How are you using iPad for business?

Summary:How are iPads and other tablets being used in Corporate America? And what can't they do yet? Ted Schadler takes a look at the iPad as an empowering technology.

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?

Topics: iPad, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Tablets, Wi-Fi

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