iPad 3: The MacEnterprise Cometh

Barn_burnApple’s barnburner sales of the new iPad (three million in the first three days of sales) are a clear indication that the latest iteration of the breakthrough device is connecting with more than just fanboys.  And while I am sure that the vast majority of them are being picked up by consumers, it’s also clear that the iPad is nudging its way into the enterprise.

According to Forrester, there is already plenty of momentum:

A faster processor, sharper Retina display, and a faster network connection could add fuel to that fire, and even more interest from CIOs:

…some of that network speed and graphics power will be diverted to translate keyboard/mouse applications to even better virtual machine interfaces from Citrix and VMWare and others.Further, every systems integrator is building mobile interfaces to SAP applications to handle the needs of field sales, executives in meetings, and normal joes like us. The list of SaaS and software vendors delivering touchscreen business apps is also rapidly expanding and ready to take advantage of the faster network. Cisco WebEx moving into two-way video; QuickOffice is ramping up its spreadsheet program; Adobe Illustrator is unleashed with gestures; even Microsoft is running OneNote on iPad with panache; Salesforce.com enhancing its touch. interface. And new-generation mobile engagement vendors like Appian and appsFreedom are handling the refacing and last mile wireless delivery of business apps to tablets. In short, iPads are accumulating business apps at breakneck pace.

Frustrated enterprise Mac fans, take cheer: CIOs will follow the apps, and the apps are clearly coming. But will they replace laptops?  It seems too much to hope for. I wouldn’t want to create a long document on one, but for day to day tasks like checking email and driving presentations, bring it. Forrester agrees, to a certain point:

Executives and sales reps can use tablets instead of laptops today. All others, especially heads-down content creators, will still need a dedicated computer or access to a computer. But even these people are time-shifting towards tablets. Already, US employees with smartphones or tablets do 26% of their work email on them. While the new iPad with its powerful chipset, beautiful screen, 10 hour battery life, instant on, and fast network-seeking smarts makes the post-laptop experience better, I predict the big laptop replacement breakthough could come in the fall when Apple has the opportunty to upgrade the OS to handle touchpad accessories. (Apple should logically do this because it would advance its convergence strategy to simplify and unify the experience across all Apple devices, services, and ecosystems.)

But Forrester wisely points out that the Fat Lady from Redmond has not had a chance to sing yet:

CIOs wait with hopeful anticipation that Windows 8 tablets will have even better answers to these questions. Well, we’ll see. I am not so sure given the employees’ willingness to buy their own work equipment the way they buy their own work clothes. The end result of device consumerization is faster innovation and more device diversity. And Apple has a four-year headstart wooing developers to build and sell touchscreen apps.

The prospect of (at least implied) integration across applications and platforms might slow down this momentum just a bit. I think Forrester is right though that this battle will be won or lost not on the merits of the devices, but on the apps themselves.

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Data visualization app vendor MeLLmo wasted no time in releasing its Roambi app on the same day that the iPad 3 launched. The app pulls data from apps like Crystal reports and Salesforce for cool visualizations, now tuned for the iPad 3’s sharp new Retina display.

Finally, while Apple has never been accused of being overly enterprise, the company is stepping up. In advance of the iPad 3 launch, Apple introduced the Apple configurator:

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The company says “Apple Configurator makes it easy for anyone to mass configure and deploy iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch in a school, business, or institution.”

OK systems integrators, here’s my challenge: you’ve got employees sneaking iPads in the back door, curious CIOs, more and more apps, and now configuration help from Apple itself.  Who is going to take this trend and make it a solid business and a center of excellence?