5 Amazing iPad Business Apps

Last Updated Apr 2, 2010 1:32 PM EDT

Okay, so I'm on record as saying the iPad is a toy, not a business tool. And yet a flurry of recently announced apps is causing me to rethink that position.

Though I haven't tried any of these firsthand (the iPad doesn't go on sale until tomorrow, remember), I'm confident they'll be an asset to any business-minded iPad user.

1. Box.net Like its iPhone predecessor, the free Box.net iPad app (above) provides access to all the documents stored in your Box.net account. But this version leverages the iPad's roomy screen, offering a two-pane navigation system: a document list on the left, and the selected document's contents on the right. I'd call this cloud computing at its best.

2. Cisco WebEx Meeting Center Though not yet live in the App Store (only the iPhone version is there at the moment), Cisco's free WebEx (right) promises to bring online meetings to your iPad. You can chat, view presentations, listen to meeting audio, and even participate on VoIP calls. If this doesn't show up in Apple's next iPad commercial, I'll be shocked.

3. iDisplay When you're working at your desk, the iPad isn't exactly earning its keep. This $4.99 app turns it into a secondary monitor for your Mac -- a 10-inch monitor, granted, but that's still room enough to hold a browser window, address book, or the like. (You'll have to supply a dock or stand of some kind.) Thankfully, a Windows version is in the works.

4. LogMeIn Ignition Run Windows on an iPad! Well, sort of. LogMeIn provides remote access to your PCs, so the end result is not unlike having a Windows-powered iPad. I'm already a fan of the app on my comparatively tiny iPhone; imagine how much better the experience is on an iPad. LogMeIn is still overpriced at $29.99 -- but worth it.

5. OmniGraphSketcher Forget scribbling charts and diagrams on cocktail napkins. This nifty app ($14.99) lets you finger-sketch your way to attractive, colorful graphs, complete with labels, shapes, arrows, and other Visio-type tools. When you're done, you can e-mail the graph as a PDF and/or save it to your iPad's photo library.

Neat stuff, no? I'm also encouraged by the newspaper apps from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today.

Oh, and the new iPad-only Netflix app, which lets you watch streaming movies and TV shows on-demand? Forget business, I'm hitting the couch! (Box.net screenshot via CNET)

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    Rick Broida, a technology writer for more than 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET's The Cheapskate blog, he contributes to CNET's iPhone Atlas.