We are ramping up to the iPad 2 launch expected this week and IT managers around the world are stressing out as they anticipate the arrival of executives and connected employees demanding they integrate these "magical" devices into their systems. This is just the beginning as the new Corning video called "A Day Made of Glass" accurately predicts. Fortunately, at least this time around, there are systems that can be used to do this. However, there is still some doubt whether the iPad and tablets in general are going to be worth the effort.
Let's explore both today.
iPad in Business
Citrix is the more powerful of the two solutions and the one I've consistently run into the most. It can render pretty much any PC screen you want on a variety of non-PC devices-including the iPad-giving it the best reach. However the applications, while arriving full-featured, aren't redesigned for the tablet and generally aren't optimized for touch. Still, they operate just like they do on a PC and no data stays resident on the device, which is how security exposure is addressed. Citrix is expensive, but those that use it report that it addresses most of their initial problems.
FileMaker is the less well known solution in place. FileMaker is a database application and the company is a subsidiary of Apple, giving them a tighter relationship with the parent of the iPad. FileMaker is often used as a bridge between third-party SQL database products and other platforms and it just released its FileMaker Go product for the iPad. The product is limited to an SQL interface and you don't develop on it; rather, the development is done in FileMaker and consumption can be on FileMaker Go. This may be an advantage because were an unauthorized person to get access to the iPad and get into the service they would be prevented by the device from doing damage to the application. The FileMaker approach is substantially cheaper and should perform better since you can design the result for the iPad's touch interface, but it is also more limited.
In both cases, security has to be strong and in place at the back end. The iPad doesn't support biometrics and that drops you back to using passwords or RSA keys, which are all implemented at the back end. While this does suggest a slight performance hit on the device, it also allows for a lot of consistency between devices. But care has to be taken to assure tiered access is in place particularly if used for highly secure information. In other words, you want to make sure users can't promote their access rights to get to information they are not authorized for. But, if implemented properly, the iPad could actually be a lower risk than a PC because in both implementations, the data doesn't reside on the device. PCs can, and I'd argue should, be implemented in the same fashion and still may have advantages due to their integrated keyboards and optional biometrics.
Tablets: Do They Have Legs?
The real question is whether tablets have legs outside of the vertical markets they have always enjoyed. I'm reading the latest piece on yet another person who stopped using his iPad. Challengers have not sold well-the Galaxy Tab from Samsung shipped an estimated 2,000,000 products to stores but only a little more than 10 percent (250,000) evidently sold and there was a better than 10 percent return rate, which does not bode well for the segment. The common story I get is that, after trying the iPad for a while, many users drift back to using a laptop. PC vendors should fight the "iPad is the future" perception. No one else is moving the tablet bar yet, not even the new Xoom.
Wrapping up: You Can Secure the iPad But
There are at least two security solutions for the iPad and they will work even better on the iPad 2, which is expected to have much greater headroom and faster 4G connectivity options. However, even though 15 million of the devices have been sold-an impressive number-indications are that many users are going back to laptops for most work-related activities, suggesting a large investment, outside of the vertical markets that have always liked tablets, might be wasted. As always, talk to your peers about what is and is not working for them and remember some of these fads do burn out. It is wise to moderate your expenditures until the market sustains itself.