iPad in the Enterprise

Perhaps the worst-kept tech industry secret went from rumor to fact yesterday when Apple unveiled the iPad. So now that the product specifications are known, what will a really big iTouch mean for Apple customers?

We know for sure that the high-end of the eReader market has been demolished. No one is going to pay more than $400 for a black and white device on which you can only download and read books, newspapers, and magazines when $500 will give you a color device that also delivers internet access, email, and a host of other applications. It may also become a status symbol in upper-income households, allowing family members to curl up in a chair with a movie, play games on Facebook, and show of photos in a 10-inch., 1024-by-768 touch-screen album.

But what does it mean for business customers?

Could it be used in the field by workers who need access to high-end imagery, video, and web-based applications? Possibly, but that market is pretty small, and if the iPad is as fragile as its iTouch and iPhone brethren it won’t pass muster. Still, where the quality of the image matters – perhaps in healthcare, media, architecture, and engineering – it could find a market.

Could it be used as a slick presentation device? I’m sure it will be. A lot of the early discussion has pegged the iPad as the ultimate conference room device. You can take it to a meeting, use it to keep notes, present, and do email – and if there is no wi-fi, no problem, you can use 3G. But for some customers in order for the iPad to help them add flash to a presentation it would need to support … well, Flash.

The lack of a built-in camera has many tech writers and Apple enthusiasts scratching their heads. The iPad seems like a perfect device for video chats, in large part because it is so portable. Not having a camera is no oversight, it has to be a conscious decision, so we are left to speculate as to whether the iPad 2.0 will have a built-in camera.

Can it replace the laptop, while providing business users more than they can get out of a iPhone? It is hard to image a single plane device, with a virtual keyboard, replacing the laptop any time soon. It is a very big behavioral change for the user, and the inability to multi-task will seem like a limitation to users who are used to having more than one application running at a time. But in some situations — in meetings, on airplanes, reviewing work and email while on the road – the 1.5 lbs., 0.5-inch think iPad would be an attractive alternative.

There is no doubt the announcement has generated a tremendous amount of interest, and Apple has the best odds of any company of breathing life into the lackluster tablet category. The iPad will also act as a Trojan horse within organizations — as the iPhone has ever since it was launched – forcing IT managers to open their environments and support Apple equipment because their executives want to use the hottest new thing, and they aren’t taking no for an answer. In that regard, regardless of sales volumes, the iPad is likely to be a hit for Apple in the enterprise space.

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