Apple iPad tipped to become an enterprise work tool

28 Jan 2010

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A leading technology analyst currently working on a book about the consumerisation of IT and the groundswell of technologies finding their way into the workplace says the iPad could be a force in enterprise IT.

Last night, the arch showman that is Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled a device the whole tech world had been expecting. The 9.7-inch device – which weighs just 1.5 pounds – promises to fundamentally alter entertainment and media insofar as our enjoyment of reading, books, gaming, watching movies and consuming news.

However, Forrester analyst Ted Schadler believes that not only has Apple, as usual, timed the introduction of the device very well but that because the iPad will appeal to mobile professionals it could be one of those technologies that will become an attractive business tool.

“Make no mistake, this is an attractive business tool. Laptops will be left at home,” Schadler said.

Schadler is co-authoring a book with Josh Bernhoff for Harvard Business Press called Groundswell Heroes: Harnessing The Power Shift In Your Workplace And Marketplace on the consumerisation of IT in the workplace.

He said that the iPad will catch on quickly as an employee-provisioned third device, particularly for mobile professionals who account for 28pc of today’s workforce.

“IT will support it in many organisations. After all, it’s just a big iPhone to them and already 20pc of firms support them.

“Most of the media coverage will discuss the impact on consumer markets. I’m going to talk about the impact on businesses and on information and knowledge management professionals, the IT executive responsible for making the workforce successful with technology.”

What is Technology Populism?

Schadler says Apple has timed the iPad ideally for its adoption by information workers who self-provision what they need rather than what their employers provide. He calls this trend Technology Populism (aka consumerisation of IT).

“Apple also timed the rest of it right. The technology, the media industry, the digital experience, the developer ecosystem, the retail presence, the applications, the operating system, the increasingly HTML5-enabled web, the price, and the wireless industry is ready for this product.

“Oh, I’m sure it will have problems. Despite the claims, battery life’s sure to be inadequate for someone on the go all day, for example. But the iPad extends all the things that Apple’s already got up and running. And Apple has addressed the usual problems already: cost, availability, accessories, wireless access. And it offers some superior characteristics for the things that mobile professionals care about.”

Schadler has identified mobile professionals as one of the four workforce personas that will define tomorrow’s workforce.

This segment is 28pc of the US information workforce defined by a high need for mobility and a lot of applications mobile professionals care about:

  • – Messaging and collaboration on the go. (Need email, calendar, contacts, web conferencing.)
  • – Full web experience. (Big screen, big web pages. Duh.)
  • – Business media. (The New York Times app is just the beginning.)
  • – Full-size document tools. (Execs review, tweak, and present a lot on the go.)
  • – Secure wireless connectivity. (Any time, any place. This one needs work.)
  • – And let’s not forget, looking cool. (Haven’t seen it yet, but it’s sure looking good.)

“This thing will take off among high net worth mobile pros. And IT should be OK with that, at least in non-regulated industries where the lack of application management and device control tools are not big issues. After all, iPad is really just a big iPhone.”

In April 2009, 17pc of enterprises and 25pc of SMEs supported iPhone and in September 2009,16pc of US information workers used iPhones for work, even at the world’s largest organisations.

iPad’s impact on Google and Microsoft

Schadler believes the onset of the iPad could have some ramifications for Apple’s friends and rivals, namely Google and Microsoft.

He says the iPad will increase the importance of document tools. Although Apple’s support of iWorks on the iPad gives executives what they need to present on the road and leave the laptop at home, Microsoft should build best-in-class iPad software in the Office formats, while Adobe should take responsibility for a great PDF reader.

Schadler adds that Google has even more need now than ever to retain control over the Android experience so that developers can target that platform with the same relative ease that they can target the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad market.

By John Kennedy

Photo: The Apple iPad

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com