Mister Enterprise: Please meet the iPad !
After a long hesitation, 4 weeks ago I decided to buy an iPad mainly to organize my notes for my book and to read all the white papers I have saved for 2 years now. I must say that it is a great device to take notes on the go, read emails, surf the web and so on.
Yesterday in Brazil I met the manager of a big company who will soon get an iPad and he asked me the following question: Can it replace my business laptop ?
Here is a summary of my answer:
If the iPad is a nice device for a private use, it’s far from meeting all the requirements of a company where Microsoft softwares are mainly distributed.
First of all, the storage of your documents. In Private, I use mainly solutions on the cloud like box.net, Dropbox and Google Docs. There are nice storage areas and Dropbox will be the subject of a post I am finishing for the moment. But a responsible engineering enterprise should not allow people to save data outside the firewall and even if they do so, they will recreate silo of information they tend to avoid in our new collaboration era. So the only option you will have is to sync them using iTunes or specific desktop applications and the risk is that the document you may need while on the go will be in your desktop or in a fileshare somewhere.
Even if you stored your documents on the iPad, the edition of enterprise document may be difficult or not efficient at all. In private, I use document2go premium ( with sync to box.net and dropbox) but once again, in an business environment you will need to use templates or forms from your quality department, you may need to insert pictures for your report and this will quickly reach the limit of your document edition on the iPad. I have been using the iPad to work on my book and I clearly see that I take 25% more time to write on my iPad than on my netbook optimised with windows 7 (which does not weigh more than an iPad). I have the Apple Bluetooth keyboard but the fact that a simple shortcut like "ctrl+v" does not work forces me to remove my hands from the keyboard to do it on the iPad screen. The iPad is good for a draft but you will need to send it to your desktop computer to finalise the formatting. not to mention the fact that I need to print my draft from time to time because I personally need to proofread my writing on paper and this is not feasible yet (I am sure HP will soon come up with a solution but we do not only have HP on the market).
Emailing on the iPad is nice, at least for my private use. If I had to use it for my professional tasks, it would be time consuming. I give you an example: you are on the go and somebody needs you to review a document. on a laptop, you received the document by email, you open it directly with word. You can add your comments and you send it back to the sender who can easily track your changes (at least if you use correctly Microsoft Word and its track changes feature). Try to do that on an iPad and I guarantee that you will take more time and your recipient risks losing some time to track your changes done in a new "workaround" and "fashionable" way. I know that emails should not be used when it comes to reviewing a document but most of the time this is the way it is done inside most companies. there is already some solution to use SharePoint ( not officially from Microsoft) but there are not yet optimised for the iPad.
One of the nightmare of big companies is to ensure that all the computers are deployed equally with the last version of softwares in order to guarantee their employees can work efficiently and exchange proper document format in their business process. Some companies have therefore defined standard software deployment to do so. However, on the iPad, how will you define such deployments ? How will you centralize the purchasing of all the few business applications available on iTunes?
Can you guarantee that your employee will not jailbreak his/her iPad and that way put the security of your enterprise data at risk ? the answer is No.
The iPad meets the security standards but a jailbreak one will be an unknown plague inside your network.
Of course, there are nice applications for the use of an iPad inside an enterprise like for example gotomeeting.com which enables you to attend a presentation or a conference. Webex is also available for the iPad but if you want to initiate a web conference, you still need a desktop to start the session. So what will be the point of using your iPad for that ? ( My answer would be "because it is so geek" but my company does not pay me to be a geek)
I am fond of the iPad when it comes to my personal use but at this stage, I do not see clearly why a CIO would invest in such a product strongly knowing that the first people who will request this gadget will be the managers who are most of the time already struggling when it comes to read emails on their blackberry or on their Smartphone. The future may show me that I am wrong and my opinion may change if Microsoft and Apple decide tomorrow to launch a series of apps dedicated to business usage but currently, only companies where the IT is not overcrowded ( do you know such a company?) should make that step.
Do you use an iPad inside your enterprise ? If yes, I would love to get your comments and return of experience.
Note to Steve Balmer : Why the hell Microsoft has not developed OneNote for the iPad yet? Are you sleeping?