When Apple's iPad launched in April, it was marketed primarily as a consumer device for reading, playing games and viewing media. But as the tablet computer's popularity has grown, so too has its usefulness in other arenas, including business.
One of the many business needs met by the 900-app strong "Business" category in the App Store is the ability to attend online meetings. The device is particularly well-suited to attending meetings on the go, with its large screen for viewing the presentation and microphone and speakers for VoIP-based discussions.
The popular Web conferencing app GoToMeeting jumped onto the iPad bandwagon early, producing an app that is easy and even sort of fun to use. Simply enter the meeting ID number and your name to join the meeting. From there, you can view the presenter's screen, hear others speaking and respond via the device's microphone or via a headset.
When you first do it, something about holding the meeting presentation in your hands and responding by speaking out loud feels very natural and kind of cool. The only drawback of the app is the inability to take over as meeting presenter or organize meetings from the app. That has to be done from the GoToMeeting desktop interface.
The iPad app for WebEx is very similar to GoToMeeting, in that it's a very cool way to participate in a Web-based conference call and view the presenter's screen. Again, the meetings cannot be scheduled or hosted from the iPad, but rather must be set up from a Web browser on the desktop. If you haven't been invited to a meeting, but still want to try the app, WebEx lets you join a demo meeting with real, live strangers.
Skype for iPhone
It's not the most elegant solution overall, but if your team happens to already use Skype on the desktop for chat-based meetings, the iPad-compatible iPhone app is a great complement to that. It doesn't support video chat (not that it would work on the camera-less iPad anyway), but perhaps that will be in the pipeline if rumors of a front-facing camera on the next iPad come to fruition.
The newest entrant to this space, Fuze Meeting is also the most feature-rich iPad meeting app to date. Unlike GoToMeeting and WebEx, Fuze Meeting lets you initiate and host meetings from the iPad, without requiring any action in a desktop browser. It works with Keynote presentations, supports instant messaging and integrates with Dropbox for access to files hosted in the cloud. Other players in this space will undoubtedly be taking a cue from the new Fuze Meeting app and hopefully beef up their own offerings to compete.