Five Legit Business Reasons for Buying an iPod

If you spent the weekend at the mall, you no doubt encountered the array of new Apple iPods—Nano (multiple colors available), Touch, Classic and, of course, the iPhone—plus a multitude of other MP3 players and their assorted accessories. While you’re willing to lay down a few hundred bucks for these musical toys, you may feel a pang of guilt for your indulgence. No worries. The iPod and its brethren have legitimate business applications, making them perfect holiday gifts for your co-workers and, potentially, a tax write-off:

1) Training: You can say that a conference room or hotel conference center is the better setting for business and skills training, but many companies are using MP3 players to provide their employees with work tips and project information. Users can download audio files at their leisure, listen during their commute or workout, and absorb information faster than by reading white papers.

2) Professional Development: New business and technology titles seem to flood bookstore shelves on a daily basis, yet who really has time to read the latest Malcolm Gladwell expose or Alan Greenspan’s memoirs and economic thesis? The number of contemporary and classic business and tech titles listed on iTunes and other online services is growing exponentially. True, many execs still prefer the tactile experience of breaking the spine of a book and thumbing through pages, but audiobooks have the advantage of zero weight in your already packed shoulder bag.

3) Communications: Be honest—how many e-mail messages do you read from top to bottom? Few of us have the ability to completely absorb all of the information coming at us via e-mail or intranet sites. That’s why some companies are using executive podcasts as an alternative means of disseminating information to internal sales and operations teams.

4) Storage: OK, security guys will hate this, but it’s true: iPods—especially those monsters with 80 or 160 gigabytes of space—are great portable media devices. If you need to carry a number of large files, back up an important project while traveling or transfer large files between clients, your iPod can serve as a flash memory drive.

5) Sales and Marketing: Some companies are using iPods as a platform for distributing marketing messages, media kits, slide shows and other pertinent information to existing clients and prospective accounts. The new Nanos and similar devices also have the potential to deliver that information using video. Think about how your customers will appreciate a digital boatload of information they can delete and replace with the latest Green Day and Beyonce singles.

The final analysis: Do you really need an excuse to buy an iPod? Probably not. Most of us already own Apple’s innovation or a competing device. The question is whether you can get the expense report or purchase order past your accounts payable department. How many of us will actually use an iPod for business purposes? If we occasionally use one to listen to a tech podcast or watch a corporate video, then we’ve more than justified the expense.

Lawrence M. Walsh is the editor of Baseline magazine and regular columnist for Channel Insider. How are you using your iPod for business purposes? Share your stories with Larry at [email protected].