Not to overstate the obvious, but with 3 million units shipped in its first three months, Apple's iPad has been an astounding success. With one simple, yet seductive, product Apple has succeeded where all others have failed: bringing relevance to the slate tablet category. Now while that last statement may not exactly be fair - the slate segment has found success in a variety of vertical markets supporting specialized applications - slate tablets have so far not lived up to their initial (think Bill Gates at COMDEX circa 2001) hype as the next mainstream PC form factor. And therein lies the rub. The iPad is NOT a PC. Leveraging the iPhone OS and its iconic multi-touch interface, the iPad obviously resembles a smarphone much more than a traditional PC and in doing so dispels the notion that devices with large displays should behave like PCs. Therefore what makes the device attractive is not in its displacement value (notebooks continue to ship in record numbers) but rather in the new applications and workflows it can introduce. Moreover, it has the potential to usher in a new era of mobile interfaces and social computing.
Although the iPad (and iPhone and iTouch) have been designed and deployed with the consumer in mind their reach into the enterprise is substantial. The iPad should benefit greatly from the ground work achieved by the iPhone (in terms of garnering enterprise support) and the transition should be much more seamless. In a recent survey conducted by VDC Research among in excess of 500 enterprises (survey conducted in June/July, 2010) the level of interest in and evaluation of the iPad for enterprise mobility applications was astounding.
Among the respondents, almost 15% have already decided to deploy iPads while an additional 29% have plans to evaluate the iPad for enterprise applications. For a product that was launched barely three months prior these are some strong numbers. Digging into the numbers a little deeper revealed a high correlation between industries with highly or inherently mobile workforces and interest in the iPad. More specifically, interest was strongest in industries such as healthcare, retail, construction and manufacturing.
However, as with any new form factor/computing experience, there a number of legitimate issues or concerns with the iPad - especially from the perspective of the enterprise consumer. Per VDC's research results, of the organizations that have evaluated the iPad almost 37% decide NOT to deploy the device based on its shortcomings. While most of these have been well documented - lack of multi-tasking, wireless security concerns, processing power, etc. - others have received less attention. One of the most glaring in VDC's perspective - especially for what one might consider mission critical field applications - is the viewability of the display in direct sunlight. In addition, the limited support of many enterprise applications for touch interfaces will be a barrier in many industry segments (although one that should be overcome fairly quickly).
Nevertheless, the outlook for the iPad and other slate tablets in the enterprise is expected to be strong and introduce innovative new workflows and mobile opportunities.