Don't tell Steve Jobs, but I've been running Adobe Flash (ADBE) on my iPad. Windows 7, too. My Apple (AAPL) heresy comes courtesy of LogMeIn Ignition, an iPad app that allows me to take control of any Internet-connected computer on which I've previously installed a small piece of host software. While LogMeIn's technology has been around for a while, it has taken Apple's new tablet to unlock its potential. Or maybe vice versa: Ignition may be the first indispensable iPad app.
Setup is a snap. Install the $29.99 app from the iTunes App Store, then establish a user name and password. From each computer you want to control, go to the LogMeIn website and download the needed software, a process that takes less than five minutes. The app works with both Windows PCs and Macs.
When you run Ignition on the iPad, you're taken to a list of every machine you've enrolled. (Computers that are online appear in bold, those that are offline are grayed out.) Choose one, and within moments you're looking at the desktop of your computer, right on the iPad. All your open windows, programs, and files are displayed precisely as they would appear if you were sitting at your desk.
At this point, you can accomplish a lot. Using my Windows PC, I updated my bank accounts with Quicken (INTU) and used the iPad's virtual keyboard to add a few thoughts to a memo I was writing in Microsoft Word (MSFT). On my iMac, I bought a song from iTunes, added a few entries to my Things to-do list, and browsed Safari to view some sites in all their Flash-enabled glory—something that Apple CEO Jobs won't allow in Safari's iPad/iPhone version.
There are limitations. Your remote computers need to be on and connected to the Internet. Some company networks block the access LogMeIn needs. The app doesn't support sound, and navigation takes some getting used to. If you see an icon on the screen, poke at it, and expect it to respond, it won't; you have to use your finger to maneuver the cursor to the item you want to select.
While the LogMeIn app will also work on an iPhone or iPod touch, the iPad's larger screen is far preferable. You're able to see the entire computer desktop all at once, and you can use the iPad's touch interface to pan around and zoom in if you're finding it hard to line up the cursor with a menu selection—or the X in the corner of a Windows box.
While Ignition isn't cheap in app terms, it is a big step toward making the iPad as important for mobile productivity as it is for consuming media.