Apple has released the final version of iOS 4.2 to developers, and will soon make the update available to the general public–possibly as early as this morning according to some reports. The first major update of iOS for the iPad brings a number of tweaks and changes, including a few that greatly enhance the value of the Apple tablet for mobile business users.
For users who also have an iPhone or iPod Touch, the long (very long) wait for Apple to introduce an iOS 4.0 update for the iPad has been barely tolerable. Switching between the iPhone 4 and an iPad is like going between Windows 7 and an old Windows XP system; you try to use the features and tools that make the more current system more efficient and productive, and end up frustrated when you remember that the legacy platform lacks those functions.
Folders: With nearly 300,000 apps available–more than 40,000 iPad specific–it doesn’t take long to clutter the iPad up with a chaotic menagerie of icons. The more useful tools you add to the iPad, the harder it is to find them. Folders will let users group iPad apps in whatever way makes the most sense to them to make them easier to locate and use.
Multitasking: The value of multitasking on the much smaller iPhone display is questionable, but on the iPad it will greatly enhance productivity. The iPad can replace notebooks and netbooks as a mobile computing platform in a variety of scenarios, but the lack of multitasking has limited its effectiveness. Users need to be able to switch between researching information on the Web, reviewing data from a spreadsheet, and writing a report without having to start fresh each time they switch.
E-mail: The unified Inbox in iOS 4.2 makes it significantly more efficient for users that maintain multiple e-mail accounts. Rather than having to manually switch back and forth between accounts, users can see all of the e-mail messages in one place. iOS 4.2 can also group e-mail messages based on the conversation thread–making it easier to follow an e-mail discussion over time.
Enterprise Support: Many businesses have already embraced the iPad, but there are also many that are reluctant because the iPad lacks crucial elements. iOS 4.2 introduces new security features, device management tools, and integration that help IT admins maintain and protect the tablets within a business networking environment.
International Support: English is a default language in more countries than any other language, and it is the leading language on the Web, but alternative languages–especially Chinese and Spanish–are rapidly gaining ground. iOS 4.2 adds a variety of international keyboard and dictionary options that will make the tablet more valuable as a business tool around the world for non English-speaking users.
Whether it’s tomorrow, or Friday, or next week, the iOS 4.2 update will make the iPad a much more effective business tool, and a significantly more formidable competitor for the avalanche of rival tablets coming to market.