by Agam Shah

Making iPads Enterprise Ready

Sep 28, 20113 mins
Consumer Electronics

CIOs continue to test the popular iPad tablet for enterprise applications. These pilots show potential, but the devices still have lots of limitations.

  • Company: Apple
  • Headquarters: Cupertino, Calif.
  • Employees: 46,600
  • 2010 Revenue: $65.2 billion
  • CEO: Tim Cook
  • What They Do: Apple is best known for the iPhone smartphone, the iPad tablet and Mac computers. The company recently appointed Tim Cook as CEO following the resignation of Steve Jobs, an IT industry icon and the driving force behind many of Apple’s products. Cook has promised no changes in Apple’s product strategy.

The Pitch

Apple has unwittingly become an enterprise player, says Edward ­Marczak, author and executive editor of MacTech magazine. The company is leading the trend toward IT consumerization as users become attached to their iPads and iPhones and IT administrators try to incorporate the devices into existing corporate technology infrastructures.

“The iPhone was a huge factor in legitimizing Apple in the enterprise,” Marczak says. Now the iPad is popular among business executives for accessing email, calendars, the Web and corporate documents. SAP has given employees, including salespeople, 8,900 iPads to use for accessing sales data and analysis reports. United Airlines is deploying 11,000 iPads to replace paper flight manuals and navigational charts.

Apple offers minimal support for integrating its devices with common enterprise applications, instead concentrating on the consumer market. Analysts say that isn’t likely to change under new CEO Tim Cook.

The Catch

The iPad is not ready for widespread enterprise use, many CIOs say. At financial trading company Group One, a few employees bring their own iPads in for personal use, but the device is not used in core operations, says Terence Judkins, managing director of systems at the company.

“We have no plans to bring them into the infrastructure, mainly because accessibility isn’t a goal, raw compute power is. During the trading day, people are usually sitting in front of multiscreen setups connected back to our servers,” Judkins says.

Nonprofit company Trans World Radio uses 10 iPads and several Motorola Xoom Android tablets, but can’t quantify enough productivity savings to justify a mass tablet deployment, says CIO Steve Shantz. “I think there are a few situations where we could pilot iPads as the only issued computer, but we are not ready for that on a large scale.” Shantz says.

Customizing applications for specific IT infrastructures is challenging because of Apple’s tight control over iPad apps—any apps a company develops have to be vetted by Apple before being deployed. Meanwhile, the iPad has only limited interoperability with Windows and Linux environments; integrating the devices with corporate systems can add to the tablet’s ownership cost, says Ezra Gottheil, analyst at Technology Business Research.

At Trans World Radio, Shantz says, iPads access Windows tools through Jump, a remote-desktop application, but he wants apps to access the organization’s financial and donor-management software directly.

Android OSes and Microsoft’s upcoming tablet-compatible Windows 8 could challenge the iPad in the enterprise, Gottheil says.

The Score

Some companies seem willing to foot the bill for executives who prefer premium-priced Apple products, but IT managers need to determine if the cost of services and support is worth it, says Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. CIOs should also consider whether Apple supports key corporate applications and how well its products work with a company’s security and compliance strategies.

IT leaders also need a strategy for data protection and software management when deploying iPads, says Oliver Bussmann, SAP’s global CIO, because the devices can be easily stolen. SAP uses its own Afaria tool to encrypt data, enforce security policies and manage software across tablets.