Barclays buys 8,500 iPads; sends 'enterprise ready' Bat-Signal

Barclays buys 8,500 iPads; sends 'enterprise ready' Bat-Signal

Summary: One of the world's largest banks is rolling out 8,500 iPads to its front-end bank branch staff. But what lies underneath is a signal to other corporate and enterprise clients that Apple's shiny rectangles are far from consumer-only devices.

Screen Shot 2012-11-25 at 22.31.30
iPhone support for Barclays customers, iPads for Barclays staff. Image credit: Barclays.

Barclays will buy around 8,500 Apple iPad tablets for front-end branch staff, in what is thought to be the largest corporate tablet deployment to date outside of the education sector.

Hat tip to The Register for first covering the news, the international bank will buy the shiny rectangles "to assist our branch colleagues to interact with customers, improving the customer experience," a spokesperson said. "We investigated a number of different tablet options and in this instance, we concluded that iPads were the best solution for their specific needs."

There's naturally an element of excitement: "We can pop into the bank and see iPads on show," thinks the customer. That's great. But Barclays is sending a strong signal to the wider industry, particularly one famed for its corporate paranoia, secrecy, its vast power and its extreme security: Apple's products are ready for the enterprise.

Apple: 'Let them come to us, not us to them'

The choice of using the iPad is no mystery. It comes as a number of U.S. government agencies -- such as the NTSB, the Pentagon, and U.S. Customs -- are ditching the BlackBerry, once the only device that offered military-grade encryption and secure messaging, because they have proven to be "unreliable" and suffering from "performance issues." And, while Apple devices are only a stones-throw away from U.S. government certification, their tight security features and increased back-end manageability are turning heads.

A quick run-down of the figures shows 8,500 at around £479 ($770) for the 9.7-inch iPad (32GB, Wi-Fi) only model each could cost the company as much as £4.07 million ($6.52m) just for the tablets alone. That's excluding the other costs that go with such a rollout -- more on that in a moment -- but it's still a drop in the ocean for a major bank like Barclays.

(Worthy side note: Enterprises tend to think for the long-term, such as 5-10 years. A 16GB unit may be the cheapest but the enterprise tends to jump in for the long haul. Seeing as there's no version of the iPad 2 with 32GB storage, the iPad 4 will be the likely candidate. It's assumed they would naturally tilt away from the smallest and cheapest units, despite their shorter life span compared to a desktop or notebook machine.)

The first report suggests the tablets will be employed to run a specially designed app, created by a coalition of the U.K.'s major banks, called Mortgage Brain. That alone is a good enough reason for the bank to pick the tablet over say a cheaper, Android-powered tablet, but also because the bank is dealing with customer and corporate financial data, if data is being stored on the device, it must be uber-secure.

Android tablets may be cheaper but aren't as easily hardened, unlike the iPad, with IT set policies and back-end management services. Australia's government turned away the Android platform in 2011 for this exact reason. Locked-down iPads, for instance, in spite of their being no external ports besides the charging Dock connector, there's no way to export data from the device. 

A valid vote of confidence?

There's a hint, reading between the lines. Almost no company -- despite Barclay's vast wealth -- would order 8,500 iPads for one application, no matter how good it is. It's likely that the tablet rollout is part of a wider strategy set to be employed in the coming IT spending cycles.

However, this sets a trend for other companies, particularly banks. The huge iPad deployment shows a significant level of trust in the Apple platform -- love it or hate it -- that it's secure enough for banking. Finance, after all, is only one-notch below national security in the grand scheme of data protection priorities.

This isn't just an iPad rollout. It's an industry-wide Bat-Signal that Apple's ready for business. Literally.

The rough cost detailed above is just scratching the surface, however. No matter "how easy" the iPad is for the average user -- I bought my parents an iPad last Christmas, they still call me up asking, "where the 'back button' is" -- training costs need to be added to the total. Infrastructure, IT support, and back-end management also need to be taken into account. 

This isn't just an iPad rollout. It's a full-blown infrastructure blast to the corporate face. It's clear that Barclays is pushing for the iPad over any other tablet. Governments are increasingly looking to iPhones for secure mobile communications over the ailing BlackBerry platform.

Above all else, Barclays is signalling a serious sign of confidence in the platform. It's not just for your regular Joe's and Jane's, sitting on the sofa, playing Angry Birds with the kids.

The Apple platform is ready for the enterprise. 

Topics: Banking, Apple, Data Management, iPad, EU, United Kingdom

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  • Specific use case

    It sounds like the iPad will be deployed in a locked down fashion to run a set of tools for customer support. Unsure how that makes the iPad or Apple "enterprise ready" as it's no longer an iPad and simpley being used for it's form factor and simple usage. They could likely do the same with other tablets. I'm also betting they have an internally developed App that will be the lone function on the iPad.

    Apple is seeing other places deploy iPad's in similar fashion (restaurants and car dealers for example).

    Apple has great MDM API sets and you can pretty much disable whatever you want on the devices - much to the dismay of the Bank workers who thought they were getting an iPad they could use.

    We're likely deployed 500 iPads and a handful of iPhones and two big issues remain:

    - Apple has no dedicated enterprise support. You can get Apple Care but your in line with everyone else at the Apple Store (if one is nearby) or have to send your devices in and wait for return. They need to fix this if they want to be on level with Microsoft, HP and yes RIM.

    - The whole iTunes and billing model is consumer focused. The need for a seperate credit card is cumbersome to impossible for enterprise deployments. At the moment this is our largest stumbling block as we do not issue credit cards to employees and Apple has a strict limit on the number of devices associated with any given credit card. Not to mention the whole need for an iTunes account for every 5 devices. The VPP program will help and above I mentioned these will likely be deployed in a locked down manner with an internal App so this likely isn't a big issue for Barclay's but it's still an isssue Apple needs to fix. I'd like a master iTunes account tied to corporate billing processes normally used.

    Enough with all the RIM bashing, are you going to mention their missteps in every article? Don't you still use a Blackberry or are you all in with Apple now?
    • Apple's enterprise accounts

      By reading your post I come to the conclusion that you are not using one enterprise-wide account for the iOS devices you maintain, but somehow group them by users. By reading Apple's documentation at, it seems they do provide for corporate accounts, especially in the area of billing, apps provisioning etc.

      Of course, each user may have their own Apple ID, but this is not necessarily tied to credit cards etc.

      Could you please explain your reasoning for the need of individual credit cards in more details?

      By the way, iTunes is just the name of one application to provide you with the user interface -- the service you refer to is the App Store.
      • Large corporation - multiple division

        Which enterprise accounts are you referring to? To my knowledge there is no way to configure all devices with one account and attach them to one credit card. I'd love to see that. Apple does have utilities that can do profiles for quasi configuration. We keep stumbling with the creation and management of the iTunes accounts and whatever billing we'd like.

        We do not centrally manage the credit cards as they are handled by each business area. Ideally we'd like each area to "own" their group of iOS devices and we just manage the backend to security.

        You cannot use the AppStore without an iTunes account. You cannot download AppStore apps unless you associate a credit card or gift card. Presently we're looking at doing gift cards or the VPP paired with a MAM solution.
    • Perhaps you better ask Barclays

      After all, all your whine and cheese aside, it seems they can and are doing something you seem to think is altogether too hard. Perhaps, as they say, you're holding it wrongly.
      • Cute

        No I'm pretty sure they are not using AppStore at all and are using an internally developed App and nothing else on it. It's no longer and iPad just a tablet to run their App.

        Perhaps thats the secret - disable all consumer function and only use it for specific usage. Somewhat kills the desire to use one IMO.
        • Who knows

          Being a bank, perhaps that's the way to go. Dedicate its purpose. After all, not sure I'd want some trainee from Tottenham or the North or wherever fluffing around with facebook or whatever on a device that was used to play with my filthy lucre.
  • More than security

    Isnt the Bank and other banks providing hardened apps that is downloaded to android phones that fetch and transact on customer data ?? The projection of top security doesn't stand as a reason for the selection . Less is the cost factor ..
    • The software the bank uses for it's employees

      wouldn't be the same as client apps. I'm pretty sure they did their homework. LOL
      • You're kidding right?

        What homework? We are talking about banks.. are we not? :)
  • talking about these banks who bankrupted the world...

    "The Apple platform is ready for the enterprise. "

    -- Ha ha ha ha ... Yes, to play angry birds and kinder garden stuff...

    "Above all else, Barclays is signalling a serious sign of confidence in the platform."

    - - No wonder all these banks have to bailed out using tax payers money... This once again proves that most bank management is corrupted.

    Emirites is rolling out surface tablets to all its staff..., they are serious about work !
    • go, microsoft, go

      Oh, nobody cares about them anymore?

      Why is it, one may ask...
    • Up until now, they probably (but I've never cared to know) used Windows

      So, it could be argued (at your level of "logic") that Microsoft caused greed, dishonesty and stupidity on an epic scale in the banks. Perhaps using Apple kit is a sign they're seeing the light, putting things right etc. Mind you, it's not as though you've been stellar, now is it.
  • Losing Control

    Most banks have yet to apply even marginally secure systems for there operations so putting another weak link in the chain will bite both the customer and the bank in the a_s.
  • Lowe's

    You forgot Lowe's, which has iPhones in the hands of all employees running apps and such for just about everything.
  • Use the best tablet for the job!

    Barclays got it right! iPad FTW for Enterprise security and safety!