Enterprise IT must prepare for iPad apps

Corporate users are keen, IT managers less so

Apple iPad developers have jumped to quickly adapt enterprise applications for the new device, even as some analysts and IT managers say they don't find the iPad to be enterprise-ready.

Last week Apple's App Store listed the top four iPad paid apps as related to "productivity" functions, including a word-processing app, a spreadsheet app and a presentation app built by Apple developers for US$9.99 each.

Those Apple-built applications were long expected. But some third-party enterprise application developers have acted quickly to join the iPad gravy train with applications that are sometimes free, but will give iPad users an application to link back to corporate databases provided by those same third parties.

For example, an iPad app has been developed by Blackbaud, which makes CRM software used by thousands of nonprofit organisations, says Blackbaud CTO Shaun Sullivan. Apple has not yet approved the Blackbaud iPad app for release on the App Store, but a similar Blackbaud Mobile app is already available for iPhone and Android phones for free, giving charities and other groups mobile access to precise data on donations and donors.

"We felt it was important to have a native iPad app as well," Sullivan says. Blackbaud sells specialised CRM back-office software and expects that CRM vendors such as Salesforce.com will embrace the iPad as well. (Salesforce.com already has an iPhone app.)

In another example, MobileIron announced its Sentry App for iPad, which is now available for free in the App Store. It is designed for IT managers and workers to have a mobile command centre on the iPad for monitoring and reacting to smartphones, including rogues, that access enterprise email accounts. With the application on the iPad, an IT worker could identify and block access by a rogue device to corporate email, the company says. As with Blackbaud, the Sentry App for iPad will work with MobileIron's back-office software.

Despite the rush to build iPad enterprise apps, some analysts have declared the iPad is not ready for enterprise use, partly because of security concerns.

Even so, those analysts recognise that the iPad will enter the enterprise through the consumer door, just as the iPhone did. As a result, enterprise application providers are trying to take advantage of the iPad popularity by building new iPad apps.

Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney says there will clearly be some IT support for iPad applications "just because there is [worker] enthusiasm to support it".

One IT manager for a large nonprofit group based in New York says he is taking a wait-and-see approach to the iPad for use in his organisation. "Other than the 'cool factor' I don't really see many enterprise uses for the iPad yet," says the IT manager, who asked not to be named because he is not authorised to speak for the organisation or take a position on new products.

"I'm sure there will be some great apps developed for it, but I suspect it will be a while before it is a must-have device ... VPN support would be a major concern," the IT manager says.

Dulaney says he expected some companies, such as Disney and Nike, will likely use the iPad to promote a high-tech image for their companies. By contrast, the nonprofit IT manager says because of the economy, "we are not spending as much on things just because they are fun or cool".

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Tags managementipad applicationsiPadenterprise IT

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