Good news for Apple: The third-generation iPad released in March appears to be an enterprise hit, says a recent survey.
Bad news for Apple: The reasons for iPad's enterprise success don't bode well for the much-rumored iPad mini's chances in the enterprise.
Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, or CIRP, surveyed more than 1,000 consumers and found that one in five who bought the third-generation iPad planned to use the device for business. Yet only 13 percent of users across all iPad models have the same intentions.
So what's the third-generation iPad's big business advantage? It's unclear, and CIRP doesn't say.
There's not much difference between the new iPad and the iPad 2, with the exception of a Retina display and 4G LTE connectivity. All iPads have the exact same screen size. While a Retina display offers some productivity advantages, 4G LTE is still in its infancy in terms of network availability.
Then again, the new iPad's business boon might simply be a sign of the times. That is, the iPad is becoming more acceptable on the corporate network. Apple has been tracking increased usage of the iPad in the enterprise. Earlier this year, Apple claimed that 94 percent of Fortune 500 companies have deployed or are testing the iPad.
There's no question iPads are riding on the coattails of another major IT trend called bring-your-own-device, or BYOD. Simply put, consumers want to use personal devices for work. A recent survey of more than 335 IT professionals, sponsored by enterprise software vendor MokaFive, found that 88 percent of companies had some form of BYOD, whether sanctioned or not.
Slideshow: 15 Ways iPad Goes to Work
As the iPad rises in the enterprise, will the same be true for an iPad mini? Rumors of a smaller iPad—or a larger iPod Touch—coming out in the fall has led industry watchers to predict how the product will fare in the enterprise.
Disagreement abounds about an iPad mini's chances as a corporate computing tool.
Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi believes a small tablet probably won't have much of an impact on the enterprise. Milanesi covers the tablet market at Gartner and is very familiar with small tablets such as the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7, which she says are too small to get much work done.
"The 7-inch [form factor] is really limiting," she says.
CIRP's research results indirectly support Milanesi's view. The third-generation iPad apparently appeals to businesses users, in part, because of the Retina display. Creation and consumption of Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, PowerPoint slides, emails, and other company-related content is much easier on the eyes thanks to the Retina display.
Not only will the iPad mini have a smaller, eye-straining screen, says Kyle Wiens, founder of iFixit and an iOS developer, "It probably won't have a Retina display, either."
Wiens, though, does think an iPad mini will carve out a place in the enterprise. He envisions the iPad mini used extensively in the field by service technicians, where mobility trumps everything else. Such employees don't have much use for fancy Retina displays.
"With service manuals, you need to see pictures to do repairs, which makes the iPad much more usable than the iPhone," Wiens says. "Yet you might be in tight places, so something in between would be reasonable."
Milanesi says a 7-inch Apple tablet, along with a cheap price point, will resonate with consumers, which somewhat undermines her anti-enterprise adoption argument. The thinking goes: If an iPad mini is a consumer hit, then it will likely ride BYOD to the enterprise anyway.
Tom Kaneshige covers Apple and Consumerization of IT for CIO.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Tom at email@example.com