Blog Post

Why the iPad Won't Get Traction With Business Users

In the wake of Apple’s (s aapl) iPad unveiling yesterday, some are speculating that the device will find early success as a tool for mobile workers. There are several reasons, though, why that is unlikely to be the case, and why Apple won’t focus on this as an early goal.

Ted Schadler, writing on the Forrester Research blog, says:

“It will catch on quickly as an employee-provisioned third device, particularly for Mobile Professionals, 28% of the workforce. IT will support it in many organizations. After all, it’s just a big iPhone to them and already 20% of firms support them.”

Regarding the iPhone, Apple officials noted on the company’s earnings call this week that 70 percent of Fortune 100 companies are trying iPhones. However, the word “trying” is key, as the iPhone has never been taken anywhere near as seriously as a business device as, say, the BlackBerry (s rimm), which sports both a physical keyboard and the ability to very easily access multiple email accounts.

In his review of the iPad, Om noted that while it is reasonably good for checking email, “the iPad’s primary purpose is to help you consume the ever-expanding amount of digital content on offer.” That’s one big reason why the device will be a much bigger hit among consumers than business users.

One very telling clue to how focused Apple itself will be on the iPad as a consumer device as opposed to a business device is that it’s only making its iWork set of productivity applications available on a piecemeal basis. iPad owners can get Pages (word processing), Numbers (spreadsheets) and Keynote (presentations) for $9.99 each, but they won’t get a bundled suite, as one would expect if Apple had designs on the iPad’s early success among business users. (The iWork apps are also redesigned for the iPad, and have less functionality than the desktop versions.) I could see some limited use of the iPad as a tool for delivering slick Keynote presentations, but not as an all-around workhorse business device.

I’m inclined to agree with CNet’s Rafe Needleman that the iPad may, in some ways, be to the MacBook as the netbook is to the PC. The $499 iPad will be Apple’s lowest-priced computer, even lower priced than the Mac Mini. It may very well be popular as a device that sits in a family room or kitchen.

Microsoft tried to champion tablet computers as The Next Big Thing years ago, but the category never quite took off. Few of the early tablets were positioned as connected devices for content consumption, but rather as handwriting recognition-centric working tools, and they even failed to live up to the promise of that goal. As far as the iPad’s place among business users, it’s unlikely that Apple itself — a company known for skillful, targeted marketing — will make significant attempts to position it for them.

22 Responses to “Why the iPad Won't Get Traction With Business Users”

  1. The impact the new Apple iPad will have on business will probably be really significant. Already there are literally hundreds of great business apps for the iPhone/iPod Touch. Now with more power and a tremendous amount of display real estate, developers can finally take mobile computing to the next level.

    The iPad will also play a significant role in project management:

  2. There are dozens of vertical markets the iPad will benefit.

    Do you think the publishers who WEREN’T featured in the iPad announcement are sitting around complaining about the device. Of course not. When they see their competitors gravitating to a new piece of technology most companies tend to follow. Those that don’t lose out.

    Therefore the early adopters in business will figure out their competitive advantage using the new tech and send their competitors scrambling once realized.

    Finally, the developers who decide to ignore the iPad platform will be steam-rolled by the developers who get to market early. The same goes for the business user.

  3. cwisnoski

    I think with the availability of a Citrix app we will see a lot of this in the business world. Also I think there will be great adoption in the vertical markets (healthcare, etc). Most of these verticals already have a load of iPhone apps in use, they will get ported to the iPad. The adoption rate in the business world might be slower than in the typical US home, but it will make its way into the office, wether we in IT like it or not.

    My $.02

  4. Martin Ingram

    The iPad is unlikely to be adopted by IT departments in the short term but the reality is that users will buy iPads and bring them into work. The question then is how does IT cope with this new platform?

    History tells us that attempts by IT to tell users not to use a device will fail and that users will use them anyway. With this realization the wise IT department will accept that iPads will be used but mitigate the risks, particularly those of sensitive data being exposed on an unmanaged machine.

    One of the simplest ways to eliminate this risk is to host the users desktop in the data center as a virtual desktop and provide a display protocol out to the user device. This incidentally gets around the application compatability issues you mention too – users get the applications they need direct from the data center.

    Citrix, one of the major desktop virtualization vendors, announced support for iPad at launch and others such as VMware must be considering it too.

    Fully personalized virtual desktops are a reality now and becoming more common every day. Generally they help IT to deliver a great user experience but at lower cost, here they can enable a whole new platform.

    Martin Ingram (AppSense)

  5. Didn’t you say the same thing about the TRS80 laptop, Sebastian. :) Which ended up dominating journalism.

    Mine was handed to me by the head of the sports company I worked for in 1983. The company was buying the package including cassette recorder for $1000 a pop.

    It revolutionized communications for sales reps.

  6. The release version software may be geared toward the consumer but the potential of the hardware as a business device – in hospitals, in industry, in schools, is now only limited by one’s imagination.

  7. Yeah…just what the world needs. More stale, black plastic, Orwellian, controlled products for Borg…oops…business drones.

    Dell has targeted the business market for a long time. How is their market cap these days–as compared to Apple? Maybe that’s why Apple designs products for discerning INDIVIDUALS first. If business wants to use it or not, so be it.

  8. The iPhone, and presumabley the iPad is able to easily access multiple email accounts. Further, the iPhone keyboard is much faster for typing than the blackberry or any physical phone keyboard. You guys keep bringing this up as if it were a failing on the part of the iPhone but apparently you don’t relize that, short of a full sized computer keyboard, this is the fastest input method. Faster than as stylus, handwriting recognition, palm’s grafiti, or the rim keyboard.

    I love how, offering an office suite on the device for a lower price than it previously cost and with the ability to buy the apps individually is shown as “not being serious about business.”

    I guess you’re only serious if you charge more and make people buy everything, eh?

    You’ve been hanging around with Dvorak too long.

  9. Well there are limitations but what it does and what it is are remarkable and have no peer in the “tablet” space. As for the Blackberry; I have one and it’s not that great. Almost everything about it is clunky and I would gladly take the limitations of an iphone over this thing. Most exasperating of all is the lack of imagination of some of the ipad nay sayers…

  10. that is a really weak argument against the workplace usage.
    1. it says that the ipad is great for consuming the ever increasing amount of digital information. and because of that it is targeted at consumers. hello? do people at OM not work in today’s business reality? but i have a shitload of stuff to read and go over. my reading load at work is higher than at home. plus at work digital material is getting more multi media
    2. the fact that iWork is ready for the ipad by itself is an indication that apple thinks this device will be used in work environments. if they thought it was a consumer device why add a presentation software or a spreadsheet software?

    yes MS failed with the tablet, but the reason for that might be that they never created a real tablet OS, the tablet part was always an add on to a laptop

  11. What a piece of fluff, garbage article.

    It’s not that I can disagree with the points you made, you didn’t make any points.

    Un-bundling iWork suite of programs is bad for businesses how?

  12. Always amusing to see pundits with no real world experience regurgitate what other pundits say.

    The pundits said the same nonsense about many other things and they were wrong. Sebastian has issues with Apple anyway don’t you Sebastian?

    As an IT Architect with 20+ years experience in many different industries I can think of many different used for this device.