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Can you run a small business from an iPad 2?

Our guest reviewer, Mark Needham, looks at whether Apple's flagship tablet is worth the expense for cash-strapped start-ups

In a new fortnightly feature, Mark Needham, founder of fast-growing technology company Widget, will be putting the latest gadgets, tools and gizmos through their paces to find out how (or indeed if) they can help entrepreneurs. First up: can you run a small business from an iPad 2?

Of course you want an iPad 2, but can you really justify it as a business expense? There are certainly business uses for an iPad. You can read and answer your email on it, usually in less time than it takes to power up Outlook. It is ideal if you want to dip into work related articles, background paperwork or research something on the web.

It can be used as a front-end into a larger system, and it would be possible to generate invoices from it if you subscribe to a cloud-based accounting system such as Brightpearl or Kashflow.

But the iPad is primarily a tool for reading content created by others, not creating something yourself, and if you are in business you probably need to create documents yourself. As an example, while I researched this article using an iPad, when it came to sitting down and typing 300 words on the subject, I used a PC with a proper keyboard.

Most business is still based around spreadsheets designed with Microsoft Office, and you simply cannot create an adequate business model on an iPad.

It might be possible to make a living using only an iPad – you do some work for a client, you get paid, you go on to the next piece of work – but this is a business model that works without any computer at all.

To run a serious business you need to plot your budget income, expenditure, and cashflow and to periodically match them against your actuals.

You can still do this using pen and paper and use an iPad to access Facebook, but if you are in business to make a profit then it makes sense to have a PC or Mac as a primary computer - and if you can afford it, to have an iPad as a secondary device.

Price Reassuringly expensive
Likely impact on your business 5/10
Likely impact on you 9/10
Usability 9/10
Pro Great for reading, researching or messing about on the internet
Con Don’t kid yourself it’s real work

Mark Needham is the founder of Widget.co.uk, a specialist B2B distributor of consumer electronic goods. He writes a blog, on a PC, which is at www.markneedham.org

Device supplied by Vodafone UK Business; iPad 2, £190.83 on 24-month pay monthly plans

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