You already know about the iPad. Given the hype that has surrounded the launch, everyone knows about the iPad. If you believe even part of the hype, the arrival of this device is at least as important as World Peace and perhaps the Second Coming. Fortunately, here at CTO Edge, we're not into hype.
But that's not to suggest that the iPad isn't important to the enterprise, because it is. While it's not marketed as an enterprise device, the iPad is probably the first actually useful tablet computer to show up in the market. But it has years of misadventures to build on, so it's no surprise that Apple got it mostly right.
HP, for example, has been selling tablets for years, and in fact is getting ready to launch an iPad competitor in the very near future. Microsoft has been building support into Windows for touch-screen tablet computers for some time, and the feature is fully integrated into Windows 7. So useful tablet computers shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, nor should it be a surprise that Apple launched the first one.
But does that mean that you should worry about an iPad in your enterprise? The answer, as with everything, is "that depends." Remember, deep down inside, the iPad is really an iPod Touch with a much larger screen. Unlike the Touch, it has the ability to connect to AT&T's 3G wireless service. So if you can use an iPod Touch in your enterprise, then the iPad should be no surprise.
So what can you do with any of these devices? For the most part, the only enterprise application that is available today is the ability to connect to your corporate e-mail. The iPhone and the iPod Touch already had the ability to talk to your Exchange e-mail, and the process works well and it's secure. It's likely that there will be little difference with the iPad (although I don't have one, so I can't report through actual use).
Beyond that, the iPad isn't an enterprise device. Yet. But the attraction of a good tablet computer is too strong to ignore. The enterprise apps are coming, and if the flood of press releases in my e-mail is any indication, they're coming soon.
For some industries, a good, reliable, easy to use and rugged tablet computer could be a game changer. While it's not clear that the iPad is the right device for much of the enterprise, the fact that it exists will encourage the creation of tablet devices for more specific markets. We already know about the upcoming HP tablet, and it's certain there will be others.
But to be useful in the enterprise, there needs to be a focus on more than just a pretty face. The device needs to be secure enough, flexible enough, and physically suitable for the environment where your work takes place. Whether this applies to the iPad remains to be seen, but Apple's iron-fisted control over applications could be a delaying factor in bringing real enterprise applications to the iPad.