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The iPad is being touted by Apple as a magical and revolutionary device. Does it live up to that designation? If not quite magical, it comes pretty close.

The industrial design of the device is spectacular. It is minimalistic, with the bright, crisp 9.7 inch screen as the star of the show. It feels solid and well built, with just enough heft to make it feel very sturdy, weighing in at a modest pound and a half. It does indeed look like a big iPhone or iPod Touch, and it is running the iPhone OS, but it is quite different, if for no other reason than its large display.

The real question is whether or not the iPad makes sense for enterprise use. Unfortunately there’s no easy answer and its usefulness will depend on individual situations.

It certainly does make sense for some verticals, with healthcare, education, retail, and some professional services - like legal and real estate.

It would also be a great fit for certain types of workers including the road warrior sales person, consultants, field and technical service personnel, and IT support staff, who could all benefit from this type of device.

While Apple has done a very nice job with the iPad, it's not perfect. A lack of Flash support, no multitasking capabilities, and no front facing camera are somewhat unnerving and detract from the experience a little.

A slew of tablet devices will be making their way on to the market this year, providing a range of options. There are, and will be a lot more Windows 7 based, Android, Linux, and likely Chrome OS by the end of the year. Some will be very compelling, and some will be junk - choose wisely.

As for the iPad, I would give it an 8.5 for design, quality, usability, functionality, and application availability. With a few tweaks it will approach a 10, and I think we can expect some of that through software in the coming months, and a camera might find it's way into the next hardware iteration - likely next year.

Addendum to iPad Video

Thanks for the questions and comments. I’m going to try to respond to everyone here, and provide some additional context and commentary.

@Robert, Bob, and Larry – I apologize for not demonstrating the keyboard input. That was a miss on my part. The keyboard pops up contextually in portrait and landscape mode. The portrait keyboard is usable, but certainly not appropriate for two-handed typing. The landscape keyboard is quite large – I would say ~85% the size of a standard laptop keyboard. For most, two-handed typing is possible, though not ideal. I would like to have some haptic feedback (vibration) when hitting keys, but instead there is a clicking sound. Given the lack of tactile feedback, which you get with a hard keyboard, typing is not going to be as fast. There is the option of pairing a compatible Bluetooth keyboard with it (most will be compatible) or using the Apple dock/keyboard combo ($69). More on content creation on the device later.

@Frank – There is no option for connecting a wired printer to the iPad. Some tablets will likely have one or two USB ports, but this one does not. There are a handful of apps that allow printing over WiFi to a printer connected to a desktop or network. The truth is, if tethering to a wired printer is important, this device, and others like it, will not likely meet your needs.

@Sue – As I said above, no USB ports on the iPad. You do have options for 3G connectivity other than AT&T though. One is the Verizon MiFi device, which creates a WiFi hotspot with Internet connectivity provided by Verizon’s 3G network. The MiFi device is very portable and can comfortably be carried in a pocket or purse (MiFi 2200). If you are using Sprint, the Clear Spot device is expected to be released any day now, and provides similar functionality. As far as moving files using a USB drive, that’s not really ideal either unless the files are encrypted. There are several cloud storage options that will allow you to save/backup files and move them back and forth, including free Google Apps or Microsoft Office Live (there are countless other options as well). It does work with MS Exchange ActiveSync, providing push access to e-mail, calendaring, and contacts. Several IT policies can also be applied to force a password, encryption, and remote wipe a lost or stolen device. I would argue that it’s not just a toy, but would certainly agree that it’s not for every organization, role, or user. It’s important to think about where it might bring value to the business. I’ll try to touch on that a little more later.

@Mark – I agree with your comments. First, I think Novell Groupwise would be wise (pun intended) to create a native iPhoneOS app, or a solid, non-Java (HTML5) Web app for this class of device.  I couldn’t agree more that this is not a general purpose computing platform as we typically think of it. It will not, and I don’t think it’s intended to, replace your desktop/laptop. It is appropriate for specific applications and usage scenarios. More on that below.

In general, I’d like to reiterate that this particular device, and this class of device, is not appropriate for all verticals, organizations, roles, and/or users. It does not replace the desktop/laptop or the smartphone. It falls somewhere in between. Here are a couple of more specific examples:

  • Healthcare – for years hospitals and healthcare facilities have tried to incorporate early generation convertible tablets with resistive touchscreen displays for bedside care. The 4-5 pound devices were heavy, the resistive touchscreens required a stylus, the touch capabilities of the operating systems were abysmal, the batteries lasted two hours, and doctors and nurses hated them. Most hospitals already use Citrix, so they are used to deliver applications through a virtual/presentation server. Everything changes when you can deliver the necessary applications to a 1.5 pound tablet with a capacitive multi-touch display and ten hours of battery life.
  • Education – Students currently pay a lot of money for text books that are very heavy to carry around – back strain from carrying 20+ pound backpacks is common. The books kill a lot of trees and cost a lot to manufacture. The era of the bound, paper text book is nearing an end. If it’s not a multi-function tablet device like the iPad, it will be an e-book reader like the Kindle. The Kindle has some advantages on this front, but what it’s missing is the multi-function part. Students can use a multi-function tablet to connect to the Student Information System, do research online, communicate and collaborate, and view video lectures. This type of device will almost certainly find a place in higher education.
  • Professional services – Consider real estate agents using this device to research and view properties in real time with their clients while travelling in desired areas. There are several situations where opening and booting a laptop is not ideal, but carrying a 1.5 pound, instant-on device with a 9.7 inch display and WWAN connectivity would be ideal.
  • Field services – The possibilities are endless for this role. All service manuals can be stored and kept current on the device. The field service application can be live so the technician can immediately enter information on the service call, then be routed to the next call immediately and efficiently. How about an insurance adjuster or a building inspector?
  • Retail – This class of device quickly and easily becomes a mobile POS terminal. Rather than customers queuing up at cash registers, store associates can go to the customer, assist them, and accept payment without the customer ever standing in a line. If you’ve never been to an Apple store, they do exactly this. They use iPod Touch’s for mobile POS terminals, and there is not a queue to pay anywhere in the store.

If you think about it, there are several scenarios where this type of devices is appropriate in the enterprise. Is it for the knowledge worker creating content? No, it’s not. This is a content consumption device, with the capability for input and light content creation. Again, it does not replace a desktop/laptop, it augments where appropriate. If you can’t think of a single situation where this class of device (don’t get stuck on the iPad) would be useful in your organization, there’s a good chance it’s not for your business.

Also, while this video looks at the iPad, we will certainly look at other worthy devices in this category as they become available. In this case, the iPad is really the first device worthy of a detailed review. As myriad tablets and slates pop up this year, we cannot look at all of them, and frankly a lot of them will be junk. However, you can be rest assured that when we see devices like the already-announced HP Slate later this year, we will have it on hand to show it to you and compare and contrast it to the iPad.

I’ll close with a scenario that played out for me today. I go to our Toronto office once a week (it’s a two-hour one-way train ride). While I’m in the office I’m meeting with people, reviewing some content, and trying to just get around and talk to people in the office. I don’t do any serious content creation – mostly reviewing documents, light editing, and reading and responding to e-mail. As an experiment, I left my laptop at home and only brought my iPad. On the train ride there I caught up on e-mail, reviewed some documents, and watched a TV show.

While I was there I tried to keep up with my e-mail, did a little more review, kept up with my Twitter and RSS feeds, and met with some people. On the way home I finished up my e-mail, listened to one of my favorite technology podcasts, and did a little more reading and review. In general,  it was a pretty productive day. It was a treat carrying around a 1.5 pound device as big as a paper notebook cupped in my hand under my arm instead of a 4 pound laptop. Would I try this on a normal day in our London office? Definitely not, I could not do the tasks that I need to on a typical day. But it was ideal for a very different kind of productive day visiting our other office.

I look forward to more of feedback and discussion.
Regards,
Mark

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Search Code: 18735
Published: April 5, 2010
Last Revised: April 7, 2010

26 Comments

  • Missing comment
    Robert Cover | 04-06-2010

    what about keyboard input......?

    • 524813cde9e31b150885f5506a5f3e1e comment
      Info-Tech Research Group | 10-21-2011

      Thank you. An addendum has been posted in response to your comment.

  • Missing comment
    Frank Brown | 04-06-2010

    Output to wire printer?

    • 524813cde9e31b150885f5506a5f3e1e comment
      Info-Tech Research Group | 10-21-2011

      Thank you. An addendum has been posted in response to your comment.

  • Missing comment
    Sue Penick | 04-06-2010

    USB ports so we can use our Verizon USB Cards to connect to the internet? USB ports to back up files and move pictures from camera to book? This demo should have showed how the keyboard interface worked. Does it work with MS Office and Exchange? Looks like it is the first iteration (just a toy) until these issues are addressed. Even the most casual user would want to have USB connections.

    • 524813cde9e31b150885f5506a5f3e1e comment
      Info-Tech Research Group | 10-21-2011

      Thank you. An addendum has been posted in response to your comment.

  • Missing comment
    Mark Decker | 04-06-2010

    I have one, and have mixed feelings about it. It does not work with our web-based enterprise email (GroupWise WebAccess) due to lack of javascript support in the browser. The UI is truly magical, and performance is good, but given its incompatibility with entrenched and widely popular web apps, I think application as a general purpose computing platform is quite limited. It is best suited to apps that are designed specifically for the iTouch OS. We are testing it as a single purpose e-reader for color PDFs using the GoodReader app, which looks promising so far, though pricey for a single purpose e-reader. Pet peeves: the requirement to have iTunes installed on your PC before you can use it at all, and the proprietary dock connector instead of a simple mini-USB port. There's really no excuse for such control-freakiness on Apple's part.

    • 524813cde9e31b150885f5506a5f3e1e comment
      Info-Tech Research Group | 10-21-2011

      Thank you. An addendum has been posted in response to your comment.

  • Missing comment
    Bob Watkins | 04-06-2010

    The overview shows navigation and viewing activities, nothing on input - which in the enterprise is a significant portion of the use cases beyond the e-suite. Thoughts?

    • 524813cde9e31b150885f5506a5f3e1e comment
      Info-Tech Research Group | 10-21-2011

      Thank you. An addendum has been posted in response to your comment.

  • Missing comment
    Larry Maggiotto | 04-06-2010

    Nice. But would have liked to see keyboard entry.

    • 524813cde9e31b150885f5506a5f3e1e comment
      Info-Tech Research Group | 10-21-2011

      Thank you. An addendum has been posted in response to your comment.

  • Missing comment
    Murray Miller | 04-06-2010

    A fun "social device". I have been aquiring and deploying tablets to hundreds of users in education for the last 5 years, the 9.7" screen is just not large enough for real world use. A absolute minimum acceptable screen size is 12". Because of this small screen the iPad is reduced to the status of an oversized MP3 player, net browser with photo/video viewing, book reading and email. No camera? No SMS? No Flash? No earbuds? No USB?

    • 524813cde9e31b150885f5506a5f3e1e comment
      Info-Tech Research Group | 10-21-2011

      Thank you. An addendum has been posted in response to your comment.

  • Missing comment
    AbdulRazzak Al-Sharafy | 04-07-2010

    Very good but I wish cons was included: keyboard, USB, flahs support and so on. It would nice to see ways to overcome those missing features.

    • 524813cde9e31b150885f5506a5f3e1e comment
      Info-Tech Research Group | 10-21-2011

      Thank you. An addendum has been posted in response to your comment.

  • 5a5e082fddf737aaf994add83c21a365 comment
    Dave Elfering | 04-08-2010

    This really appears to be another case of Apple telling the customers what they want. If this had been an actual tablet instead of a hybrid Kindle/iTouch it would have been a great deal more interesting. If I were a photographer who wanted to wow clients on-site perhaps it would be a nice tool. As a general usage tool it seems more like a "wow/cool" thing rather than a practical tool. One looming omission is the lack of multi-tasking.

    This certainly is a "cool" gadget but the practicality isn't where I'd like it to be.

    • 524813cde9e31b150885f5506a5f3e1e comment
      Info-Tech Research Group | 10-21-2011

      I can see why you might say that, Dave, and to some extent I agree. Apple (Steve Jobs) is a notorious control freak. I think it is more than a hybrid Kindle/iTouch, but I also look forward to seeing some other entrants in this category. If someone does a Windows 7 tablet that matches the hardware quality and battery life, it will be very compelling. But even then, this class of device will not be for everyone. As an aside, multi-tasking will be coming to the iPad with iPhone OS 4.0 in the fall.

  • Missing comment
    Vance Hall | 04-08-2010

    I’m sorry but this review was in no way helpful infact it seems almost like and advertisement. It basically repeated the same things the other sites that you dont pay to be a member of was saying. The ipad is great because of the apps and because the ipod touch is so great. Its advantage is that it is bigger. But the same websites i have issues with on the smaller device and the same applications ( like the RDP application) is still a problem on the ipad. The use cases you specify almost all of them require the user making changes to accommodate using this device to do what they need to do. Some of the change are small but some are not. retail stores have been using mobile devices for point of sale for awhile now. infact apple was using windows mobile devices in their stores before they developed a cradle and application for the ipod touch. You don’t need something that big for POS. Plus where is the barcode scanner? Medical, the screen is really small; education has its possibilities but is the cost of text books going to be significantly cheaper ? So I have a text book, I highly a piece of text and I now want to cite it or research it or cross reference it with another text book, how do I do that on the ipad ? The only use I see for myself is reading PDFs on it. Though I have had problems with the way text looks on it ( ive been playing with one ).

    • 524813cde9e31b150885f5506a5f3e1e comment
      Info-Tech Research Group | 10-21-2011

      I think we’ll have to agree to disagree for the most part, Vance. I’m sorry you see this as an advertisement, that’s certainly not the intent. There are notable misses on this device, like lack of multi-tasking (coming in iPhone OS 4.0 in the fall), lack of Java/AJAX/Flash support in the Safari browser, and some would argue lack of a front-facing camera and USB ports. It’s not perfect, and it’s not for everyone, but I maintain my position that it, and others in this class of device that will follow, will be very compelling for some.

  • F8a3c74226f355b00380538b666a4d8e comment
    Ian Douglas | 04-08-2010

    I'd like to see these in my salesmen's hands -- they're light enough that they won't get left in the car (where the laptops are left because of weight). But what about output? Even with some kind of connection like they used at the launch meeting -- I've got to get that screen to connect to a conference room projector, or it's not going to replace the laptop.

    What about printing? I have lots of printers on the LAN, and these devices should be able to find them through their wifi -- or print PDF to a usb to get me there that way, or they just won't be usable for business... These are the questions I need answered before getting ojne in the office to 'evaluate'. And I really love my personal iPod Touch -- especially the email integration with exchange...

    • 524813cde9e31b150885f5506a5f3e1e comment
      Info-Tech Research Group | 10-21-2011

      Thanks for the comments, Ian. There is a dock port to VGA connector for it ($30), which allows it to connect to a monitor or projector. There are several apps that allow printing to a desktop or network printer over WiFi. I hope this helps. You’re thinking along the right lines – if you think it may be useful for your organization, get one to try out. I would also say that there will be some other compelling devices in this category coming out in the coming months, so you might find that one of those is a better fit for your organization. Stay tuned.

  • Missing comment
    Sai Ravichandran | 06-11-2010

    How does the IPad connect to windows based POS systems? How secure is it to do POS transactions with credit card usinf a wireless service provides like Verizon even if we were able to connect?

    • 524813cde9e31b150885f5506a5f3e1e comment
      Info-Tech Research Group | 10-21-2011

      The iPad would connect to a Windows-based POS system through a virtual desktop/application interface like Citrix Receiver or through an SSL VPN with iOS 4.0 (coming to iPad this fall). A POS transaction MUST be encrypted on any network to be considered secure. A transaction carried in clear text over Verizon’s 3G network would not be considered secure. There must be end-to-end encryption for any credit/debit card transaction.

  • Missing comment
    Gene Banks | 11-03-2010

    Mark,
    Thank you for the very interestuing review. My organisation, a financial services firm is looking into introducing the iPad. Currently we are a BlackBerry and Citrix shop for remote acces. Does InfoTech plan to do a more indepth review in the near future including suitable functionality for board meetings, executive business travel, security features, Citrix support, etc.? Best regards,Gene Banks

    • 524813cde9e31b150885f5506a5f3e1e comment
      Info-Tech Research Group | 12-01-2010

      Thank you for your feedback, Gene. We have a solution set coming out next week which addresses "Managing the Invasion of Consumer Mobile Technology" and touches on managing the iPad. We are not planning a dedicated solution set on the applicability of iPad specifically for certain roles or situations, but I suspect we will have more research in the new year on tablets in general as the market grows rapidly. Anecdotally, we're seeing several situations where enterprises are utilizing iPads. I mentioned those situations above, but certainly this form factor is ideal for content consumption and light data entry (i.e. writing a quick email or submitting form data). From my own experience I find the iPad very handy for travel where I don't have a lot of content creation to do, meetings where I'm reviewing content, and virtually any situation where I need access to information but don't have to create it. The Citrix Receiver application is very compelling for Citrix shops, as it allows you to provide access to all core business applications in a secure, centrally managed environment. Security features continue to evolve and mature, with additional ActiveSync policies being added and additional control using the iPhone/iPad Configuration Utility. I hope this helps.

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