The world has been talking about the iPad for about a week now. There has been analysis up, down, and sideways from a consumer perspective. Is it a good thing? Is is it a bad thing? Will people buy it? Why doesnt it have x feature/service?
But ,what about the iPad and the enterprise/business community? Is the iPad a viable vehicle to handle enterprise applications and services? Will the next time you go to your local businessman, he enters everything into an iPad instead of his desktop PC?
Here are a few observations about iPad adoption into the business/enterprise space:
- Security will be an an issue initially. There is very limited security options available for the iPad. Currently, there is no way for corporate IT to send the “lock” command to an iPad to lock it out, in case of theft. The iPhone has this function now, but it took Apple a while to implement it. There is also no real way to stop someone from “breaking” into the iPad to get content, unless you can load whatever enterprise security application is in place onto an iPad. How many security companies are going to rewrite their application to work with an iPad? Also, how about deploying corporate policies (like the Group Policy feature in most Windows environments) that limit what users can and cannot do with their iPad? Maybe software developers will get behind this and change things? And speaking of software, how about software deployment across an enterprise? Will the Apple App store have a provision for that? The App Store is a great model for consumers to get the applications they need, but for a corporate user? Unless they are willing to do something similar to the Intel App Up storefronts that are going up on netbook deployments, this could cause some other issues down the road.
- Email is another issue. The iPad doesnt support push email (no Blackberry-esque). It also currently doesnt support Microsoft Exchange, the main email application in corporate America. So, unless everyone suddenly switches to Google Apps for Domains, email is going to be a problem. While this issue was fixed (finally) in the iPhone version 3.0 of the software, how long is it going to take for the iPad? Will Fortune 500 companies have to put the squeeze on Microsoft and Apple to get this feature supported?
- Corporate VPN is only an issue if the user wants to connect to his office from home to get documents, etc. Right now, there only with the iPhone 3G can users connect to corporate VPN. Will this functionally be ported over to the iPad.
- MS Office usage is an interesting issue. At the iPad event last week, Steve Jobs told the press about their new iWork for iPad applications. Now, iWork is a decent office application suite, and the price tag of $9.99 per application isnt too bad…but try this x100 or x1000 users? It can add up. And, the training to get users away from their MS Office habits to use iWork could cost more than the iPad itself.
- Support is the final issue. A majority of businesses today are Microsoft based. They either pay Microsoft their support fees to get their assistance with issues, or they hire some Microsoft certified IT personnel to work with the user base when problems arise. How will this model translate to Apple? Will businesses be able to hire their own Mac Geniuses? Will their be pricing for corporate support?
Now, while there are a lot of negatives associated with the iPad for business/enterprise, there are also some positives. One, all the issues mentioned above can be dealt with using software updates, agreements with software manufacturers, and some other back end arrangements. Two, for anyone wanting to give a phenomenal business/sales presentation (sales reps, real estate vendors, web designers, etc), the iPad provides a great platform for fully multimedia interactive presentations. Three, CEOs are going to want these for themselves for the “Ohh shiny” factor, so businesses better be ready to support them. Four, anyone who needs to read a lot (techs, editors, etc) will love having a portable library of their PDFs etc on a 9.7″ screen.
So, will the iPad break into the enterprise? All signs point to a definite maybe.