Salesforce.com is very operable in the iPad Safari browser, particularly for content viewing and limited updating. IMHO, it is far preferable than using the iPhone app on it.
Using Salesforce.com on iPad has some very beneficial uses. It is a quick way to lookup information on accounts, contacts, opportunities, etc. It is a quick way to close tasks, update lead status or opportunity stages. Reports and dashboards are viewable as normal. All of this can be done without learning a new user interface. See the video on this page for a demo.
There are some disadvantages as well. It requires an internet connection while the Blackberry and iPhone smartphone apps will cache some data for offline use. Heavy duty data entry or updates might be impractical without attaching a Bluetooth keyboard.
In addition, there are some quirks and the ones I have discovered are covered in the rest of this article. They are not a big deal for iPad enthusiasts, but could be a usability issue in a user adoption effort or hinder integrating iPads into a business process.
Please note that my notes only apply to standard Salesforce functionality. Custom Visual Force pages or AppExchange apps should be evaluated separately.
Device Activation – Salesforce’s device activation process requires access to email in order to get the verification code. The email does not need to be opened on the iPad.
Navigation Bar – Too many tabs on the navigation bar can cause the content area to shrink. This might be a surprise to wide screen display users that have ample horizontal space. The iPad screen is boxier (meant to emulate the aspect ratio of standard letter paper for reading ebooks) and something in Salesforce’s HTML causes the content area to shrink. However, iPad’s double-tap, pinch and expand gestures easily allows focusing on a section.
Inline Editing – Since iPad does not have a gesture corresponding to double click, inline editing does not work. Regular edit and save works fine.
Lookup Fields – Clicking the magnifying glass icon on lookup fields causes the entire screen to be taken over by the popup screen. iPad does not support popup browser windows that just hover over a portion of the screen. Selecting an item from the popup does close the popup, but it does not bring the focus back to the original page. One tap gets back to it, though.
Scrolling Inside Text Boxes – Not really a quirk, but there is a special gesture to scroll inside a screen element. The usual one finger scroll causes the entire screen to scroll. Use two fingers to scroll inside an element like a text box.
Multi-Select Picklists – Multi-select picklists in edit mode show up weirdly. It looks like two single select picklists next to each other with the arrow buttons between them. It does work correctly by selecting one of the picklists, selecting values, and then clicking an arrow button. It just looks weird.
Rich Text Area Field – Rich Text fields are not editable. The text is viewable and is formatted in both view and edit modes, but it will not accept the cursor and the soft keyboard does not popup.
Quotes PDF Preview – The PDF preview of quotes does not work. An error about installing the Adobe Reader is displayed instead. The PDF can still be created and emailed, so it can be emailed to oneself to view it.
Drag and Drop – The iPad does not support drag and drop. It does not affect regular users, but administrators and report writers do need drag and drop for updating page layouts and customizing reports or dashboards.
File System – There is no file system so uploading documents is not possible. Files that are viewable in the iPad Safari browser can be viewed such as PDFs.
Online Help & Training Videos – The online training class video recordings referenced in Help & Training are not viewable.
These are the quirks I have noticed. The iPad is not a full desktop computer so limitations should be expected. Then again, the iPhone, Blackberry, and other smartphone versions are not desktop replacements either. I imagine if an iPad specific version is created, it still will not replace the desktop. In general terms, it is best suited to content viewing with limited updating and not very suited to content creation. In the long term, it might get there, but I don’t have short term expectations of that magnitude. Be sure to test specific use cases before making it an integral part of a process.
Please comment if you notice any other quirks.