A business PC user comes to a surprising conclusion as he plays with Apple's mobile 'toys'

Apple's roots lie in computers. However, these days, I've been wondering if Apple actually could pass for a toy company more than a computer technology firm.

Although Apple still offers business computers, it is most prominent today for its nifty consumer devices, including the iPod Touch (which can play music and offer internet access), the iPhone (an iPod Touch with a phone in it), and the newly released iPad (a much bigger version of the iPod Touch).

Because I don't actually own one of these devices myself, I paid a visit to the local Apple store at a shopping centre very close to Apple headquarters in Silicon Valley to try them out.

I spent most of my time looking at the iPad, accessing a 'Beavis and Butthead video, and checking sports scores on ESPN.com. These tasks would certainly qualify as entertainment rather than business uses.

Afterward, I messed around with an iPhone and iPad, finding the much smaller touch interface a bit constraining after playing with the comparatively spacious iPad.

I found all these colourful devices generally fun to use. The store itself was filled mostly with student-age kids who I suspect were more inclined to use the devices for recreational purposes rather than to run businesses.

There are plenty of applications for these systems, many of which would be more categorised as fun and games than business operations.

A glance at Apple's App Store Staff Picks reveals iPhone applications ranging from petrol mileage, flight trackers and expense trackers to a pocket guitar, a digital fishing game, and a New York Times reader.

  1. A die-hard PC users gives his verdicts on Apple's shinny new devices
  2. My verdict

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A business PC user comes to a surprising conclusion as he plays with Apple's mobile 'toys'

Users also can buy songs from iTunes or new applications geared to iPad in categories such as games, social networking, and e-readers.

And judging by my train rides into San Francisco, I'd say the iPod and iPhone have long become the music players of choice for commuters.

The recent iPadDevCamp conference produced a myriad of applications for the iPad, for both recreational and business purposes.

Applications included games, an aid for the visually impaired, and a wireless system for pushing content such as documents and spreadsheets between devices.

"I think Apple's redefining the computer as much more than an appliance," offering a range of capabilities including productivity and utility applications, movies, and games, says Dom Sagolla, an organiser of the event and CEO of iPhone and iPad application builder Dollar App.

Apple still sells desktop computers and servers, including its Xserve pizza-box server, but they do not grab the headlines or the buzz like the handheld units.

Within days of the April 2 availability of iPad, I saw it showing up at different industry events, including Apple's own iPhone OS 4 introduction and DrupalCon SF.

While Apple's glitzy devices are likely requested by kids as birthday or Christmas presents, I'd still have to say Apple is a computer technology venture rather than a toy company.

The systems do offer a variety of uses for both non-recreational and recreational purposes.

Just because they are hotter than Rolling Stones concert tickets right after they go on sale does not mean Apple's consumer-oriented systems have no place in businesses.

Perhaps the clincher for me was a television news report about the Iceland volcano that disrupted air traffic in Europe.

According to the report, the prime minister of Norway was stranded in a US airport and running his country from - you guessed it - his iPad.

Try doing that with the iPad lookalike Etch-a-Sketch or other toys available at Toys 'R' Us.

See also: 12 ways to improve the Apple iPad

  1. A die-hard PC users gives his verdicts on Apple's shinny new devices
  2. My verdict