Firms ignore the iPad at their peril: Gartner

Summary:Analyst firm Gartner has issued a sharp warning to chief executives to grab the iPad opportunity now with both hands and discuss the device's "disruptive" capabilities with their chief information officers and other divisions of their organisations.

Analyst firm Gartner has issued a sharp warning to chief executives to grab the iPad opportunity now with both hands and discuss the device's "disruptive" capabilities with their chief information officers and other divisions of their organisations.

According to Gartner, chief executive officers don't normally get involved in specific technology device decisions. But in a research note issued today, the analyst firm said CEOs should make an exception for the iPad.

Key to Gartner's message is the idea that the iPad is not just "the latest consumer gadget", but actually a disruptive force that would redefine markets — as the iPhone did before it.

"Media 'gurus' and forecasters struggled to categorise this device at the time of launch — and some made the mistake of assuming that, like all tablet format devices before it, it would remain a niche product for a limited market," the analyst firm said. Gartner fellow Stephen Prentice recommended that chief executives and business leaders should initiate a dialogue with their IT chiefs about the issue if they have not already done so.

In terms of practical measures, the analyst firm recommended that IT departments should provide at least "concierge-level" iPad support for a limited number of key users and prepare a budgeted plan for widespread support of the iPad by mid-2011.

"Individuals are willing to buy these devices themselves, so enterprises must be ready to support them," said Prentice. "While some IT departments will say they are a 'Windows shop' and Apple does not support the enterprise, organisations need to recognise that there are soft benefits in a device of this type in the quest to improve recruitment and retention. Technology is not always about productivity."

Beyond just internal support, the analyst firm recommended CEOs actually discuss the iPad with their marketing and product development teams as well. "The iPad has the potential to be hugely disruptive to the business models and markets of many enterprises," the company said.

"As use of the iPad grows, examples are emerging in industries and professions including consumer applications (such as a personal stock portfolio review), book and magazine publishing, architects and realtors sharing plans in the field, finance specialists sharing quotations with prospects, and salespeople looking to demonstrate interactive presentations. Interest from the healthcare sector is high, but the inability of the device to withstand sanitisation or operate inside a sealed pouch is a limitation."

"Even if you think it is just a passing fad, the cost of early action is low, while the price of delay may well be extremely high," said Prentice.

A large number of Australian organisations are currently conducting corporate trials of the iPad, with the technology simultaneously hitting a variety of sectors.

Education departments around Australia are using the tablet. For example, the University of Adelaide will distribute iPads free of charge to first-year science students in lieu of textbooks. The device has also seen interest from health departments.

In addition, the iPad is seeing strong adoption at the board level in corporations and even in politics. For instance, Westpac chief information officer Bob McKinnon recently revealed that the bank's senior leadership team uses iPads in its meetings to share information. A number of politicians are even using the device in the Federal Parliament.

Topics: Apple, iPad, IT Priorities

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