Another day, another vendor discloses it's going big on the iPad. On Tuesday, it was SAP boldly predicting that it would have up to 17,000 employees using iPads by this time next year. Today, it's MicroStrategy Inc., which has deployed 1,100 iPads to its salespeople and executives in the last two months, according to Mark LaRow, senior vice-president of products at the McLean, Va.-based business intelligence software vendor.
While SAP and another German vendor, DVAG, both top MicroStrategy's deployment today (1,500 and 1,300, respectively - see the List of Enterprise iPad Deployments that I'm maintaining), MicroStrategy's embrace is impressive because it has already armed more than half (55%, really) of its 2,000 employees.
LaRow expects the company to deploy several hundred more, meaning very soon two out of three MicroStrategy employees will be using iPads, either in conjunction with their laptops or, in the case of salespeople who primarily consume rather than create documents, as total laptop replacements.
Embracing the iPad was in some ways a natural for MicroStrategy. The vendor is a leading BI vendor (and full disclosure, a partner of my employer Sybase) and a major evangelist for the merits of mobile BI.
MicroStrategy's own top executives had been using the Kindle DX e-book reader to view reports during their weekly operational meeting.
But the iPad "really caught the imagination" of executives, including CEO Michael Saylor, according to LaRow. Using MicroStrategy's BI app for iPhone and iPad that was released in July, executives can now sit together in a table and talk about sales trends while passing around their iPads to share real-time data, not summations of past data.
"Meetings become much more imbued with facts," he said. Meanwhile, "there are far fewer 'I'll get back to you on that' and 'Let's meet tomorrow to discuss' statements."
MicroStrategy's iPad app is one of the most popular free business apps in Apple's App Store.
Salespeople make more dynamic presentations, said LaRow, while internal requests also get approved more quickly using an iPad app built by MicroStrategy's IT department.
Apart from some purpose-built MicroStrategy apps, MicroStrategy has taken a minimalist route. Employees do e-mail using Apple's built-in software, and access internal apps such as its Salesforce.com system via the Web. Instead of Microsoft Office, users run Apple's productivity suite, which LaRow has worked fine for both reading and saving documents.
Despite not running either VPN software (ala Citrix) or mobile device management software (ala Sybase Afaria), MicroStrategy claims to feel "pretty confident with the security levels currently provided," LaRow said.
None of its customers has gone as big on the iPad as MicroStrategy has. The largest is one customer running several hundred. But every single one is putting the tablet through its paces, says LaRow. "They'll tell us, 'We've already purchased 30 of these [iPads], so tell us how your app is going to run on them.'"