Remember all the smug IT guys who scoffed at the iPhone-even forbade users to bring iPhones into work? Yeah, the iPad's going to give them a jolt too, says Mort Rosenthal, a tech sales vet who says the iPad will be a big hit, coming into enterprises through the front door and back door, much like the iPhone did.
"For the iPad, I am in favor of the game changing scenario," says Rosenthal, Chairman and CEO of Enterprise Mobile, a systems integration firm. (Rosenthal, a Computer Industry Hall of Fame inductee, is best known for founding Computer Software in 1982, which he grew to $1 billion in sales and merged with a division of R.R. Donnelly.)
Today, Enterprise Mobile focuses on mobility platforms, such as RIM, iPhone, Windows Mobile, Android and webOS-and, of course, the iPad when it becomes available. While Rosenthal is bullish on the iPad in the enterprise, he's also aware of the strain the iPad will put on CIOs and IT managers, particularly in the areas of security, bandwidth and performance.
CIO.com talked with Rosenthal about the early adoption of the iPad in the enterprise.
Why do you think the iPad will make a splash in the enterprise?
Rosenthal: The iPhone has really changed the way we deal with technology, making it more accessible and intuitive. Enterprises are getting increasingly interested in the iPhone as a platform. Not only to support general mobility usages but also as a platform for line-of-business deployments.
The iPad feels to me like a similar game changer.
The form factor of the laptop is certainly appropriate for many functions, but it's potentially not the form factor for many applications including enterprise ones. There are many times when a larger form factor than a phone is appropriate. The iPad probably does have a place in the enterprise. Over time, you'll see a lot of them.
How fast will the adoption occur?
Rosenthal: The iPad will matter in the enterprise-and it will matter reasonably quickly. To a large degree, the iPad is already a known platform. Of course, even in the best scenario it will still take some time for an enterprise to adopt it just because of the appropriate conservatism when it comes to new technology.
But look at how much the iPhone has driven data uses in the mobile environment in such a short time. The iPad can drive data uses in mobile and at home.
Who will be the early adopters of the iPad?
Rosenthal: The iPad form factor is not unlike carrying a clipboard. But this one is very fluidly connected to the Internet and to backend systems. I can see the iPad used by a variety of mobile workers. I can envision the iPad becoming a very important way to access information and doing relatively simple data entry.
So I think sales would be an early adopter. Salespeople want to show things, like a video of their product. It's a matter of form factor. With a laptop, you have to get someone to sit down and then set something on the table. The iPad will be easier travel with and show clients [media]. It's less imposing.
How many people walk around with a clipboard? It would be convenient to do some of that data entry and data review on an iPad instead.
Another application is medical. Electronic medical records is coming to reality, but how are you going to get at them? Doctors won't have to go to the nurse's station to enter stuff. They can do it right there in the moment. If you're a medical salesperson, you might want to capture a signature with an iPad. But field service workers may not be first adopters because field service tends to require a little more rugged devices.
What general benefits does the iPad bring to the enterprise?
Rosenthal: The iPad's benefit for the CIO is that there's not much support required. Give an iPhone or iPad to not quite anyone on the planet but something fairly close to that and they'll figure out how to use it pretty quickly. That's a lot different than giving someone a computer. It's a potential advantage that would have a material impact on an enterprise.
What are the challenges with the iPad?
Rosenthal: Any new technology has some hiccups. As wonderful a product development shop as Apple is, I'm sure there will be things that will take some time before Apple gets it right. There will be some risk with early adoption, of course.
The biggest challenge for the CIO with the iPad is this: If you want to put a line-of-business app on the iPad, you have the same challenge as you do with the iPhone. That is, it's not easy to do. And to some degree, Apple's closed environment makes it really challenging.
Adoption is really a function of how quickly certain enterprise thresholds are met, some of which are around security. But the iPhone meets most corporate requirements, and I assume the iPad will do at least that, too.
You can have an iPhone 3GS that's encrypted at rest and with appropriate PIN requirements. You can flatten it, wipe it out if it gets lost. All of those security requirements make an enterprise feel a little more comfortable-not perfectly comfortable. If those apply to the iPad, you're in the same boat.
Apple gets better and better at responding to enterprise requirements, and that will probably continue with the iPad as well.
Isn't Apple slow at responding to the enterprise?
Rosenthal: In the global view of things, the user drives Apple's behavior. But Apple does have a not insignificant effort focused on the enterprise, both on the requirements perspective and a go-to-market perspective. I think they've come a long way in being responsive to enterprises.
Now Apple is not going to do something for the enterprise that sacrifices usability.
For better or worse, Apple keeps [new products] pretty darn secret before announcing them. Certainly, enterprises would like to have a view of the road map and they're not going to get that with Apple. How much does that really matter? It matters some. But I don't think it's going to prevent adoption, although it might make an IT guy a little embarrassed.
Normally, one of the reasons you want to have a roadmap is so you can make sure that when the phone starts ringing from the users, you're prepared to answer. With [Apple products], the phone doesn't ring as much. It's a little less of a problem-a tradeoff you're willing to accept.
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