The iPad debate over whether it is a simple consumer toy, or a revolutionary business tool--or some grey area compromise between the two continues. However, the 3G models fundamentally shifts the debate in favour of business tool.

Granted, the 3G connectivity will not be available in the UK until May at best, but that said, the 3G iPad still offers a compelling device for mobile business professionals.

With the right apps, the iPad can fill the role of the notebook for most scenarios. Rather than lugging around a four or five pound notebook with a meager two hours of battery life, mobile business professionals can carry the iPad--slimmer, lighter, and four times the endurance when it comes to battery life.

Notebooks with 3G connectivity, or using a 3G USB modem or tethered to a 3G mobile device, do offer an advantage over the Wi-Fi-only iPad models in that they are capable of connecting to Internet and Web-based resources from virtually anywhere, rather than relying on the availability of a Wi-Fi network. That 3G convenience comes with a price, though--a monthly price with a contractual obligation to pay it whether it is used or not.

Mobile business professionals often have the 3G functionality as an insurance plan that can be activated on the fly if needed, and turned back off just as easily.

Rick Lindner, CFO of AT&T, who are providing the 3G iPad connectivity in the US, said: "We believe, the device, based on where we believe it will be used--in homes, in offices, coffee shops, bookstores, airports, will be used a substantial amount of time in a Wi-Fi environment. And so we'll just have to monitor this usage as the device gets out there. And if it's substantially different, we'll adapt to it."

Another advantage that the 3G iPad has over its Wi-Fi-only sibling is GPS functionality. Business professionals can make use of location-based services and mapping to navigate to customer sites, or find the nearest coffee shop or a decent place for lunch.

The iPad isn't without its limitations, and it won't completely replace a notebook or desktop PC for the majority of users, but the 3G iPad offers a solid mix of productivity and mobile connectivity in a more portable and longer-lasting form factor that make it ideal for mobile business professionals.

About the author:

Tony Bradley is co-author of Unified Communications for Dummies.