Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Definitive entreVIEW Top 10 List of “Must-Have” iPad Apps for Entrepreneurs (at least for this week)

Sometime after Thanksgiving of each year, the annual cascade of “Top 10” lists for the year begins, tempting the “list junkies” (author included if not foremost in that category). This year, I‘ve been trolling through various “lists,” but few have compelled me to go out and actually purchase something. Therefore, I am offering my Definitive entreVIEW “Top 10” List of Must-Have iPad Apps that an entrepreneur just can’t live without (at least until something better comes along).

Why an app top 10 list? Consider the following: since sometime in 2011, the percentage of people utilizing apps outnumbered web use on the basis of hours spent by users. Also, Apple’s app store now has more than a half-million apps, with the total number of downloads jumping from 10 billion to 15 billion between January and July of 2011. Also, from all those apps, six rose to the top—all of which are games. Earlier this month the Android Market announced that its estimated 350,000 apps had accumulated at total of 10 billion downloads  since it opened in 2008.

Like most lists and awards of renown, there needs to be some basic rules. Mine are as follows:   

Criterion 1: These apps are all available for the iPad (preferably iPad2). Some may be available for Droid users, but the focus is for tablet use.

Criterion 2: Except for certain honorable mentions at the end, non-productivity apps (including games) ARE NOT ALLOWED. Therefore, no Angry Birds references other than a link that suggests that Angry Birds may be the single largest contributor to loss of productivity in the workplace. Sorry, Pixelmator (named Apple’s MacApp of the year 2011) and other photo apps need not apply here (unless they instill innovation, organization, or productivity…).

Drum roll please…in no particular order:

Wunderlist: Possibly the best free organization and productivity app on the market. It pulls all Apple-based products into a cloud-based single app that can be synchronized across all of the “task-driven” software on your iPad. If it keeps you on time for just one pitch, it’s done its job. Plus, it’s FREE. Entrepreneurs (like everyone else) love free.

Skype: Whether you’re a traveler or sedentary, married or single, with or without kids, the solution to connectivity by voice and video option is solved forever. Updated only recently for the iPad, the improved camera in the iPad2 does a pretty good job of solving the videoconference juggernaut that travel and quality for business purposes may have posed. Also, it’s FREE.

Googlemaps: Have you ever run out the door only to be midway to a meeting and asked yourself (probably audibly—you know who you are), “Where the bleep am I going?” Googlemaps has—no kidding—very likely saved my life at least once. If you’re trying to find that meeting place for a potential investor and the directions on your calendar invite aren’t getting you there, the analogy just may apply. Streetview via Google may be the greatest invasion of privacy in the last decade, but it sure helps in a pinch. Even better, it’s a “Built-In App” with the iPad thanks to a sweet licensing deal between Google and Apple. Sorry, other tablets don’t have it “built in.” It’s FREE (as are the updates).

LinkedIn: If you like the rest of the world having unfettered access to your closest contacts, referral sources, and clients, this is the app for you. Why spend years building a great personal network when you can just give it away? However, if you ever have that nagging feeling that you “know something” about someone you had just met, but you didn’t know the “what/when/who/how/wheres” for that person (six degrees of separation to Kevin Bacon)—no more. You can simply hop on the LinkedIn App and find out who is a friend of your recent introduction. Buyer beware, people don’t “unfriend” on LinkedIn like Facebook users and there may be more of a matrix of connectivity to someone than you think. As of the date of this blog post, I haven’t seen or used an updated app for the iPad, so it’s functionally smaller (or granier at enlarged size) than it should be, but it’s fast and privacy knows no bounds. It’s FREE.

Dragon Dictation: I know what you’re thinking: “Who dictates anymore?” Surprisingly, many of you do and more will every day because it doesn’t require someone else to figure out what you said into a grainy microphone. If you have the new iPhone 4s, Siri proves the resurgence of voice-activated commands (even Santa Claus uses Siri). However, according to customer feedback, Siri does not recognize southern accents and certain “English” dialects. For those suffering the obvious bias against a southern accent by Apple or for those who haven’t made the upgrade, Dragon is a must-have. If you’re wanting to use it for regular dictation or drafting documents, emails, or texts, this application takes multi-tasking to a whole new level; even Siri doesn’t have the full range of capacity that Dragon does for creating documents. It’s FREE.

QuickOffice: Have you ever found a typo in your PowerPoint before a meeting and you don’t have time to flip open the laptop? QuickOffice Pro, one of iTunes’s top grossing apps ($4.99), is ideal for saving, editing, and editing presentations, Word documents, Excel Spreadsheets, and even open those elusive Adobe files (pdfs). (Do you want to know the real reason why Apple doesn't like pdf)? It’s like taking every file with you, with the ability to edit on the fly.

Notability: I am a proud convert from Notes Plus and Penultimate and I swear that the handwriting software actually improves my handwriting. Yes, many of us can text and type very fast, but an overwhelming majority of us are still dependent on the paper pad and pen. Add a Bamboo stylus by Wacom, and you have the best note-taking/illustration device on the market today. Introduced in November, it already is in the top 10 grossing apps in the App Store. Possibly the best $0.99 that you’ll spend before the New Year.

SAI-Business Insider: My favorite newsfeeds aren’t all reduced to apps yet, although I am patiently waiting. Of course, I like the Entrepreneur Magazine app because it’s a guilty pleasure like People magazine (we all wonder what it’s like to be one of the “beautiful people” in the entrepreneur world) and the WSJ app (because, after all, you do live on planet Earth, right?). Elegant, with the same look and feel as the newspaper without that grimy ink residue on your fingers afterwards, the WSJ app actually makes me want to read the real newspaper as well. However, for news by subject, one of the best, with a focus on entrepreneurs, is SAI. Get the free app, get the updates, read it daily. For those who need a distraction in their news, SAI has that, too. The powerful part of SAI is the tech news, podcasts, and input from all corners of the U.S. about relevant news for entrepreneurs and business. Also, it’s a bit unorthodox and politically incorrect, which keeps your senses tuned. It’s FREE.

Citrix Receiver: Can you say, “greatest thing since sliced bread?” If your company is big enough to have an IT department but is not yet “on the cloud,” this is it. Even so, if you’re on the cloud, getting access to the company server and your own desktop is an absolute must. Granted, rumors of bugs in the system swirl, but this robust offering of a full desktop makes other apps stand at attention—it could possibly be the greatest tool for workspace mobility. The small screen for the iPad may not be the best for that work during a layover at SFO airport, but if you’re a road warrior, pick up the $39 Apple Digital HDMI adaptor and use any HD screen you want when you get to your destination. Plus, if you need to show some spreadsheets on the fly, you can never use the excuse that “I forgot them at the office.” Also FREE.

WebEx: Another Cisco product, and this one tops this list for expense. Bite the bullet and write it off as an expense. For those investor pitches where you want to have a captive audience, while not having people “flip ahead” in your presentation materials, this enterprise solution with iPad app connectivity is a must-have for presentations, either in person or remotely. While not cheap, the utility is remarkable and provides for state-of-the-art presentations with spreadsheets and charts. It will make your head swirl when you can scroll through the participant’s simultaneous video and the software recognizes who is talking and brings his or her image to the front of the screen. Try the free demo and see how WebEx will hold the market until Microsoft can turn Skype into a more robust competitor for multiple users and presentations. The app (but not the host software) is FREE.

Honorable mentions

docScan HD: Be honest, how often do those important lunch and travel receipts, not to mention business cards, end up in the washer and dryer? You need to keep those receipts and copies of “stuff” somewhere and the IRS has some stringent rules on verifying expenses for deducting business expenses. Someone will develop a better app, but for the meantime, docScan HD has a mean scan app that utilizes the standard equipment on the iPad and allows for easy handling of those small pieces of paper. Save a tree, download the app. It’s FREE.

Cut the Rope (chillingo): Physics meets massive time vacuum. (Okay…it’s a game, I admit it, but it’s not technically on the list.) This game is addictive, but in a good way. If you like problem solving with a nod to Isaac Newton, this one is pretty cool. That being said, if Isaac Newton had had this game, we might have ended up with just two laws of gravity.  Its $0.99—practically free.

Doom Counter: You just can’t go wrong with a Mayan calendar apocalypse clock that not only provides a countdown of the amount of time remaining before the end of days, but also provides updates on solar flares and seismic activity. Put this app right between your Wunderlist organizer and your e-trade app and see how your daily habits change. This app actually has a useful calendar and provides feeds. Okay, maybe it’s not exactly productivity driven, but everyone needs a little motivation, right?

This list should remain current at least until the second week of January; by then Apple and Droid should have another 1,000 new apps vying for a spot on next year’s 2012 top 10 list. Have a favorite of your own that didn’t make my list? Feel free to suggest it.

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