Last week’s “new iPad” announcement elicited the breathless attention of the industry, as expected.
One angle that didn’t get too much play by Apple itself, however, was the impact of this new device on the IT departments in large enterprises. But fear not. Others noticed the oversight. For example, salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff complained over Twitter that Apple missed a trick in not recounting the iPad’s in-roads in the enterprise. Last year’s iPad 2 launch, he tweeted “was enterprise friendly,” implying this one was, well, not.
In fact, many industry commentators took a shot at what Apple’s new announcement will mean for the enterprise. The sheer quantity of commentary tells me that the enterprise impact of this device, uncertain even 18 months ago, is pretty much guaranteed. The consumerization of IT is alive and well. Or at least it’s what people want to talk about.
Different ways that enterprises and iPads mix
The enterprise-related comments about the new iPad announcement fell into a few categories. First, they recounted where they thought enterprises were on the adoption curve of iPads -- and tablets in general. Second, they reviewed what the popularity of the iPad means to IT and the systems those folks must tirelessly maintain every day. Third, there were a few comments on how the enterprise might respond to all this. Here are some highlights I thought were worth repeating:
CIOs want to move to the tablet…now
Ted Schadler of Forrester believes things are moving aggressively, based on the 100 or so inquiries from CIOs he has taken in the past 6 months. So what has been the most common question they’ve asked? “How do I get business applications onto the tablet?” Our field folks here at Framehawk are hearing the same kinds of questions.
Ted also recounted all the business software that’s making a move to the iPad, though most of his examples are productivity-style apps that you’d find on a PC. The customers we are talking to are certainly interested in those, but they are also looking for ways to use the more business-critical applications with tablets as well.
Schadler also imagined a new question that the newest iPad will bring to the forefront: which employees get laptops instead of PCs? Eric Lai of SAP/Sybase called out the “post-PC-ness” of the new device in his CNET write-up. In fact, Wired called the “post-PC revolution” that Tim Cook talked about as “fighting words.” What does “post-PC” mean, specifically? Tim Carmody of Wired said it this way: it means that “computing time and attention [by consumers and the IT department, frankly] shifts to phones and tablets and television screens, among others. And the traditional PC becomes a more specialized device for particular tasks.”
The new iPad’s improvements will impact existing IT systems
But even before that shift happens, there's a chance that everyone in the enterprise is going to feel the impact of the new iPad -- and not in a good way. A Computerworld story by Matt Hamblen noted that people bringing the new iPad to the office (sanctioned or otherwise) might actually end up causing a huge network crunch.
Hamblen reported the possibility of employees trying to avoid high personal mobile network charges for downloading HD movies and the like just might do it at the office, impacting corporate Wi-Fi networks. He also pointed to what might happen if many people are trying to get iOS or app updates at the same time. “The Wi-Fi download burden on corporate networks could be severe,” said the experts that Matt interviewed.
Will the enhanced processing power change what’s ported to an iPad?
One interesting commentary that the specs of the new iPad brought up: the enhanced processing power could be a boon to running big applications on the iPad. One of the users interviewed by John Cox in a separate Network World article mentioned "4G, the new processor speed, and improved screen resolutions will allow IT to port more backend applications like Oracle, and Siebel to iPad."
In reality, it’s not only the processor that’s holding this back. It’s the development effort it takes to rewrite things. So while the new iPad’s souped up specs are beneficial improvements, don’t think it will mean suddenly SAP will be ported to your iPad. At least, not with this traditional approach. (Now, if you’re interested in some alternative approaches, I know some people to talk to.)
Cheap and cheerful for enterprises: iPad 2 ROI
Finally, Cox of Network World, Geoff Simon of Technorati, and several other folks commented that the lowering of the price for the iPad 2 might just be the ticket for the enterprise IT departments. “Starting at just $399, the iPad2 with 16GB is perfect as an enterprise-level business tool," says Simon. "For enterprise, the promise of skyrocketing ROI is what makes the iPad so irresistible.” Simon believes enterprises will start with productivity and process management tools, eventually moving more toward business intelligence capabilities.
Leaving competitors in the dust?
Is this demand the same for all tablets? Schadler of Forrester and a number of data points say no: the other devices aren’t getting the same uptake or interest. Carmody of Wired reported that in his interview Schadler wasn’t “quite so bullish on other tablets” (including forthcoming Windows 8-related efforts), given Apple’s head start and the consumer-driven preferences of people selecting their own devices (read: Apple).
The projects that we’re working on at Framehawk seem to match this thinking: iPad projects are under consideration first, everything else after that. (I posted some relative adoption stats in a previous blog if you’re interested.) A round-up of analyst reports from Apple’s announcement continues the lovefest – with general agreement that Apple has lapped its competitors.
Either way, the era of tablets (which Apple ushered in in the first place) is certainly being accelerated by the newly announced iPad. And despite little commentary from Apple, that impact is definitely stretching far into the enterprise.