SharePoint and the iPad – A Detailed Look

For those whose glass is half full, whose grass is quite green and whose life is full of lollipops and roads to candy mountain, I’m afraid this post may indeed rain on your iPad productivity parade.

Lets all say it together, “THE iPAD IS NOT A LAPTOP REPLACEMENT.”  Repeat that 10 times a day before turning on your iPad and you’ll be fine.

I love my iPad.  I’ve never used a mobile device more and it’s turned my wife and I into a consuming maniacs.  However, while being liberated to true mobility, it’s as though I’ve been locked out of my day to day Office productivity.  When the powers that be (Mr. Softy and Apple) decide to release an Office Suite and a decent browser for the iPad, a Tablet Productivity Renaissance will surely ensue.  Until then, we must fend off the idealogues and take a pragmatic approach to integrating this into the business workspace.  Woe to those who embark on this treacherous journey for disappointment and garbled Excel files are around every corner.

Office Purgatory
The iPad is not very good at displaying Office documents.  It’s much worse at editing.  Even having the wrong colors, table configurations, images or margins can render your documents undisplayable.  Forget macros or complex Excel workbooks.  You’re doomed if you rely on PowerPoint – test very thoroughly before trying to impress colleagues.  I’ve spent well over $200 in apps to make the business case work to include Quick Office, Numbers, Keynote, and DocsToGo.  The latter is your best bet and it’s not a very good one.  By the way, PDF is the way to consume on the iPad.  Check out GoodReader to manage your files.

SharePoint Problems on the Web
The SharePoint web experience is very dismal as well.  It is best to say that it is NOT supported and let users be pleasantly surprised if content appears correctly.  Trust me, there are lots of pitfalls for the casual user navigating the troubled waters in the SLOW, LEAKY, anathema of a browser known as Mobile Safari.  You think I’m being a little hard?  Try reading this.  By the way, save your money on purchasing other iOS browsers.  They all seem to use the same web toolkit.  Here’s a brief list of unsupported features:

  • Unbelievably slow in what content it does render.
  • Modal window support is sketchy.  I’ve had it try to open Modal windows in a new browser window.  Modal windows are iFrames that SharePoint uses to keep you from transitioning to another page when pulling up a settings page for example.  The background greys out and a what appears to be a window will popup.  Very convenient if you’re NOT on iOS.
  • “Tags & Notes” is a modal that does manage to open but it takes about 3-5 minutes to render.  Basically, it’s unusable.  I gave up trying to post to it.
  • No SQL Server Reporting Service Web Parts due to plugin reliance.
  • No People Picker – even on InfoPath.
  • No Rich Text Editor support – therefore no editing web content.
  • No Silverlight (no Performance Point and PowerPivot Gallery).
  • No RSS feed web part support.  Mobile view is supported.
  • No upload.
  • BCS External List would not load in my tests.
  • Twitter widget in a Content Editor Web Part would not render.
  • Two finger scrolling required as frames do not render properly
  • See the DESKTOP Safari limitations for a more comprehensive list.  Just keep in mind that Mobile Safari has far more problems.

Essential Apps to Keep Your Sanity Online (while taking your work offline)

Apps to the rescue and actually the story is much better here.  They allow you take many of your documents offline and even sync later (if you dare to edit).  Having tried a few devices, the SharePoint story on iOS is actually the best out there when it comes to app support.  This includes Windows Phone 7 and it’s Office hub.

  • SharePlus – online and offline list and library browsing for both SharePoint 2007 and 2010.  This by far is the best app out there for SharePoint and well worth the money if you’ve got it deployed.
  • Filamente – similar to SharePlus – sketchy offline browsing.  Has better view/sorting support than SharePlus.
  • ReportsPro – an expensive way to view SSRS reports.  You can point it at a library in SharePoint 2010 and it will render a PDF version of the report.
  • DocumentToGo – good for viewing Office docs and some features for editing.
  • GoodReader – good for PDF viewing.
  • SkyFire – for displaying some flash files
  • HootSuite
  • Flipboard
  • AppAdvice
  • Kindle/Nook
  • DisplayLink – Extending your desktop on your iPad
  • Citrix and iTap – using your iPad as a remote client to desktop.  Remoting into your Windows client may seem like a good idea but in practice, it’s horrible.  Unless you’ve got tiny-pointy fingures, you’ll struggle with navigation.  Windows 7 is made for a mouse or stencil.  NOT the iPad stincil which is a waste of money due to lack of fidelity.

Prophet of Doom (or is that Xoom?)

I don’t see Microsoft catching up with Apple’s momentum in the tablet market.  With 60,000 apps targeted at the iPad,  it will take more than a fancy new Windows OS and hardware to make up the ground.  Just ask Android as it spins a new OS every quarter now but still offers a paltry assortment of tablet applications.  I also don’t see Apple making much headway into the Enterprise without significantly strengthening both the business consuming and productivity story.  I had high hopes for Android but it seems to be off to a bumbling start with malware and security problems.  The chance of Office integration on the Android seems remote as Google has been rather upfront in trying to kill Microsoft’s Golden Goose.  I think it’s far more likely that Microsoft begins selling Office on iOS – although this may spell certain doom for them in breaking into the mobile tablet market any time soon.

So here we stand…in limbo.  Like an awful episode of LOST, I feel both tortured and extremely pleased with my iPad.  My hope is that the combination of Apple losing market share to Android and Microsoft FINALLY realizing their tech-lag is outrageous will create an opportunity for an Apple-Microsoft partnership that the consumer will ultimately benefit from.  I guess I’ll go ride my Unicorn home now…CHARLIE??!


~ by spninjablog on March 24, 2011.

6 Responses to “SharePoint and the iPad – A Detailed Look”

  1. Mike – I have very similar opinions towards my iPad as you. The areas I struggle with are office apps and notetaking. I think your best bet is really a workaround – using LogMeIn and connecting to a suitable workstation. For note taking I have been really trying to use mind mapping tools such as iThoughts HD. -D

  2. Interesting read. I blooged on a similar topic the other week ( Be great if you could add me to your blogroll?

  3. Entertaining read and right on! I love what the iPad has done for creating excitement and innovation around what can be done with such a device. Unfortunately, as you point out, it’s got a LONG ways to go to be an effective device in the corporate environment for other things than just consuming info. To make it usable, one has to write custom apps that fulfill these purposes – not a road to be undertaken lightly!

  4. Good piece, although disappointing that mobile safari has so many flaws. I use dropbox for storage and office2hd for office apps and I’m very happy with doc fidelity in office2hd. Mobile iWork apps are a third rate waste of money.

  5. If you value security and a native iPad UI, I suggest taking a look at ionGrid’s Nexus product ( They have an enterprise solution, but I’ve just been using there Nexus Connect product. It’s solved the office rendering problem (100% pixel perfect rending of all docs) and though their annotation tools are limited it allows me to get done what I need to.

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