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Your 3-Step Reality Check for the New iPad

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- When it comes to the iPad 3 for businesses, repeat after me: It's just an upgrade. It's not a bad upgrade. It might even be a good upgrade. But if your goal is like mine, to make money with your tablet computer, the latest Apple (AAPL) iPad ($499 for a 16 GB version) looks to be just that: a basic upgrade over the iPad 2.

I'm no iPad hater. I use my vintage first-gen iPad every day to run my business apps, do work email and catch up on my work reading. Fine. And I keep my eyes peeled to see if maybe the latest iteration of the device is worth lining up for at the Apple Store.

When it comes to the new iPad it turns out it's just an upgrade, and not a cheap one.

Well, based on some glimpses of the new iPad over the past week or so, here are three important business reality checks.

1. The iPad 3 is not a game-changing business tool.
The Apple Web site is filled with its usual breathless claims for new functions for the iPad: faster processor, brighter and crisper screen, improved voice recognition and a nifty new camera, all of which have business potential. But the notion that what amounts to a slightly faster, brighter, tablet computer could be any way a significant new business tool is simply nonsense.

The reason, of course, is Apple's cloud-based content management offering -- iCloud -- is not ready for business prime time. It is not team oriented, does not run on enough devices and simply cannot complete with real business apps such as Google (GOOG) Apps, Salesforce.com (CRM) or LiquidPlanner. All of which run beautifully on the iPad, by the way. Until Apple figures out how to make its Internet-based offerings truly iPad specific, this device remains a hardware story, and that's not much of a business tale to tell.

2. This latest iPad will make its bones as a sales tool.
Where firms can get a wee bit excited about the iPad 3 is for selling, specifically as a portable presentation tool. Based on what we are seeing in early demos for screen performance, processor speed and improved interactivity, this tablet computer should be the cool way to present that hot idea of yours. The display offers a vivid visual experience for a portable device. And with improved processing oomph, this machine should be able to master some serious apps. Expect all the big-time app providers to include features for the new iPad such as real-time modeling, sophisticated presentation packages and complex interactive tools. Plus, the form factor and the general buzz will grab the client's attention. If you sell for a living, the iPad will be worth considering to help you close that next deal.


3. Apple will pound you for the privilege.
The big bummer with the iPad 3 -- from a business perspective, at least -- is the cost. At $499 for the 16 GB version and $629 for the 4G LTE version, exclusive of data costs, you are looking at one heck of a pricey tablet. Amazon's (AMZN) Kindle Fire and RIM's (RIMM) BlackBerry PlayBook are $199. And while they probably will not match the iPad in terms of flat-out features and cool factor, they are damn solid tablets. Factor in the cost of data service and all the other tchotchkes you are going to get, such as screens, cases and peripherals, and you're looking at a $1,000-plus first-year cost to own -- a whole lot 'o coin for a simple tablet PC.

Yes, the iPad will continue its category-defining roll. And if you want one, buy one. Knock yourself out. Just realize going in: Some hardware tweaks do not a business revolution make.

As I said, it's just an upgrade.

RELATED STORIES:
>>3 Reasons to Get Your iPad 3 at Wal-Mart
>>3 Apple Products That Are Business Bargains
>>Apple iCloud Isn't the Answer for Businesses

This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.

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