Do iPad 2, iOS 4.3 Make Enough Gains for Enterprise?

Enterprises applaud the upcoming Apple iPad 2's videoconferencing, HDMI and tethering capabilities, but Apple could have gone further by slashing original iPad prices and extending Home Sharing.

Charles Edge, author of Enterprise iPhone and iPad Administrator's Guide and director of technology at IT consultancy 318, was talking to a CIO as Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad 2 today.

Jobs mentioned that, along with the iPad 2, a new version of the tablet operating system, iOS 4.3, will debut on March 11. It'll have improved JavaScript performance, Home Sharing with AirPlay, and enable the iPhone 4 to become a personal hotspot.

While most Apple consumers cheered, the CIO let out a gasp. "Uh-oh, is this going to cost me a whole bunch of money?" he asked Edge. With millions of dollars worth of iOS apps in development, the CIO wondered how the new iOS and iPad 2 would affect those development cycles.

[ Considering the iPad 2? Check out 15 best iPad apps for newbies, reports CIO.com. ]

Edge assured him that Apple does a good job of keeping backwards compatibility with its APIs. Any of Apple's new features can be pushed into 1.x of the apps in development, he says. Nevertheless, Edge was struck by the sudden concern, which underscores the dramatic differences between consumers' and CIOs' reactions to Apple news.

That's not to say CIOs aren't happy with the new iPad 2.

For instance, CIOs have been waiting for a front-facing camera to make its way onto the iPad for some time, say IT consultants. "FaceTime will be appealing to a lot of enterprises that may look at it as easy, entry-level video teleconferencing," says Dan Hays, partner at management consulting firm PRTM, which focuses on operational strategy and execution for C-level executives within Fortune 2000 organizations.

"The camera makes the iPad a bit of a game changer in the enterprise," Edge says, whose firm specializes in integrating Apple products into the enterprise. "You take the device with you on the road, provide a presentation, videoconference back to the office to tell them how it went, and then use FaceTime to talk to your wife and kids back at home. It's a pretty compelling story for the road warriors out there."

Another cool enterprise feature of iPad 2: an Apple accessory HDMI video out cable ($39) that mirrors whatever is on the iPad to HDMI projectors at up to 1080p resolution. This is more geared toward the future, though, since HDMI projectors aren't all that common compared to VGA-based projectors. "Our customers see iPad as the presentation tool of the future," Edge says.

While everyone with an iPhone 4 can benefit from iOS 4.3's tethering capability, enterprise users who still carry around their laptops on business trips should be pleased, Hays says. "Embedding personal hotspots will be valuable for enterprises," he says, "and there's potential savings from not having multiple 3G connections."

The few initial enterprise-related criticisms of the iPad 2 relate to pricing and sharing.

Companies, for instance, probably wanted to see Apple slash prices on original iPads during the iPad 2 announcement. Oddly, Apple made no mention of the cost of the original iPad despite the fact that the iPad 2 will cost exactly the same as the original iPad in every configuration.

Apple, however, began offering an original iPad clearance sale on its Web site that shaves around $100 from the price tag. For CIOs starting an iPad pilot project, it makes sense to jump on the clearance sale. With a $100 savings per unit, CIOs might be able to expand the pilot project to include more individuals or even another group.

(It should be noted that if they are already in a pilot project, then videoconferencing capabilities of the iPad 2 weren't part of the initial architecture.)

Another example of an Apple enterprise teaser: iOS 4.3's updates to iTunes Home Sharing and AirPlay. The updates will let people stream music and movies from iTunes on their PCs to the iPad or iPhone over a Wi-Fi connection. Third-party apps will also be able to tap into AirPlay for audio and video streaming.

Many companies need to distribute content to iPads and iPhones, and Home Sharing is a nice start. But Home Sharing will likely require the user to be on the same subnet. "My only disappointment is that we will need more than Home Sharing to get content to devices at very large scales," Edge says, "which is something most [corporate] environments need in lieu of traditional file server access."

Tom Kaneshige covers Apple and Networking for CIO.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Tom at tkanshige@cio.com

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