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VOL. 126 | NO. 57 | Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Game-Changer

Apple’s iPad levels business playing field

By Andy Meek

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The first in a series about how the iPad is revolutionizing local business.

Matt Winchell uses an iPad with a home automation system that can control lighting, audio and video, security cameras and systems, and HVAC controls at Phoenix Unequaled Home Entertainment. 
(Photo: Lance Murphey)

It only weighs about a pound, it’s sleek and thin and, from a distance, could almost be mistaken for some kind of clipboard.

The simplicity of the iPad’s appearance aside, however, Apple’s trend-setting tablet computing device has unleashed a revolution in everything from entertainment consumption to the publishing industry and even basic Internet browsing.

Also profoundly touched by that change has been the Memphis business community.

Earlier this month, Memphians joined consumers around the country in lining up outside Apple’s retail stores to get their hands on the company’s newly released next-generation tablet, the iPad 2.

Those iPads are being used by local professionals for everything from dramatic paper reduction to productivity boosters for companies – as well as their clients.

Phoenix Unequaled Home Entertainment, for example, falls in that latter category. The Memphis company specializes in providing technology solutions to satisfy security, entertainment and convenience needs of its mostly residential clients.

That could involve setting up such products as theater systems, lighting controls, security cameras and computer networks.

Phoenix president Scott Fuelling said his company embraced the iPad early on as a tool for internal communications as well as to show product and service demonstrations.

“For us, it’s become a game-changer,” Fuelling said.

More impressively, his company can take the multitude of systems that might exist in a customer’s home – audio, TV, door locks and more – and set them up to run off an iPad, essentially turning the device into a giant remote control.

“Prior to the iPad coming out, touch screens that could be used in a home that were similar were $5,000 to $10,000,” Fuelling said. “With the iPad, it’s at a $500 price point.”

Phoenix has hired a developer to build custom iPhone, iPod and iPad apps, and the company is seeking patents on a couple of those apps.

Phoenix is one of many local examples that, over the next several weeks, The Daily News will take a closer look at. That look will include a series of stories about the whirlwind of change the Apple tablet is bringing to fields like education, health care and marketing.

There are a few common threads linking the device’s uses in those fields, as well as among general business users in Memphis.

At videoconferencing company Interactive Solutions Inc., the iPad is getting a workout similar to the one at Phoenix.

Wade Curtis, marketing support representative for ISI, said the company can custom program an iPad to control an entire conference room the company has outfitted for a customer.

For John Moore, president and CEO of the Greater Memphis Chamber, the iPad has almost become the high-tech, 21st century version of an old fashioned briefcase – albeit one that includes plenty of ultra-modern bells and whistles.

“I book airline tickets from it,” said Moore of the device he got about five months ago. “I’ve got a dictionary. A thesaurus. The Wall Street Journal. The Wall Street Journal app is amazing. I don’t take the paper version anymore.”

His iPad is packed with lots of other reading matter – he uses it to read USA Today, The Economist, Kindle books, iBooks, Google books, the Bible and the U.S. Constitution.

“The other thing is I have an app on here that’s a word processing app,” Moore said, referring to a dictation device on the tablet. “I can email (the finished file) to myself on my laptop or computer here at work, and it’s compatible with Microsoft Word.”

The efficiency and paper reduction was cited by Dean Deyo, president of the Memphis Music Foundation, in explaining why he too thinks the device is so powerful.

“Now that I have it, I love it,” Deyo said. “I sit on the board of a local corporation, and we went to iPads for all of our board communication. The last board meeting agenda was 111 pages, and it saved lots of paper.”

Attorney Lang Wiseman said the iPad holds promise in the legal community as a way to facilitate document presentation at trial and via the abundance of certain trial-specific apps, such as one that makes the jury selection process easier for attorneys called iJuror.

Dan Marks, chief marketing officer for First Tennessee Bank, appreciates the form and functionality of the iPad for its use in meetings. He’s started taking notes on one, which he can then forward to colleagues.

Also, tapping the iPad screen is a lot quieter than using a keyboard, so it’s less intrusive in the meeting.

The device’s business uses extend outside of the four walls of a corporate office.

Rachel Boulden, who’s doing freelance production design work for a movie being shot here called “The Romance of Loneliness,” recently took samples of her work to the guys at Paper Moon, the film production company behind the project.

It was a last-minute interview, but Boulden came armed and prepared to make good use of her interviewer’s time.

She flicked through samples of her work on the iPad she brought along.

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RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 57 307 5,073
MORTGAGES 101 483 6,709
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 22 77 1,556
BUILDING PERMITS 0 720 11,979
BANKRUPTCIES 84 341 5,300
BUSINESS LICENSES 36 125 2,061
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 152 594 7,058
MARRIAGE LICENSES 36 117 1,458

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