Jun 22, 2013 (05:06 AM EDT)
8 Cool Cloud Tools For iPad
Read the Original Article at InformationWeek
The iPad, like all mobile devices, is inherently cloud-centric. Without an Internet link to ferry data, the tablet computer's capabilities are severely limited. And its dependence on cloud-oriented apps will only increase. Gartner predicts that 40% of mobile app projects by 2016 will leverage cloud back-end services.
Cloud-focused apps, such as storage and syncing services as well as productivity suites, have a particularly strong appeal to business users. The iPad, of course, is designed to work well with Apple's in-house cloud services, such as iCloud and iTunes, but an increasing number of third-party apps provide attractive alternatives, particularly for enterprises managing devices from multiple vendors: iPads, Windows PCs, Android phones or tablets, and so on.
Tablets are starting to see duty in the workplace, in large part because their form factor makes them superior to PCs for many tasks. As InformationWeek's Michael Endler writes, businesses now are finding many uses for iPads and other tablets, including food ordering and payment in restaurants, e-form filing for law enforcement personnel, and operations management on factory floors. Laptops and desktops are still superior at more conventional PC tasks, however, such as programming, writing long reports, image editing and working with spreadsheets.
For many iPad users, Microsoft Office remains elusive. There are many cloud-based alternatives, of course, some of which we discuss in this slideshow. Apple and Google offer productivity suites with varying levels of MS Office compatibility, including the ability to sync documents with cloud services. And Microsoft recently released a so-so version of Office that's optimized for the iPhone, but not the iPad. This strategy appears designed in part to boost the appeal of Windows tablets, which can run full-fledged versions of Office. It has its risks, however, such as creating pent-up demand for Office-compatible iPad apps that Microsoft's competitors are eager to satisfy.
The iPad is tightly integrated with iCloud, which remains the easiest solution for backing up and syncing documents, contacts, photos, videos, songs and other stuff that matters to you. And this fall iCloud will add new features designed to boost its advantage over its many cloud-storage competitors, most of which offer more free storage.
Dig into this slideshow to see cloud-oriented apps, tasks and tools for your iPad. Even if you're already familiar with some of our suggestions, you should find features that are new to you. And remember that no iPad is an island (with sincere apologies to John Donne).
Great news! Microsoft Office has come to iOS. Well … sorta maybe. The new Office Mobile for iPhone is an intentionally neutered version that's optimized for a smartphone display. It also requires an Office 365 subscription, which costs $100 per year for the Home Premium plan. Sure, you can run Office Mobile on your iPad -- at 2x magnification -- but it's a subpar experience.
There's another option that's better for iPads: Office Web Apps, which has scaled-down versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and One Note. Documents are kept in the cloud on Microsoft's SkyDrive service. Using a browser, you sign into your Microsoft account, and then use Web Apps to create, edit and view documents. Web Apps have the same look and feel as traditional Office apps, although browser-based editing can be slow at times.
The beauty of Apple's iCloud Backup service is that it runs automatically in the background. Once you've configured it, you're pretty much done unless you want to tweak the settings later. The bad news is that Apple provides a measly 5 GB of free online storage. Want more? The annual fee ranges from $20 for an extra 10 GB to $100 for 50 GB.
Let's say you want more than 5GB -- but don't want to pay for it. One option is to turn off iCloud and use iTunes to back up your photos, videos, contacts and other stuff. Or you could try a third-party cloud service such as Google Drive (15 GB free) or Yahoo Flickr, which offers a staggering 1 TB of free space. A couple of Flickr app caveats: There isn't an iPad-optimized version, and the app backs up photos but not videos.
AirDrop for iOS 7, which arrives later this year, is Apple's answer to Android Beam, a tap-and-share technology for a quick, short-range transfer of contacts, bookmarks, videos and other personal data. Using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, AirDrop allows users of iOS 7 devices to do pretty much the same thing, only without the tapping.
If you use a 3rd-generation or older iPad, however, AirDrop won't work with your device. Here's a workaround: A third-party app such as Instashare, which also uses Wi-Fi or Bluetooth for close-range file transfers. The free version has ads; the 99-cent edition is ad-free. Instashare runs on iOS and Mac OS X. An Android version is in the works, the developer says.
Google continues to improve its cloud-based productivity suite, a tireless effort that must cause at least a few sleepless nights for the Microsoft Office folks. The latest version of Google Drive for iOS makes collaborative editing easier by adding support for comments. You now can create, view and respond to comments in Google Docs files, a feature that makes the Drive app a more appealing cloud suite for iPad-toting workgroups. The new version, released in early June, also lets you swipe through images stored in your Drive account.
Apple's recent unveiling of its iTunes Radio music streaming service is tacit admission that cloud-based jukeboxes are the wave of the future, not its still-profitable iTunes business model of selling individual songs and albums. Ironically, Apple's well-stocked App Store has many cloud-based alternatives to iTunes, including Amazon Cloud Player, Pandora Radio, Rdio, Spotify and very soon Google Play Music All Access.
These apps might appeal to people pondering a switch to a non-Apple tablet. For instance, Microsoft said recently that an iTunes app for Windows 8 won't arrive "any time soon." This news poses a problem for iTunes aficionados switching from the iPad to a Windows RT slate. Why? Windows RT can't run traditional Windows desktop software, which means RT users can't use the iTunes for Windows program.
Tired of waiting for Microsoft to release a native version of Office for iPad? Unhappy with either Office Mobile for iPhone or Office Web Apps? Well, give Google's Quickoffice Pro HD for iPad a shot. It lets you create, edit and view Word, Excel and PowerPoint files (versions 1997 through 2010), as well as save files as PDFs, print using iOS AirPrint, and open, edit and save files from SharePoint. So where's the "cloud" angle in all of this? The $20 Quickoffice Pro HD works with a variety of cloud services, including Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, SugarSync and others.
When an SMS/text message arrives, the iPad shows a preview of it on the home screen. This feature, though convenient, might pose a security threat, particularly in a cloud-oriented world where corporate workers take mobile devices wherever they go. Say you're in intensive negotiations with a client, and you set your iPad on a conference table for everyone to see. BAM! A potentially damaging message pops on the screen -- "the client's mom wears army boots." Guess who reads it? Smartphones, including the iPhone, have a preview feature too, but their screens are smaller and easier to conceal. A full-size iPad, on the other hand, provides a tempting target for wandering eyes.
Good news: It's easy to turn off home screen preview. Go to Settings --> Notifications --> Show Preview, and slide the button to OFF. Remember, even if you're aware of this tip, your colleagues might not be. So spread the word.
A versatile productivity app should integrate nicely with a variety of cloud services, not just iCloud. Take CloudOn, which lets you use Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint on your iPad to create, review and edit files. In addition, you can delete, rename and manage documents with a Box, Dropbox, Google Drive or SkyDrive account.
Two more options: the free Onlive Desktop, a virtual Windows desktop for the iPad that comes with Windows versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint; and Dataviz's $17 Documents To Go Premium, which works with the same big three Office apps, and also lets you view, edit and sync files from Google Docs, Dropbox, Box and SugarSync.