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August 09, 2010

How Are You Using iPad For Business?

by Ted Schadler

Ted schadler (Cross-posted from Ted's blog)

We are getting many requests for help on iPad strategies for the enterprise. It's clear why. iPads are a tremendously empowering technology that any employee can buy. My colleague Andy Jaquith has a report coming real soon now on the security aspects of iPhones and iPads, and I'm launching research on case studies of iPad in the enterprise.

I am currently hearing about three business scenarios for iPad and tablets, but I'd love hear of your experiences, plans, concerns, or frustrations. Ping me at tschadler(at)forrester(dot)com. Here are the three scenarios:

  1. Sales people out in the field. This is the "Hollywood pitch deck" scenario. The iPad, particularly with a cover that can prop it up a bit, is a great way to scroll through slides to show a customer or demonstrate a Web site. In one situation, I heard that there's a competition brewing for who can manipulate the Web site upside down (so the client across the table sees it right side up) without making any mistakes. Now there's a new skill for sales: upside down Web browsing.
  2. Executives on an overnight trip. No, iPad doesn't replace a laptop (at least not yet; more on this below). But it's great for email, calendar, reviewing documents, and presenting PDF or Keynote decks.
  3. Warehouse managers, retail floor staff, medical staff, and anybody else that needs real access to apps while on their feet. iPad's form factor, battery life, mobile Internet access, panoply of applications, and touchscreen abilities make it a great device for these typically frustrated and under-served employees. Why retail floor staff? Because then a customer can be served with a custom order while they're looking at the too-small-but-way-cool sweater on the rack.

So what can't iPad (yet) do? Here are my top three requests:

  1. Full Microsoft Office support. Microsoft's missing a huge opportunity to build apps that can create and edit common documents. Tablets are going to be huge, but Microsoft's Office business will have to device-agnostic to avoid getting displaced on it. Today, I have to use Keynote to make a presentation. But I'd rather use PowerPoint. The Office Web Apps products could solve this problem fairly easily. Until we get that, iPad will never replace a laptop.
  2. Mouse support. For pete's sake, I can use a bluetooth keyboard, why can't I use a bluetooth mouse? That would make it a full authoring tool. Until we get that, people will suffer finger contortions and stiff necks reaching over their keyboard to touch the screen.
  3. More and better business apps. This is mostly a matter of waiting for the market to build great iPad apps. We have some great ones already: Citrix GoToMeeting, Cisco WebEx, Email, and I'm sure a whole lot more that you'll tell me about. But until we get access to corporate applications, employees will still have to log around their laptops.

I'm working on a report for the Fall on using tablets for business, and I'll be presenting on this empowering technology at our Content & Collaboration Forum in October, so please let me know what you're interested in learning.

Alos, please let me know how you are using iPad for business. What features do you want? What other tablets are you excited about?


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I'm Director of Admissions at a medium-sized private university in the Northeast Region. I'm currently testing two iPads to use them as the platform for prospective students to submit an online application after they come to a campus visit. My goals is to have several iPads available in the admissions office for "walk-ins" to use to submit their applications online rather than complete a paper application. I think this iPad strategy will deliver a WOW factor for students and enable them to play with apps while waiting for a counselor.

Robert P Signore

As exciting as the iPad is, I'm writing this comment on one now, I think that companies should not overlook the iPod touch. The touch is a near free computing device that has huge potential in retail, warehousing, and education. It is the main device used by employees at the Apple store.

I disagree that the iPad should get a mouse. The touch interface is a natural input interface and putting a mouse on the device would limit the potential development of the natural interface. Try using the iPad emulator in XCode, that uses a mouse. It is very hard do some gestures using a mouse and the interface is evolving away from that type in input device.

Easy printing and file sharing or transfer would be very useful (without a $99 subscription to mobile me). Those are my two top requests for the iPad.

As far as using the iPad and family of devices for business, they excel and delivering Business Intelligence at any time, and I think most importantly, to people in places that can make operational decisions. This will be the iPads biggest business value

Rosemary ONeill

We make online community software applications, and we have regular meetings in which we try to break the software. I always bring my iPad, so that when I get an error message, I can simply hand it across the table to the developer for troubleshooting. It's totally changed the pace of our meetings. No more jumping up and looking over the shoulder.

test automation

Even though iPad doesn’t replace a laptop but it’s great for email, calendar, reviewing documents, and presenting PDF or Keynote decks.


Standard Chartered Bank is an emerging markets bank that focuses on innovation, for example we have developed the Breeze online banking platform for the iPhone and desktop. We are releasing Breeze for iPad in a few weeks. Internal testing suggests that both satisfaction and usage levels rise significantly with this application. We don't have live data to share yet though I'm afraid.

dave wilson

I'm a Director of marketing for a firm and our dealers are moving to iPads for in-home presentations of the products they sell. Need to convert PowerPoints to Keynote for iPad and then we lose our "modularity" ability within the presentation as Keynote for iPad doesn't allow hyperlinks to other slides, no custom slideshow features like Powerpoint,etc.

Anybody else facing this?

Brian F.

The iPad is a really compelling device and your three scenarios are right on point. I just think that your wish list is a little off.

1 - MSOffice products are great and would make the device more integrated into a standard office environment, but the device wasn't built for document creation. In a real world environment, an iPad doesn't have enough going for it to handle a lot of document editing. It was designed for games, menu-based interactions and media consumption. While the iPad can and should have a MSOffice Lite, it won't ever be as full featured as the standard version.

2 - iOS was built to bridge the gap between user and computer. Multitouch is one of its founding design principles. (Plus, it gives Apple another reason not to support Flash.) So to build mouse support into the device would mean a step backwards philosophically, and that's something Apple is not likely to do. [Then again, the new multitouch pad that they came out with makes this argument a little moot.]

3 - The corporate applications will come, but they probably won't ever replace the laptop. The iPad's pricepoint is the easiest way to illustrate this: for $500 what type of computer would you really get? The iPad specs are 1GHZ processor, 256 RAM, 16-64 GBs memory, no memory expansion, no USB ports, no removable battery, no file management system -- you can't replace a computer outright with that type of hardware foundation.

With all that said, if businesses want to leverage the cool & cache' of the device, they need to think beyond their normal service offerings, and that will ultimately be good for business.


Hmm, can Open Office work on it? Allegedly one could create a Powerpoint compatible presentation with it.

Desktop support

Gadgets come and gadgets go. The iPad you buy today will be e-waste in a year or two (less, if you decide not to pay to have the battery changed for you). The real issue isn't the capabilities of the piece of plastic you unwrap today, but the technical and social infrastructure that accompanies it.

Sam@ home business

as of now, I think ipad has serve us greatly already. Oh yeah.. I just hope it can be use longer I mean the battery life.

I'm looking forward that time will it can surpass the laptop capabilities. :D

Document Scanning Service

for me the I Pad is likely to be a highly useful piece of kit for; remotely viewing PDF files from the company web host facility, Viewing scanned company documents from any location and editing PDF and distributing through work flow.

Technical Support Melbourne

iPad could come in handy for business especially when having an emergency corporate meeting and you have to take note on the progress of the meeting.

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