As rivals dally, Apple gets even more serious about iPads in business

The forthcoming volume purchase system lets businesses buy iOS apps in volume from a single account

Well into the second year of the tablet phenomenon, research firms such as IDC and Gartner still can't bring themselves to recognize iPads as computing devices. Instead, they're labeled as media tablets -- the same category as e-book readers -- despite the fact iPads are one of the fastest-adopted computing devices ever in corporate environments.

Tablets from putative business competitors such as Hewlett-Packard and Research in Motion stumble, lacking the same level of business applications or, in the case of the HP TouchPad, the same level of business manageability and security as the iPad. They talk business but aren't seriously delivering.

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Meanwhile, Apple continues to push iPad adoption in business, despite its public consumer focus. The latest move is Apple's new volume purchase system for iOS apps (PDF), announced this week. On the face of it, it's an obvious decision: Let companies set up a single master account for iOS app purchases, buy apps in bulk, then provide a simple installation link for each employee. (If you use a mobile device management system to distribute mobile apps, you can distribute the volume apps through it.) That's basically how any volume licensing program works.

RIM's BlackBerry App World does allow volume licenses, managed by the software vendor, and Android app developers can provide volume licenses if they manage the app distribution directly. But neither is a universal approach to volume licensing as Apple is providing.

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