I'm going to strive to keep this short since I'm sure that most readers who've been drawn to this post by the inclusion of "iPad" in the title have a long line of stories and reviews to read about Apple's newest device; there's clearly no shortage. There are glowing reviews, those that pan the device, and even some that have created a graphical collage in homage to the device – which makes about as much sense as Apple's terming the device "…magical and revolutionary." Two of my fellow Forrester analysts have offered differing opinions already. I tend to side with my colleague James and definitely am waiting to see the "magic" here.

In my role in the Infrastructure and Operations team, my goal is to provide guidance to the enterprise IT professionals that are tasked with manning the gates into the enterprise through which all mobile devices must pass. To you I say, do not take the iPad as a game changer, its mere existence should have little to not impact in your device support strategy, and here's why:

  • The OS. An often overlooked fact in many of the glowing reviews of the device is that it runs the iPhone OS – an updated version – but the same OS as the smartphone. So, if you can do it with and iPhone or iPod touch, you can do it with an iPad, and vice versa. If you've got support for the iPhone in place, the iPad should be no different. Moreover, while the release of an SDK promises more complex applications tailored to the tablet, at present I see no distinct benefit of the iPad over the iPod other than screen size and, if chosen, 3G connectivity.
  • Lack of Multitasking. Because this device is based on the iPhone OS, it's also incapable – in its current iteration – of running multiple applications simultaneously. I know from experience with the iPhone/iPodTouch OS that the loss of state of an application such as Safari, such as when the device is locked, interrupts connectivity. This represents a huge productivity suck when a user must re-authenticate to the enterprise WLAN every time the machine comes out of sleep to reestablish connectivity that was lost in the state change. I'm not stating this latter situation as a fact of iPad use – I've not used it and I don't know – but I see it as just one potential issue with lack of multitasking. That is a deal-killer for me if I'm wearing my enterprise IT decision maker hat.
  • The Price. Some have remarked that the starting price point of $500 makes this a perfect "in between" device filling the gap between laptop and mobile device. The users that I interact with are willing to pay much more for their tablets, be it a Panasonic Toughbook H1 or U1 or a Lenovo X200 tablet, and expect to have things like removable batteries, application portability across systems (due to OS parity) and others that allow the device to act as a primary device for users. IT departments take on enough cost and opex supporting one computing device and smartphone per employee, adding another device into the mix just doesn't make sense. In my opinion, the price is consummate with the feature set which, for most enterprise users, is paltry at best.
  • The (unrealized) Potential. I had really hoped, like many others, to see Apple – a company whose innovations have made my interaction with email, music, and social media better as a result of daily use – turn the computing model on its head. Around the time that the excitement was building to a tumult, I was on the West Coast attending an analyst briefing on smartphone design held by a major chipmaker. I saw, at that event, the use case of a similar device that tied into an ecosystem of other devices such that a user's voice, video, or application session could be seamlessly moved between smartphone, desktop screen, and home PC. Give me that, and you've got a "magical" game changer, Apple. I will say, given the vendor's propensity to innovate, we'll get there, but we're not near there yet.

Long story short for the IT Ops pros? If your users want to try out the iPad, let them foot the bill. The support for the device should look very similar, if not identical, to the iPhone and, for the time being, welcoming experimentation with new form factors by your users is a healthy exercise provided it does not create an undue opex burden on IT.

This is a device that's not going away and that we'll likely see some amazing, game changing applications and services for. However, right now, rushing to make way for this device is, for most enterprises, premature.

What will be your organization's stance on the iPad? 

By Chris Silva

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