iPad's business use soars as HP backpedals on Slate's fit

Financial services, health care among the top adopters as employees eye iPads as laptop replacements

Although the Apple tablet been available for just seven months, the iPad is being strongly embraced by businesses, particularly financial services, health care, technology, and legal providers, say three separate enterprise surveys. A big reason is the iPad's ability to be both a general-purpose device like a computer and a highly managed special-purpose device like an appliance, notes Brian Reed, chief marketer at Boxtone, a mobile management provider that surveyed 1,200 enterprises on iPad usage.

Steve Wastie, product development VP at mobile connectivity management provider iPass, notes that iPass's survey of 1,100 customers showed that 13 percent already have iPads in use (mainly brought in by employees) and two-thirds expect iPads and similar devices to replace (27 percent) or supplement (39 percent) the laptop as their primary computing device.

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Despite its public consumer focus (consider how many TV shows now feature iPads used by their characters), Apple has apparently been aggressively pursuing enterprise usage as well, sending product managers and engineers to many large businesses to find out what they want in the iPad to meet their business needs, several CIOs have told me in recent months.

Other vendors are just starting to get their tablets to market, though only one business-oriented tablet, the HP Slate 500, is available today. So far, that device is not getting much enterprise discussion, notes both Reed and Wastie. That may be due to its newness.

HP Slate intended for custom apps, not general business use
But although Hewlett-Packard has marketed its Slate 500 on its website as "the ideal PC for professionals who don't usually work at a traditional desk, yet need to stay productive in a secure, familiar Windows environment," HP spokesman Roman Skuratovskiy says the Slate's intended use is far narrower: "The HP Slate 500 is designed to run custom applications created by enterprise customers, unlike HP's business laptops, desktops, etc." (HP declined further comment when asked to clarify that statement.)

That need for custom applications may be due to the lack of a touch interface in Windows designed for tablet use. Microsoft all but ended its touch UI efforts in fall 2008, and the first generation of touchscreen PCs faltered in the market because Windows and standard Windows apps weren't designed to handle touch gestures. By contrast, the iPad is designed from the ground up for touch-based interaction. HP has since refocused its touchscreen PCs for kiosk-style uses, such as in lobbies, where users interact with custom apps, not the full Windows environment.

In 2011, Android-based tablets will enter the fray, offering a native touch-based UI more similar to the iPad's approach. Cisco Systems' Android-based Cius, which is aimed at business and IT users, won't ship until spring 2011. A handful of Android tablets are already available, such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab, but they use an operating system version Google says is not tablet-ready and have much smaller screens, so they may not be seen as potential laptop replacements.

iPad adoption by the numbers
The separate surveys by Boxtone and iPass, as well as a third one by Good Technologies of 4,000 enterprises, found the following:

  • iPass found that 27.4 percent of respondents thought iPads and similar devices could supplant their laptops, and 39 percent thought they would complement iPads and other slates. But 23.8 percent said nothing could replace their laptop.
  • iPass found that 13.2 percent of companies already had iPads in use for business purposes, typically employees' personal devices.
  • Boxtone found that 28 percent of customers were beginning pilots now, 15 percent in the next three months, 15 percent in the next six months, and 15 percent in the next year.
  • Boxtone invited customers to attend a Webinar on iPad usage in business, and 51 percent of the attendees were in health care. Another 11 percent were in financial services.
  • Good found that 36 percent of its customers' iPad deployments were in financial services, 11 percent in technology, 10 percent in health care, and 9 percent in legal.

This article, "iPad's business use soars as HP backpedals on Slate's fit," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in business technology news and get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter.

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