time of this writing, I have calendars syncing into a single view from Google, Yahoo and Outlook, and it’s amazing how effective it is. As another calendar enhancement, I’ve added Apple’s US Holidays list so the holidays automatically show up on my calendar now. If you didn’t know about this little gem, just add “ical.mac.com/ical/US32Holidays.ics” as a subscribed calendar in your settings on the iPad.

If you travel extensively, I find the “WorldMate Gold” app is a must have since I can book hotels, get local information, weather updates, and more all within the app. The tool itself keeps your travel itineraries in chronological order, with all flight, hotel, and car rental info. You just have to forward all of your booking information to the service so the itineraries can be loaded into your account. Another thing I like about WorldMate was how it alerted me to recent flight delays and cancellations I had leaving Austin so I didn’t have to travel all the way into the airport from San Antonio. That alone was worth the cost of the app ($14.99). If you have an iPod or iPhone, the same app also works on these devices as well.

For time management, which many of us need, I’ve tried a variety of apps, and I’ve finally settled on OmniFocus for its simplistic approach to time management. So far, I’ve been using the app for a month and have enjoyed applying David Allen‘s “Getting Things Done” principles that come embedded within the application. If you want to get on top of all the activities and demands on your life, this is the app to have if you are going to put it to use every day. While it comes with one of the larger price tags in the app store ($39.99), it’s worth it to help control stress and keep things organized.

If you purchased an Amazon Kindle, like I did, you may find the device is becoming obsolete if you have an iPad. I’ve been using the free Kindle app on my iPad since the first day I bought it, and haven’t even looked at the Kindle device itself for a couple of months now. Why? Because all the books I purchased are right there on my iPad, and I have a better screen to read the books on. For me, it’s easier on the eyes, and there’s one less device I need to worry about charging.

There are many other apps that I’ve loaded to help me optimize productivity, such as Photoshop Express, WordPress, iThoughtsHD, and Fluent News. But, as useful as these products are, I still see incredible potential for the iPad because it’s still a young product.

If you step back for a moment and think about the greater potential of cloud services and optimizing them for use with the iPad, your mindset has to change from storing stuff locally to storing it in the cloud, or perhaps a hybrid model where local and cloud storage are used together for code, docs, data, etc.. Some things are better suited for this than others, and of course the sensitivity of the data will have to be considered, but in the end, stuff just exists somewhere in a data center, and applications on a server or an end-user on some type of device just interacts with it.

As someone who’s been innovating, delivering and providing customer service for cloud-based applications for years, I looking forward to the next generation of innovative cloud applications, and making contributions where I can to help mature the technology. Feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions or comments.

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