Apple's new iPad will be a tempting business tool for mobile professionals, claim analysts who study technologies geared to boost enterprise productivity.
Despite demonstrations from Apple CEO Steve Jobs that portrayed the iPad as a media consumption device, eWEEK tech analyst Cameron Sturdevant noted that the increased consumerization of IT guarantees the iPad will end up in the enterprise, adding:
"Employees will want to integrate their work e-mail and calendar information with those applications on the iPad. And since there are thousands of business-oriented App Store applications already available for the iPhone and iTouch, including connectors to Salesforce.com, it's only a question of 'when' not 'if' the iPad will wend its way into your organization."
Forrester Research analyst Ted Schadler said that the tablet will catch on as an employee-provisioned third device among mobile professionals, who comprise 28 percent of the enterprise workforce.
Corporate employees will buy iPads, which will range from $499 to $829 in March (Wi-Fi only) and April (with 3G), and then use them on the road as they travel from company headquarters to remote offices, or from one business meeting to the next.
The big screen with multitouch capabilities will make it an efficient device for accessing Web services. Moreover, Schadler said some workers will take their iPads in lieu of their work-sanctioned laptops because the tablet will suit their productivity needs for e-mail, calendar, contacts and Web conferencing.
Apple is offering its iWork word processing, presentation and spreadsheet applications for $9.99 each on the iPad. Ideally, this suite will give executives what they need to present on the road, Schadler said.
He added that Microsoft, the reigning king of enterprise productivity software, would do well to write software for the iPad in its own Office formats or risk losing market share to Apple's iWork suite.
Apple Insider's Prince McLean said the iPad now supports VGA output for driving a projector directly, setting up the device as a fine keynote presentation tool in conjunction with the iWork apps.
Users can mark up slides and point with a virtual laser pointer as the presentation continues, McLean wrote.
Apple is working on additional features that haven't been publicly announced, including support for direct network printing from iPad apps and accessing shared files from a local file server, he wrote.
How will IT managers handle this? It depends on the shop, Schadler said.
"This thing will take off among high net worth mobile pros," Schadler predicted. "And IT should be OK with that, at least in non-regulated industries where the lack of application management and device control tools are not big issues. After all, iPad is really just a big iPhone," and 20 percent of businesses already support these smartphones.
Schadler also believes the iPad could pressure Google to improve its Android development platform "so developers can target that platform with the same relative ease as they can target the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad market."
Of course, computer makers such as Dell, Acer and Asus will need to distribute Android tablets and netbooks to compete with the iPad.
That would set Google and Apple up for a duel in the enterprise for mobile workers, as well as among consumers surfing the Web from the comfort of their couches.