Apple iPad Users to Soon Come Knocking for Corporate IT Support

Tech Analysis: Corporate IT managers who have honed their skills for supporting Apple iPhones at the office should get ready to start providing service for the iPad soon after Apple starts shipping it in 60 to 90 days. Inevitably, iPad users will start bringing iPads to work and requesting to sync up the new mobile devices with their office e-mail, calendar and appointments. That means IT managers should start thinking now about what policies to establish for supporting iPads.

Now that we know the Apple iPad exists and that it is similar to the iPhone/iTouch, what are the implications for enterprise IT managers?

If the "consumerization of IT" trend continues, it's safe to say that the iPad will start showing up on corporate networks as employees bring their personal iPad to the office.

It's also safe to say that some 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, it's only a question of "when" not "if" the iPad will wend its way into your organization.

Since the iPad isn't shipping today, here are my speculative thoughts about what IT enterprise managers should be thinking about to preempt iPad issues.

Will the iPad, like the iPhone, integrate with business messaging and management infrastructure? The iPhone works with Microsoft Exchange to provide over-the-air push e-mail, calendar and contacts synchronization. The iPhone also supports Cisco IPSec VPN and WPA2 for secure network access. If Apple provides similar integrations for the iPad, then I'll be looking for remote wipe and other policy controls that are available on the iPhone to be applied to the iPad.

My labs colleague Andrew Garcia has pointed out that mobile device management companies have been developing products to deal with iPhone monitoring, provisioning and configuration. If the iPad uses the same OS as the iPhone, it seems that these tools will also work to manage the iPad too. Now is the right time to ask vendors including Boxtone, Zenprise, Odyssey and MobileIron about their plans to support the iPad.

At the Jan. 27 iPad announcement, much was made of the single-charge battery life. Unlike the MacBook Pro announcement last year, nothing was said about the expected lifespan of the sealed iPad battery. Steve Jobs did say that iPad components are highly recyclable.

All this implies that the iPad is intended to last the span of its battery and then be disposed of, which is not intrinsically negative from a corporate point of view. This does mean that in-house IT service of iPad hardware (battery and drive) will likely be limited to issuing a new unit with user data installed rather than break/fix battery or drive replacement that I normally associate with mobile device maintenance.

The iPad will make its way into the business computing world. IT managers have an opportunity to use skills already honed from managing the iPhone to get a jump on ensuring that the iPad entry adds to productivity.