iPad 2 in the Enterprise: One Company's Upgrade Strategy

Execs demanding Apple's new iPad 2 teach IT one thing fast: This is no PC refresh cycle. Here's how one manufacturing company is handling the upgrade. Hint: Think hand-me-downs.

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Fri, March 18, 2011

CIO — When the iPad 2 hit Apple (AAPL) stores, people couldn't wait to buy. Lines stretched around entire city blocks. At the Apple Store in Walnut Creek, Calif., a shopping mecca 30 miles east of San Francisco, people at the front of the line said they'd been waiting since 6 a.m. for the iPad 2 to go on sale at 5 p.m.

Imagine the kind of pressure that executives toting original iPads are now exerting on IT departments to upgrade to the iPad 2.

Jeff Letasse, VP of IT for Conceptus, a Silicon Valley medical device manufacturer, says that pressure isn't all bad news. In fact, he says the Apple upgrade cycle has some advantages over the old PC refresh cycle. Despite the fact that iPad 2's features haven't wowed him, he's already ordered 30 iPad 2 3G devices for top sales executives.

Here's the back story:

Conceptus began replacing laptops with iPads for its salespeople late last year. IT staff also use iPads for training purposes and remote access. Some 220 iPads are dispersed in the workforce. (See Why One Company is Ditching Sales Laptops for iPads.)

With an iPad in their hands, salespeople show presentations to doctors and use a custom enterprise iPad app that taps into a back-end CRM system. Conceptus is also moving toward using a Citrix iPad app to give users a Windows desktop in a virtualized environment.

"They have to be able to do everything on their iPad," says Eric Simmons, Conceptus director of IT operations and ERP solutions.

[ What happens when a CEO gives iPads to all? | Check out 3 must-have iPad productivity tools, reports CIO.com. ]

iPad Peer Pressure

The iPad's burgeoning status as the presentation tool of choice has resulted in many C-level executives demanding iPads at work, not just at Conceptus but across a variety of industries. These execs can pressure enterprise IT departments to upgrade to new models ASAP.

Letasse is fully aware of this pressure, but he says the lifecycle of the iPad actually benefits companies. With PCs, Conceptus was on a three-year cycle. This caused not only technical problems with older and newer models, he says, but also "a little PC envy." No one wants to be the exec still stuck with the old PC. With iPads, he expects Apple to come out with a new model every nine to 12 months. He's hoping to refresh iPads every two years—much like a cell phone.

"The wait time isn't as long as it used to be with a laptop," Letasse says.

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