CEOs urged to seize iPad opportunity now!

4 Nov 2010

The Apple iPad and its ecosystem are likely to disrupt typical technology usage and business models, and CEOs should ensure its potential is being seriously evaluated inside their organisations, Gartner has warned.

“It is not usually the role of the CEO to get directly involved in specific technology device decisions, but Apple’s iPad is an exception,” said Stephen Prentice, Gartner Fellow and vice-president.

“It is more than just the latest consumer gadget; and CEOs and business leaders should initiate a dialogue with their CIOs about it if they have not already done so.”

Gartner forecasts worldwide media tablet sales to end users to reach 19.5 million units in 2010, driven by sales of the iPad. Media tablets are poised for strong growth, with worldwide end user sales projected to total 54.8 million units in 2011, up 181pc from 2010, and surpass 208 million units in 2014.

CEOs need to concoct a budgeted plan for iPads

Unless there is a self-evident case to the contrary, Gartner recommends that IT organisations should provide at least “concierge”-level iPad support for a limited number of key users, and prepare a budgeted plan for widespread support of the iPad by mid-2011.

“Individuals are willing to buy these devices themselves, so enterprises must be ready to support them,” said Prentice.

“While some IT departments will say they are a ‘Windows shop’, and Apple does not support the enterprise. Organisations need to recognise that there are soft benefits in a device of this type in the quest to improve recruitment and retention. Technology is not always about productivity.”

Gartner also recommends that CEOs ask their marketing and product development teams to present a creative briefing as soon as possible, detailing how iPads could be used by the company and its competitors, because the iPad has the potential to be hugely disruptive to the business models and markets of many enterprises.

“We are already seeing announcements about competing devices from other vendors, including RIM, Samsung, HP and Dell, but the iPad is currently well ahead of the pack with the lion’s share of the market,” Prentice added.

Like the iPhone before it, the iPad is an iconic device that redefines markets. Media gurus and forecasters struggled to categorise this device at the time of launch — and some made the mistake of assuming that, like all tablet-format devices before it, it would remain a niche product for a limited market.

According to Gartner analysts, the iPad is not a notebook replacement for most users, but a valuable companion device. As it is much less intrusive in face-to-face environments than conventional notebooks, it is well suited to a sales or information-sharing environment. It also makes electronic media consumption effortless and casual, thereby increasing consumption.

Industry verticals

As use of the iPad grows, examples are emerging in industries and professions, including consumer applications (such as a personal stock portfolio review), book and magazine publishing, architects and realtors sharing plans in the field, finance specialists sharing quotations with prospects, and salespeople looking to demonstrate interactive presentations.

Interest from the healthcare sector is high, but the inability of the device to withstand sanitisation or operate inside a sealed pouch is a limitation.

With an undeniable style factor and ease of use, as well as various multi-touch, display and communications capabilities, the iPad makes a strong statement in many customer-facing sectors, such as retail, hospitality and tourism.

In transportation, especially aviation, Australian carrier Jetstar is trialing an iPad rental service for in-flight entertainment, and Malaysia Airlines is using iPads in a kiosk mount as self-service check-in devices.

Gartner advises CEOs to act sooner rather than later.

“While there are no certainties, the iPad looks set to become a market-disrupting device, like the iPod before it,” Prentice concluded.

“Even if you think it is just a passing fad, the cost of early action is low, while the price of delay may well be extremely high.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years