An Office Romance To Celebrate

There is little doubt that the iPad is probably the most desired gadget on the planet, at this point, but are we letting our lust for the device blind ourselves to its obvious limitations as an enterprise tool?

After all this is a device that you can’t use to print from, that doesn’t integrate very well with most of your office software, that you can’t connect to the LAN, that doesn’t run flash, and that really isn’t built for typing, unless you attach an external keyboard.

And yet, consider the staggering numbers published: 11,000 iPads distributed to staff by United Airlines; 8,000 by Roche; 5,000 by Sears; 4,000 by Verizon; 2,000 by Walt Disney; just to name a few from dozens of examples; and a whopping 32,000 by Korea Telecom. All these companies and many many more are buying iPads by the thousands to distribute to their staff.

According to Forrester, CIOs will spend $10bn on iPads in 2012. A little more than they will actually spend on Macs. And just so you know the figure will actually grow to $ 16 bn by 2013. According to a global survey by IDG Connect, 22% of respondents have deployed tablets in the enterprise and 78% intend to do so by 2013. You do the maths. Also, Apple currently between 60-70% of the tablet market, including the Kindle, and it’s clear that those big numbers for iPad deployment will not be slowing down for a while.

We got some of our clients, partners into a room with some entrepreneurs and experts to pose this question: why? Why are businesses buying what is essentially a consumer device, a toy, in such large numbers? Some of the responses and discussions were illuminating.

“It helps that it’s cool.” – Companies have tried using Laptops before and it hasn’t worked. But giving people iPads and letting them use it personally as well, builds a strong sense of ownership and people look after the device better.

“The business case blindingly obvious for mobile users”. In the sheer amount of information that they no longer have to carry. One of our airline clients mentioned that the fuel savings created by not having to carry manuals with hundreds of pages itself paid for the iPads.

“Cost and Upgrades are key challenges”. The iPad is expensive. And also, Apple does not play by the rulebook when it comes to announcing upgrades, releases, and doesn’t really have an enterprise support environment.

“There is an opportunity for Microsoft” – the good news, or bad news, depending on your religious affiliation when it comes to computing, is Microsoft’s very good showing at the CES. The new Windows 8 interface is seen as a winner and even if they could get a device which has 80% of the iPads power and appeal, the ease of integration of office tools would make it a winner.

“Emotion rules the day” – the amazing thing of course was that every time we asked people about the iPad in the enterprise, people responded first with a personal anecdote. It was their 5 year old son, their 10 month old daughter, their 60 year old father, or themselves, who had been seduced by the iPad. It was a device you could “caress”. If there is a wider lesson here for CIOs, it’s to welcome the arrival of emotion into technology.

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