Ho Ho Ho, Santa's bringing an iPad

The iPad is a hot item on a lot of holiday gift lists, so if you're giving one or getting one, here are some tips.

1. I would not have thought that the 3G capability was that important, but I bought my iPad with both the wifi and 3G anyway. Some of what I've read recently says skip the 3G. I disagree. I have been amazed how many times I have had to use the 3G. Public wifi is just not as widespread as you would like to think and even if you find yourself in a client office where they have wifi, it may take some effort to get the connection information. That's wasting critical face time with a client while someone scrambles around to find the right connection and passwords. Forget it.

What you can do to save costs is to get the $15 250 mb plan. I know that doesn't sound like much. But since you don't use the 3G that much, you will rarely run up beyond the limit. You can buy more space on the fly from your iPad - or cancel the plan if you want to.

2. The iPad is a remarkably resilient piece of equipment. I carry mine in my purse. I did buy the Apple iPad case - resisting the temptation to purchase fancy leather cases and special padded sleeves to carry the device around it. I also have not put a screen protector on it. Other than brushing off the dog hair and wiping with a damp cloth about once a week, the device requires very little in terms of accoutrements. If you will get freaked out by the constant presence of fingerprints on the screen, the iPad is not for you. You only see them when the device is off!

3. Steve Jobs says the device fails as soon as someone has to reach for a stylus, but depending on what you want to do and what apps you need to use, a stylus is a good idea. They are, however, more expensive than they should be considering that there's not much to them… But it is what it is.

4. What the ipad does require is apps. This is a very personal decision, so if you are giving someone an iPad for Christmas, you'll do well to include an iTunes gift card. Don't worry, most apps are under $5 and a great many are free. How many will you need? That's a very personal thing and it really depends on what you are going to use the iPad for.

If you want some stocking stuffer apps, here are a couple. This is totally subjective and, in general I will steer clear of any app over $7.

News reader: Reeder or Fleedler. Both connect to Google Reader. Feedler has some additional social networking integrations, if you are into that kind of thing. A free version of Feedler has some limitations and banner ads. The full version is $4.99.

Social networking: Flipboard. This great app pulls together twitter, facebook and some customized content channels, via RSS, into a magazine style interface. Instead of meaningless reTweeted links, you see headlines and photos, videos and audio directly in the interface. And the app gives you the ability to comment, reply or reTweet. This app has let me see a lot more of what was being posted than I ever had before. The company has just added content from eight content channels including the Washington Post Magazine, Bon Appetite Magazine, and ABC News to add specialized content. Flipboard is a free app.

Web Conferencing: WebEx, Go To Meeting and Adobe all have an iPad app so you can join a meeting and participate at some level. But if you want to be able to start, run and manage a meeting from your iPad, you will need Fuze Meeting. A one-to-one account is free and the iPad app is free as well.

Books: Ah, the battle between iBooks and Kindle continues. I feel in love with ebooks early on and have a Kindle 1.0. But I love reading books on the ipad and have bought books from iTunes as well as Amazon. But the edge in this area goes to the Kindle for it's sheer accessibility. I keep the Kindle in the bedroom, and I have the app (it's free) on both my iPhone and my iPad. When I launch it on any device, it automatically syncs to the furthest point read on any device. On accessibility and the sheer size of the books available for purchase, Kindle has to be tops in this sector. The iBook is prettier, but unless you're 10 do you really need your book to sing and dance?

Productivity: Apple's commercials show people doing cool things with Pages, Numbers and Keynote. But they are limited in their scope and do not support many of the features of the full app. For example, if you create a presentation on your desktop in Keynote and transfer it to the iPad, you can kiss your speaker notes goodbye. If you only transfer it for presentation purposes, you won't lose the notes but you also can't see them. If you edit it the iPad, it will overwrite the desktop version and your notes are gone. Either way, it's a problem. This is just an example and until I found Office2HD, I was concerned that this could be a barrier to really "working" with the iPad. But Office2Hd makes work possible. It will let you create or edit documents or spreadsheets, including styles, formatting, adding tables, indents, photos and color. On spreadsheets, a full menu of formulas and functions - including database functions - are available. You can connect the app to an idisk, Google Docs, Dropbox, MyDisk, icloud, Box or other WebDav service. And you can save locally or online. Office2HD is $7.99. Generally, that's over the top of my app budget, but this app is worth it.

The Creative Side: We've all got another side. For me, it's the relentless desire to be able to draw. I doodle on everything and struggle to find my inner artist. If you really ARE an artist, you might like Sketchbook from AutoDesk. A large array of brushes, weights, shapes and templates will give you the tools you need to create. But if you are like me you might need some help. I import photos and trace them - then delete the photos and have fun adding color and backgrounds. OK, I guess it is a good thing that I am not trying to make a living with art. But it adds some fun and distraction and is a bargain at 99 cents.

Your app options are vast and once your giftee has opened the iPad, you will be golden anyway!
Portfolio provides services to small businesses in communication, technology and training. Do you want to integrate iPads and iPhones into your business but worried about communication with your enterprise and legacy servers and software? Contact us for a free consultation about how to help your workforce be more mobile and more productive.

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A shortage of qualified talent? Really?

The Inc Magazine newsletter today includes an item that caught my eye and made me scratch my head. The author - Esther Dyson, a Silicon Valley invester - posits that many people make incorrect career choices - choosing the entrepreneurial path - rather than working for someone else. Why? "The search for glory." 

I am a bit puzzled by the piece (read it on the Project Syndicate web site), especially given the times we live in. The writer draws contrasts between the U.S. and other parts of the world where entrepreneurism is not glorified. Still, Dyson says, even in those countries there's a lack of qualified talent because "Most people would rather work for an establish company or for the government." 

"The ecosystem of middle managers is starving", she writes, as people who would make "perfectly good project supervisors or salespeople establish their own companies."

While Dyson sees this as a choice, in our economy, it appears more as a defense mechanism. If there is a shortage of talent to fill mid-level jobs, you can't prove it by spending a few hours at your local unemployment office, talking to many of your friends and former colleagues or attending networking functions. 

People I used to see at Networking events who were actively looking for jobs a year to a 18 months ago -- including me -- have given up a fruitless and demoralizing search in favor of hanging out a shingle and hoping to ride the entrepreneurial wave. Many of them would be happier with the steady income and quasi-comfort zone that a full-time job offers. But those opportunities just are not there. 

If I am wrong and there are companies out there struggling to find qualified, experienced middle management candidates, then I throw down the gauntlet. Lines are open and the largest pool of potential candidates - many, if not most, with considerably reduced financial expectations - are ready to take your call.