IPads taking hold in the enterprise

Ulrika Hedquist looks at the tablet's uptake with New Zealand businesses

Demand for iPads is “absolutely” growing, says Werner Marx of the Technology Centre in Tauranga. The Technology Centre supplies to the education, legal and medical sector, as well as SMBs and corporates, he says.

Marx, himself an avid iPad user, sees his device as a business tool, he says.

“It is a means for me to remain in contact with the business, no matter where I am.”

Marx recently attended a four-day conference in Wellington, and normally, he would have “dragged” his laptop with him, he says. “Instead, I took my iPad and could stay on top of my business."

The Technology Centre is currently running an iPad trial with a medical practice, which is planning to go paperless. They are looking to use the iPad to access databases, and also for patient consent forms and other medical documentation.

Interest in iPads in the education sector has practically “exploded”, says Marx, who has sold “hundreds” of the Apple device to schools. The company is also running iPad trials in a number of primary and intermediate schools, colleges and tertiary institutions, he says. In addition to an iPad roll-out in a hospice, trials are also underway with a large port and a baking company.

Another sector where the iPad has made inroads is the legal world, with lawyers using the devices both in and outside of court. Marx is currently in talks with a multinational legal software developer, which is looking to build an iPad app for secure access to legal databases.

“So is it an enterprise tool? Absolutely,” says Marx.

However, he describes it as a “real nothing-device” until you start customising it and making it do the things you need from it. “That’s the magic of it,” he says. Carl Gamble, senior consulting engineer at Imagetext Integrated Solutions, says that virtually the whole customer base is interested in iPad - from graphic design agencies to lawyers. The way it usually works is when a device comes out – be it the Mac, iPhone or iPad – the CEO gets one, finds it really useful and then a pilot scheme takes place, he says. “It’s fairly straightforward to support these devices whatever business you have.” However, there are some challenges, warns Gamble. “The traditional way of deploying IT is very different for the iPad and iPhone.” IT has traditionally tried to control devices and lock them down. Apple’s devices are focused on the individual rather than the corporate. A typical example is that the user has an individual account for buying and downloading apps and music. "When you buy them they belong to you, because you paid for them with your credit card. So when [a company] deploys a lot of these devices, the challenge is to manage how to get those applications onto the devices. You can’t push an application to multiple devices," says Gamble. People that are buying iPads are primarily looking to achieve two things – mobility and productivity, adds Chris Parnell, enterprise consultant at Imagetext.

Parnell’s team is selling iPads to the health industry, which uses them for displaying information or explaining procedures to patients in an engaging way, he says. iPad uptake is also “going nuts” in hospitality, he says, with hotels worldwide using them for presentations when selling conference and wedding packages.

Executives were among the first off the block to adopt the iPad. They are often on the go, using the device as a lightweight presentation and video-conferencing tool, in addition to accessing email, calendar and collaboration tools from it, Parnell says.

The company is also working with a large number of organisations that have their sales team members on iPads.

“This is the way the iPad is being used most in business – accessing CRM, sales information on the road, delivering presentations, editing and sharing office documents and, of course, accessing your mail, calendars and address books.”

With the right applications on the iPad, business intelligence can be presented to the users in a more meaningful, easy-to-use way, he says.

Banking and finance is another sector that has growing uptake, he says.

“A large number of financial institutes are embracing Apple's iOS devices (iPod touch, iPhone and iPad) to deliver better banking experiences for their customers."

An example is tellers operating with an iPad in-store “rather than behind a partition with two or three wires in-between the customer and the teller”, says Parnell.

Imagetext also provides Android and Windows-based tablets, but the company is “not at all” seeing the same demand for those as for iPads. “There is not a difference in quality,” he says. “But I think it’s fair to say that the user experience on the iPad is an advantage for Apple.”

With reports suggesting that Apple has sold more than 25 million since launch, Warwick Grey, general manager of Renaissance, doubts anyone thinks of the iPad as a toy now.

“You only have to catch the ferry from Waiheke in the morning to see how many business people are using them to stay connected to the things that are important to them. For some this is the latest news via websites ... for others it's connecting to their email and calendars via Microsoft Exchange to see what the day holds.”

Many companies now want iPads to replace other mobile devices to share information with customers directly, to showcase products with digital catalogues and for presenting order forms and other documentation that speeds up transactions, says Grey.

Renaissance is seeing a “huge” interest in its training courses and consultancy services, aiming to help resellers and enterprises to understand how to integrate iPads into the enterprise IT environment – and keep everyone safe, says Grey. “It has also led to a greater focus on what end users are doing with their devices,” he says.

“The demand from our resellers for iPad supply continues to grow, but the channel of supply is restricted to just a few Apple approved enterprise resellers locally. They are Gen-i, Imagetext Publishing Systems and Datacom Systems.

“I am sure we are going to see even more iPads used to support business functions as more developers gain familiarity with the software development kit and learn how to integrate them to the SMB and enterprise network environment."

“Mobility is the future of business and the iPad has led the way to this speedy change along with Android and now Windows Phone 7,” says Grey.

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