December 30, 2010, 12:30 PM — When Apple CEO Steve Jobs formally introduced the iPad in January of this year, he had mostly the consumer market in mind for his much anticipated new product. Nonetheless, the iPad, and similar consumer-focused devices such as the iPhone and Android-based smartphones are increasingly being used for work-related duties.
"The iPhone has hands-down captured the imagination not only of the consumer but of the corporate user," said Clint Oram, chief technology officer and cofounder of customer relationship management software vendor SugarCRM. Going into 2011, vendors of enterprise software are finding that consumer devices represent an opportunity to expand their reach.
For enterprise software vendors, the idea of developing client software for mobile handsets is not new. But developing for consumer devices, as opposed to devices made specifically for the enterprise market, is a new aspect to their development strategies.
"Enterprise vendors are recognizing more and more that devices don't matter when you're accessing an application," said Rebecca Wettemann, vice president of IT analyst firm Nucleus Research. "If I'm out in the field, I should be able to access information to do my job."
In a survey of 1,100 of its enterprise customers, mobile connectivity management provider iPass found that 13 percent already have iPads in use -- mainly brought in by employees -- and 27 percent expect iPads and similar devices to replace the laptop as their primary computing device.
Another poll of 1,600 IT buyers, by ChangeWave Research, found that 14 percent of companies plan to buy employees some form of tablet for work. And, at least initially, organizations seem to be eschewing the typical enterprise-targeted devices from Hewlett-Packard and Research in Motion in favor of devices made for the consumer market, notably the iPad.
Enterprise software companies are heeding the call. IBM developed a client for its Maximo workflow software for the iPhone, allowing repairmen the ability to update their status directly from the shop floor. Sybase released a software package, called Afaria, to help system administrators maintain better control over iPhones and iPads within their domain.