What’s Holding the iPad Back from Mainstream Business Adoption?
By Tony Bradley
The new iPad is here, and it’s already a phenomenal success–reportedly selling three million units in a mere 72 hours. As popular as the iPad is, though, and as much success as Apple has had thus far in breaking down corporate barriers, it still seems like there is something holding companies back from truly embracing the iPad.
The new iPad isn’t revolutionary, but the evolutionary improvements it delivers compared to its predecessor–the iPad 2–do provide some unique benefits that could drive increased business adoption. Many business users will appreciate the faster 4G wireless capabilities on the go, and the “Retina” display broadens the horizons of what the iPad is capable of.
New Horizons for the New iPad
I spoke with Aaron Levie, co-founder and CEO of Box.com, about the impact the new iPad might have on business adoption. Levie feels that the iPad in general is already an overwhelming success. It is already on the radar for most businesses, and any additional capabilities are gravy at this point.
Levie does, however, think that the “Retina” display and improved graphics processing capabilities open the door for new kinds of apps not possible on the previous model. Fields like engineering, construction, CAD (computer-aided drafting), medical, and scientific could all benefit from next-generation apps that capitalize on the unparalleled display of the new iPad.
It’s Still Missing Something
Even with all it has in its favor, though, the iPad seems to be fighting an uphill battle for mainstream adoption in the business world. Onuora Amobi, CEO of Nnigma, agrees with Aaron Levie when it comes to the possibilities with the new iPad, but he also points out that one area where the iPad is lacking is with network deployment and management tools–the sorts of things IT admins need to effectively manage the devices in a corporate environment.
Apple has made significant progress providing management capabilities for iOS since the days of the original iPhone. Using Exchange ActiveSync, admins can actually manage security policies, and protect data on iPhones and iPads. It is better than it used to be, but Apple still maintains control of its own “walled garden” which makes it difficult for developers to create tools that effectively manage iOS devices.
Mike King, Principal Mobile Strategist for Appcelerator, says, “Many of the enterprises we talk to are nervous about security management and application development for the iPad.” However, King adds that many companies are weighing the benefits and productivity gains the iPad represents against the potential risks, and choosing to go forward with the iPad anyway.
Wes Miller from GetWired.com and Directions on Microsoft feels that security is not as much an issue as an error in perception. He points out that iPad apps that are developed properly don’t represent the security risk people think they do.
Miller does believe, though, that the general perception of the iPad as a “consumer toy”, and its small size are two things that hold it back in the business world. As beautiful as the “Retina” display is, it’s still only 10 inches, which is diminutive compared with the 20-inch plus monitors people are used to.
I agree with Miller on the size issue. However, when I did my 30 Days with the iPad experiment I overcame that issue by essentially “docking” the iPad 2. I used a Bluetooth physical keyboard, and connected the iPad via HDMI to my 23-inch monitor. Then, I just used the iPad itself as a giant trackpad for navigating.
The iPad Needs More Business Apps
Miller also listed a lack of key business apps as a stumbling block for the iPad as a business tool. Microsoft has created an iOS version of OneNote, and an app to connect with SkyDrive, but Microsoft Office for iOS is still just a rumor, and tools that people rely on in Windows like Visio are not available for the iPad.
King says that the main thing holding developers back from creating more robust, capable business apps is uncertainty. Despite the proven success of the iPad, many are still sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what happens with iPad rivals before committing resources to any specific platform.
The iPad Marches On
For most businesses, user demand will be enough to overcome almost any objection, and drive corporate adoption of the iPad in spite of any perceived shortcomings.
As Onuora Amobi pointed out recently, IT wants better tools and more control, but users and executives don’t really care about those things. Ultimately, the IT department is seen as an expense–a necessary evil-in many organizations, and it doesn’t really have the authority to impose its will. The role of IT in many cases is to cater to the whims of the company and figure out how to make things work, not act as the police force to tell the company why they can’t work.
The iPad has significant momentum, and there is no reason to believe that won’t continue. The good news for iPad rivals is that Apple is paving the way for business adoption of tablets in general, and that will make it that much easier for Android, Windows 8, and others to be adopted as business tools.
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