iPad in the Enterprise

Wayne Rash
The discussion about Apple's new iPad tablet computer, announced with much fanfare this week, began even before the product was announced. The discussion, which continued once the product saw the light of day, was more about what it might really be than about whether it would be useful just as it is. Was it an e-book reader? Is it a competitor to netbooks? And why doesn't it have a camera, or a USB port or a GPS?

In reality, the iPad is really an iPod Touch with a big screen that can also support AT&T's 3G network. That's it. Really. It's a big iPod. And this is a good thing.

What generally hasn't been discussed is that the iPad does everything the iPod Touch does, but with a bigger screen. It's not really an e-book reader, although like its sibling it can function as such. It's not a netbook (thank heavens). But it runs virtually the same suite of apps that the Touch runs, which means nearly anything from the App Store that doesn't require it to be a phone or use a GPS.

Because of its much larger screen, the iPad will produce a much nicer browsing experience when compared with the Touch because you'll be able to read Web pages as they are. You'll be able to watch video from iTunes or YouTube. It appears that you'll also be able to read e-mail using utilities such as Good Mobile Messenger along with Apple's embedded e-mail support. It'll probably work with Microsoft Exchange.

What won't it do? Well, it won't make phone calls, and you can't use it for navigation or location-based services. On the other hand, it supports WiFi using the new 802.11n standard, which means it'll work really fast-probably a lot faster than AT&T's dramatically overburdened 3G network.

So all of this is nice, but you're running the IT shop, so why do you care? After all, the iPod Touch is hardly an IT issue.

The reason you should care is that another way to look at the iPad is that it's a tablet computer with a great form factor. You're no doubt aware that tablet computers haven't exactly set the world on fire. Outside of specialized applications, they're too heavy, their battery life is too short, and they require things like specialized styli that get lost and render them useless.

The iPad solves those problems. It's thin, light, features 10 hours or so of battery life, and you're unlikely to lose track of your fingers. Even though the iPad starts out with all of those apps designed for its smaller brethren, there's no doubt that there will be specialized applications that use its screen size to best advantage. For example, given its 11n and 3G connectivity, picture an iPad in a medical setting. It's light enough that you can actually carry it around. You can look at medical imaging. You can fill in forms.

Or with a more rugged case, it's a wonderful solution for keeping electronic manuals on hand for repair and maintenance staff where size and weight and a fast connection are also important along with the need to display text, images and video.


It would be more useful if it had a provision for a camera, either built in to the device or attached via a USB connection because then you could do tasks that range from reading bar codes to sending photos of everything from insurance claims to broken bones back to the central data center. Alas, that appears to be lacking. You can still download and display images, of course, but you can't produce your own.

Assuming Apple delivers the same capability to deliver secure communications as it has with the iPhone, there could be an important role for the iPad in the enterprise. It could provide the mobile computing platform that really hasn't existed before.

But Apple needs to think of a new name. Right now, the biggest problem the iPad has isn't the lack of cameras or ports. It's the giggle factor. As one acquaintance said to me, 'You know why they call it the iPad? Because you can't take it swimming.' Fortunately, that's easy to fix.



Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
May 11, 2010 8:05 PM Amy Amy  says:
I must admit, the iPad pun still amuses me, but it is going to be a brilliant new take on the old, unworkable tablet computer. I think it will really open it up as a market and development, and if there was anyone who could do it, it was Apple. The 3G network in the UK is dreadful though, so I'll definiately be going wifi. Amy http://www.free-iPad.co.uk Reply
Jun 22, 2011 8:06 AM Tony Tony  says:
"It�s a wonderful solution for keeping electronic manuals on hand for repair and maintenance staff where size and weight and a fast connection are also important along with the need to display text, images and video." Absolutely agree. Reply
Aug 17, 2011 3:08 AM alex96 alex96  says:
It would be more useful if it had a provision for a camera, either built in to the device or attached via a USB connection because then you could do tasks that range from reading bar codes to sending photos of everything from insurance claims to broken bones back to the central data center. Alas, that appears to be lacking. Reply
Oct 21, 2011 3:10 PM billytrail billytrail  says:
Great post. I just bookmarked it. Reply

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