When Steve Jobs first announced the iPad, many consumers were suspect. They weren’t necessarily sure that the device had what it takes to deliver a unique enough experience for it to offer any real viability to consumers or enterprise customers. After all, it’s little more than a big iPod Touch with some added functionality built in. And due to its lack of a USB port and multitasking, they just weren’t sure if it was really worth the starting price of $499. I agreed with those people.
But then I got my hands on the iPad. And I quickly discovered that this device is ideally suited for enterprise users.
The enterprise is a difficult nut to crack for most tech companies. Most enterprise customers are set in their ways, and they like things done a certain way. They need everything to work the same way to ensure productivity doesn’t slip. And perhaps most importantly, they need the software they most commonly use to be available to users at any time.
Those requirements would immediately place any tablet on the back burner for most companies. But the iPad is different. It delivers such a unique take on computing and getting the job done that most companies would likely prefer it over a laptop. It’s a surprise, I know. But it’s quite true. Here’s why:
1. The mobility factor
A growing number of workers are going mobile. And as they go mobile, they’re looking for devices that don’t slow them down. Prior to the growth of netbooks, laptops sometimes held enterprise users back. They were heavy, big and tough to carry. But then netbooks changed all that with their slim and lightweight form factor. The iPad builds on that success by improving upon the netbook’s mobility. The device is small, lightweight and easy to work on, thanks to its 9.7-inch display. As the workforce goes mobile, the iPad should go with it.
2. Corporate apps
A key measure of the viability of a particular product for most enterprise users is whether or not they can run corporate applications on the device. Admittedly, this is where the iPad stumbles a bit, since Windows-only software won’t run on it. But there’s something working in its favor that should help sell it to enterprise users: the App Store. Apple’s App Store offers a slew of enterprise applications that run beautifully on the iPad. They range from project management software to proprietary solutions that were adapted from their Windows-only origins. The iPad is quickly becoming the next frontier in enterprise software.
3. The enterprise’s new focus
Although most companies are still tied to the desktop, more and more firms are moving their services to the cloud. They finally realize that the best and most proficient way to do business is online where they can store content, collaborate with others and more. The iPad is ideally suited for that functionality. Assuming users buy the iPad with 3G, they will be able to connect to all those cloud services no matter where they are. And thanks to the device’s Safari browser, which works extremely well on the iPad, it shouldn’t be nearly the headache that it is on the iPhone. The screen size is big enough to justify using the iPad as a cloud-computing product.
4. The perfect size
Speaking of size, the iPad hits the sweet spot. Unlike a laptop, it’s not difficult to carry in a bag. Nor will it get lost in a purse or duffel bag. Although some have said that a larger screen would have been nicer, for enterprise users it might be the right size. The small form factor ensures that it won’t be unwieldy to perform basic tasks. And when typing on the device it’s not difficult to hold or handle. The iPad seems like the right size for any road warrior.
Features Will Help iPad Attract Enterprise Users
5. Collaboration, messaging and more
More employees than ever are using collaboration and messaging tools to communicate with co-workers. Luckily for those folks, the iPad is probably one of the top devices on the market for either function. Once again, it has the App Store to thank for it. After skimming through the App Store, users will find a slew of messaging and collaboration tools designed specifically for enterprise customers. And after using a few of those tools, I can tell you that they work quite well. Part of the iPad’s value to the enterprise is its App Store. And thanks to the messaging and collaboration tools available to users in that store, the iPad is a worthwhile corporate device.
6. Typing is actually quite nice
When trying to type a message on the iPhone, it can be difficult, due to the relatively small size of its virtual keyboard. In fact, many folks prefer a physical keyboard over what Apple offers. But on the iPad, the virtual keyboard isn’t so troublesome. As long as the user can display content in landscape mode, they should have no trouble typing out a message. I tried typing a couple paragraphs and after a few initial missteps, I quickly got the hang of it and started typing just as I would on a standard keyboard. I should note that it won’t replace a standard keyboard on the desktop, but it compares quite well to the small keyboards on netbooks.
7. Accessories are par for the course
For enterprise customers, buying accessories to add functionality to a laptop is standard practice. For most, it means picking up an extra battery, buying portable printers and so on. Due to the iPad’s design, users won’t be able to replace its battery (which is a problem), but like other Apple products, it will only be a matter of time before a huge selection of accessories hits store shelves to expand its functionality. So while it would be nice to see some basics that enterprise users want, like a removable battery and a USB port, some accessories could solve many of those issues.
The biggest concern most companies have is security. It’s a constant concern with Windows. But as recent history has shown, the iPhone OS that currently runs on the iPad is actually quite robust. Part of that is due to a relatively small number of malicious hackers attempting to attack it and part of it is due to Apple’s design choices. But in either case, IT managers might find a platform that can be trusted with sensitive content. That’s nice to know.
9. IT management and restrictions
The iPhone OS has turned out to be a relatively viable enterprise platform. It offers IT managers the option to define network and server configurations. It also provides for security configurations that will help keep data safe. Those provisions aren’t nearly as powerful or capable as users will find on Windows, but given the inherent security of iPhone OS compared with Windows, it might appeal to enterprise users. Believe it or not, as its restrictions and security configuration options show, the iPad really is designed with some enterprise customers in mind.
10. It’s impressive
The iPad is an all-around impressive device when users see it for the first time. That’s something to remember. The iPad won’t be nearly as ubiquitous as the iPhone for quite a while. And when it walks through the doors of a client’s office, it will undoubtedly get attention. If a company is trying to make it clear to clients that it’s a forward-thinking, next-gen company, bringing an iPad to meetings is a great idea. It might seem like a small thing, but most professionals would say that the better they look and they better they communicate, the better their chances of getting the business.