Why the iPad mini is an essential business tool

It's not difficult to create Passbook items - Apple has published extensive documentation explaining how to create them and sites such as Passsource.com can do the whole thing for you.

Managing employees' iPad minis

Apple offers a good selection of management features for business owners, although to get the most from them you need a Mac so that you can use the free Apple Configurator app.

Apple Configurator is ideal for relatively small organisations who need to control multiple iPads (and other Apple devices) but who don't necessarily have dedicated IT departments to take care of such tasks. The app enables you to put devices into Supervised Mode, which in turn enables you to load them with pre-defined packages of applications, data and system settings. Such packages can have a time limit, so for example you could give a temporary employee access to important company applications, systems or data for the duration of a particular project or contract, with that access automatically revoked once the project or contract is over.

Apps such as Oracle Business Intelligence are designed to connect to large firms' information systems

Use corporate apps like Oracle Business Intelligence from your iPad mini

Apple Configurator can set everything from the simple to the serious, from specifying the images that appear on employees' lock screens and wallpaper to backing up users' data, blocking social networks or routing all their internet traffic through your own servers to prevent them from accessing or uploading anything they shouldn't.

You can disable access to specific applications and hardware features, for example by limiting use of the camera, blocking iMessage or Game Center or preventing iPads from being synchronised with non-approved computers, and you can also use the program to automatically update devices when a new version of the iOS 6 operating system is released.

Business apps on the iPad mini

One of the iPad mini's key selling points is that it runs the same apps as a full-sized iPad, and there are plenty of business-related apps to choose from. Such apps [https://itunes.apple.com/gb/genre/ios-business/id6000?mt=8] tend to come in two flavours: stand-alone apps that do something useful by themselves, such as office programs and productivity software, and apps that connect to bigger systems, such as remote control apps and customer data apps.

In the former category you'll find Apple's own Pages word processor, Numbers spreadsheet and Keynote presentation program as well as Adobe Reader for digital forms, countless Microsoft Office compatible applications, business card scanners and productivity applications.

Remote control apps such as LogMeIn enable you to use the iPad mini to control faraway PCs and Macs

Login in to your desktop using LogMeIn on the iPad mini

In the second category you'll find remote access apps such as LogMeIn, which enables you to remotely control a Mac or PC from your iPad, Cisco WebEx Meetings, which connects to Cisco videoconferencing servers, and Oracle Business Intelligence Mobile HD, which connects to Oracle systems.

The gap between Apple's selection of apps and Google's isn't as large as it once was - where Apple boasts more than 700,000 apps, Google says its Google Play store has the same amount - but Apple has more tablet-specific apps, and while both stores have their fair share of pointless applications, Apple vets apps and Google doesn't. The result, inevitably, is that Google's platform suffers from malware (malicious software): security firm McAfee says that malware writers are transferring their attention from PCs to mobile devices, and that Android is their main target. Meanwhile iOS apps currently remain malware-free.

The iPad mini: verdict

The business sector may traditionally belong to Microsoft, but it seems Apple has an advantage in this market: Windows 8 and Windows RT are currently targeting the market for larger tablets, not seven-inch ones. That means that for now, the iPad's main rivals are Amazon's Kindle Fire HD and Google's Nexus 7. For businesses, Amazon's tablet isn't really a contender - it's designed primarily for content consumption - and while Google's small tablet is much cheaper than the iPad mini it lacks a 4G version, the same number of tablet-optimised apps and Apple's brand awareness and familiarity. By delivering the full iPad experience for the price of a netbook or cheap laptop, Apple looks like it's onto a winner here.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.