The iPads are Coming

Apple's New Tablet is Just Good Enough to Win an Enterprise Mobile Toehold

Well, the room darkened, Steve Jobs spoke, and the iPad was released to the world -- a world that continues to spin on its access, populated by people who continue to wake up, go to work, go to sleep, and do all the other things they were happily (or unhappily) doing two days ago. That means the iPad is a failure, right? I'm not so sure...

It's been interesting following online discussions about the iPad. Once you get past the name (not the best, but not doomed, either), then most of the complaints have focused on the lack of a built-in video camera, lack of USB ports, lack of storage (max is 64 GB), and the lack of an all-new operating system that would make Microsoft cry and rend its corporate robes in dispair. I'll grant all those point and say that I don't think they'll matter at all when it comes to the iPad's success or failure in the marketplace.

Here's what I saw: This is a thin, easy-to-hold device that's geared toward content consumption, but will allow for modest content creation. It's based on an operating system that is already used by several million folks. The iPad has access to the iPhone App Store, and will have dedicated applications (available in through the App Store mechanism) when it comes to market. It is almost certainly not perfect -- but it's pretty darned good, and enterprise mobile professionals should be prepared to deal with iPads in the corporate network.

An iPad isn't going to replace a notebook computer for serious work. Nothing I saw yesterday made me want to give up my MacBook Pro (or my Windows 7 laptop, for that matter). There are lots of times, though, when carrying a laptop computer is a pain, and using one is inconvenient. When, you ask? How about when I'm walking through the office, heading for a meeting. I'll run into colleages and be asked about a possible meeting. Stopping to unfold a laptop and use it to check a calendar is unwieldy and the current crop of tablet-based notebooks is pretty thick and heavy. The iPad will carry like a clipboard or portfolio, be available for standing calendar review and data entry, and connect to the office WiFi network. That's pretty compelling.

Here's another use: I go to a lot of trade shows, conferences, and customer meetings. Sometimes I need the full capabilities of my laptop, but often I don't -- I carry the laptop to keep up with email, check scheduling details, and post to a blog or two. I can do all of that from the iPad and save my shoulders from carrying several pounds through the day.

The applications will ultimately make or break the iPad, and the initial signs are good. Most existing iPhone apps will work, Apple has announced low-cost office-productivity tools (word processing, spreadsheet and presentation for $9.95 each), and I'm guessing that developers are already starting to work on addtional apps. To the extent it's successful as an application platform, the iPad will be successful as a tool for mobile professionals. If I had to bet today, I'd bet on it being successful.

There is an extent to which nothing Apple introduced could live up to the hype that surrounded the iPad. The company certainly left itself plenty of room for improvements in iPad 2.0. Looking at what they actually presented to the market, though, it looks like a product that's Good Enough to win a lot of customers, and begin the process of changing the market. If you're in enterprise IT, you have 59 days or so to get ready.

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