Review: Why iPad 2 is still winning with business users

Review: Why iPad 2 is still winning with business users

Summary: Everyone wants a piece of the multitouch tablet market. But, iPad 2 competitors have so far been unable to match Apple, especially in the areas that matter to business users.

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It's been over a month since the arrival of the iPad 2 and Apple still can't build them fast enough for all of the people who are ready to buy one -- let alone keep the retail shelves stocked. Meanwhile, the iPad's two most widely-hyped rivals so far in 2011 -- the Motorola Xoom and the BlackBerry PlayBook -- have been greeted by mediocre reviews and tepid sales.

Even more surprising is the fact that most business users are choosing the Apple tablet over the ones built by enterprise stalwarts Motorola and RIM. After evaluating the iPad 2 for a month, this review explores the reasons why most business users still prefer the Apple tablet and looks at where the iPad 2 still has work to do from an enterprise perspective.

Photo gallery

Apple iPad 2: Unboxing, accessories, and comparison photos

Specifications

  • Carrier: Verizon, AT&T, and international carriers
  • OS: Apple iOS 4.3
  • Processor: 1GHz dual core Apple A5
  • RAM: 512MB
  • Storage: 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB internal; no SD expansion slot
  • Display: 9.7-inch LED-backlit IPS display; 1024x768, 132 ppi
  • Battery: Lithium-ion polymer with 6930 mAh capacity
  • Ports: 30-pin Apple connector, 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Weight: 1.33 pounds (21.28 ounces, or 601 grams)
  • Dimensions: 9.50(h) x 7.31(w) x 0.34(d) inches
  • Camera: backside 720p video recording at 30fps; front-facing VGA
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, aGPS, digital compass, ambient light sensor, three-axis gyroscope
  • Keyboard: Virtual QWERTY
  • Networks: CDMA or GSM; no LTE
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n; Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
  • Tethering: No
  • Price: Wi-Fi: $499 (16GB), $599 (32GB), $699 (64GB); 3G: $629 (16GB), $729 (32GB),

Who is it for?

As I've said before, I think business users are the unseen force driving a large proportion of the iPad's bullish sales numbers. Nearly everyone I know that has an iPad is a business user who bought the tablet for business meetings, answering emails from the couch or the bedroom, watching movies during business travel, reading news and books, and occasionally handing it to a kid to keep him busy using Angry Birds or Stack the States. While Apple's marketing and promotional videos predominantly show kids and college students and average consumers using the iPad, in the real world, I'd suggest that at least 50% of iPad users are professionals. Of course, the interesting thing with the iPad is that it's a combo work/personal device, and that may be one of the things that's driving its success since many professionals having increasingly blurry boundaries between work time and personal time.

What problems does it solve?

There weren't many desperately-needed fixes after the success of the first generation iPad. The biggest complaints were that it was a little heavy to hold for a long period of time, that it didn't have cameras for video calls, that its screen wasn't nearly as impressive as the iPhone 4, and that it wasn't very powerful as a content creation device. Apple made the second generation iPad 33% thinner and 15% lighter than the original iPad, added front-facing and back-facing cameras (albeit low-quality ones) and FaceTime software for video calls, slightly upgraded the LCD to a brighter, more colorful screen, and added a dual core CPU and a few new apps (GarageBand and iMovie) to help increase some of the iPad's content creation mojo -- though it's still not great for complicated emails (w/ attachments) or document creation.

Standout features

  • The one button solution - As far as tablets go, it's still tough to beat the iPad's simplicity. It's essentially just an app delivery mechanism with multiple screens and a home button. That's it. It doesn't really dazzle you with its UI, and the multitouch user experience could still be enhanced to make it more effective for working with files and documents. Nevertheless, the user experience is simple enough that even the most technophobic old school business executives (who've traditionally had their assistants send all their emails) can pick this thing up and figure it out.
  • Burgeoning ecosystem - Again, since the iPad is primarily an app delivery system, its strength is the huge (and still growing) catalog of third-party apps. That includes a lot of enterprise software that has jumped on board the iPad express, including apps from Citrix, Cisco, Oracle, SAP, Wyse, IBM, SalesForce.com, and more. Plus, there are lots of clever business apps from smaller players like OmniGraffle, Penultimate, Roambi Visualizer, QlikView, and Board Vantage.
  • 10+ hours of battery life - As I've said before, the real world battery life of 10-12 hours of peak usage is the iPad's quiet killer feature. It allows you to work consistently all day, make it through a cross-continental or overseas flight, or forget to charge the iPad overnight and still have juice to use the next day. Other tablets such as the Xoom and the Samsung Galaxy Tab max out at 7-8 hours and don't quite approach the iPad.
  • The price is still right - While Apple added upgrades and new features to the iPad 2, it kept the same aggressive pricing structure, starting at $500 for the 16GB Wi-Fi model and scaling up to $829 for the 64GB 3G models. Other tablets have struggled to match the iPad's price tag for a number of reasons, which I've written about.

What's wrong?

  • Email app needs major improvement - My biggest complaint about the iPad is the email application. It's very bare bones, and even a little awkward in terms of the way that it always leaves a message open in the preview pane as you scan through your mailbox. It also doesn't integrate any of the features of popular email clients, such as Microsoft Outlook and Gmail, and it does not handle attachments very well.
  • Cameras are awful - While Apple added front-facing and rear-facing cameras to the iPad 2, the cameras are very low quality. Both the photos and videos taken with the iPad 2 are grainy, pixelated, and disappointing. The cameras are mostly there for video calling, since taking photos with a big tablet like this is pretty silly. However, with that in mind, Apple should swap the cameras. It should put the higher quality camera on the front and put the low-res camera on the back (used only for showing what you're looking at when you're on a video call). All in all, the cameras on the iPad 2 are worse than the cameras on the Motorola Xoom, BlackBerry PlayBook, and Samsung Galaxy Tab. I suspect that the low-quality cameras are a result of Apple trying to keep the price of the iPad down. Still, Apple should have done a better job here.
  • Enterprise is an afterthought - While Apple has spent a lot more effort making the iPhone and the iPad friendly to the enterprise than it ever did with the Mac, the enterprise features of the iPad are still an afterthought to Apple -- simply an additional revenue stream. Steve Jobs has made it clear that he does not think very highly of the way things work in the enterprise. As a result, I doubt we'll see Apple do the kinds of things Samsung is doing to court the enterprise, such as drop-shopping 10,000 Wi-Fi tablets at a discounted price, integrating hardware encryption, and partnering extensively with enterprise software companies.
  • Apple lock-in - One of the greatest obstacles that the iPad has to overcome with some business and IT professionals is that, like most Apple products, it's locked into the Apple ecosystem and doesn't play very nice with other products outside of that ecosystem. For example, unlike other mobile devices, the iPad 2 doesn't support DLNA for wireless streaming to TVs -- it only supports the Apple TV's proprietary protocol. While Apple is certainly not alone among tech vendors in trying to push its own software and services on its customers, it is the most aggressive. And, while Apple often does this in the name of streamlining the customer experience, it can lead to annoyances and frustrations for many customers who have a diverse coterie of tech that they work with on a daily basis.

Bottom line for business

The iPad 2 is a minimal refinement of the original iPad that adds a better screen, a slimmer form factor, and a dual core processor (the new cameras are barely worth mentioning). However, by retaining its great battery life, simple user experience, huge catalog of apps, and low price, the iPad 2 has enough to maintain a stronghold over the nascent multitouch tablet market. Even among business professionals -- many of whom use the iPad for both work and personal use -- the iPad 2 remains the tablet of choice. And, judging by the early competitors so far this year, it's not in danger of being dethroned in 2011.

Competitive products

Where to get more info

This article was originally published on TechRepublic.

Topics: Laptops, Apple, Hardware, iPad, Mobility, Tablets

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55 comments
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  • Be safe. Wait.

    Tablets are a fad with no future. They will remain a fad with no future until Microsoft has one, at which point they will become must-have business tools that increase productivity and put fresh litter in the cat box.

    To be safe, everyone should believe all the FUD they read and continue waiting on the sidelines until the Boy Monkey descends from the mountain with tablets. Just remember that he has to actually descend from the mountain with the tablets. If he just shows up at a trade show with them, keep waiting because those aren't real.
    Robert Hahn
    • RE: Review: Why iPad 2 is still winning with business users

      Lest you forget, Microsoft invented the tablet. Remember Windows XP, Tablet Edition? Windows Vista and 7 have tablet compatibility built in. There's all sorts of large, hot clunky hardware that it runs on too.

      And don't forget Microsoft Touch, a computer that literally replaces your conference room table. Indeed, this Apple thing must just be a fad.
      PepperdotNet
      • RE: Review: Why iPad 2 is still winning with business users

        @Pepper.dot.Net
        Are you talking about the $10,000+, 100+ pound table that Microsoft was/is touting as the next big thing? I honestly don?t think it will ever gain mass adoption because of the price/weight issues.
        Rick_K
      • No they didn't...

        [i]"Lest you forget, Microsoft invented the tablet."[/i]

        No they didn't. Tablet computing had been around for decades before Microsoft came up with their own specifications for what they thought a tablet should be. What we might call a tablet today was invented by Alan Kay in 1968. Apple had a tablet system in 1987 called the Message Pad, though it was relatively short lived.
        olePigeon
      • RE: Review: Why iPad 2 is still winning with business users

        I guess I need to explain, I was attempting to use sarcasm. "It was not intended to be a factual statement."

        While Microsoft try to figure out how to run a tablet on Windows 8 (or Windows 9) in the meantime I will have gotten quite a bit of use of my new iPad2.
        PepperdotNet
      • Edit: Titles don't support unicode. Was trying to use percontation. [nt]

        [nt]
        olePigeon
      • RE: Review: Why iPad 2 is still winning with business users

        @Pepper.dot.Net

        Here's the definitive history of tablet computers. Now shut up about Microsoft:

        http://liquidpubs.com/blog/2010/11/08/apple-their-tablet-computer-history/
        sevensix
  • Business learned from the iPhone

    Enterprise was slow to adopt the iPhone, particularly in terms of supporting their customers who owned iPhones. They finally learned, providing company apps for customers and that opened up the "enterprise market" for employees who owned iPhones.

    The greatest feature of the iPad was when Steve Jobs said, "If you won an iPhone you already know how to use the Pad". That put the iPad at the same level as the iPhone in the business world, presented the same needs to provide company apps and opened the doors very wide for use in enterprise.

    Today Apple's iOS platform is a winner for companies who deal with consumers and others are catching on. Apple doesn't need to take over a corporate PC business (the margins are too thin) as long as they have a profitable presence in their mobile computing business.
    Ken_z
  • RE: Review: Why iPad 2 is still winning with business users

    Where are the businesses that are using this? With a headline like that you should have listed quite a few but you didn't mention one. I can't see this being used in business, especially if they can't not have complete control of what goes on it. This is more of a CEO or executive toy than actual business tool. They want it just to have it.
    Loverock Davidson
    • RE: Review: Why iPad 2 is still winning with business users

      @Loverock Davidson: A little personal research could offer quite a few examples if you're really that interested. In the corporate environment, I know of very few companies that don't have at least a few iPads and some hospitals I know of have replaced their 'laptop on a cart' documentation with iPads for speed and simplicity. They are a tool and are proving very effective for the purposes they are being set.
      Vulpinemac
    • You do have complete control of what goes on it...

      <i>"I can't see this being used in business, especially if they can't not have complete control of what goes on it."</i><br><br>You do have complete control of what goes on it. The iPad is fully manageable through OS X Server. You have completely control over nearly every function of the iPad from which apps you may or may not install (including inhouse, custom business apps that do not need to be signed through the Apple Store, are hosted on your own servers, and can be synced wireless without being tethered to a computer) to even whether or not you're allowed to use the camera.<br><br><a href="http://www.apple.com/ipad/business/integration/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.apple.com/ipad/business/integration/</a>
      olePigeon
    • Exactly what I was thinking: where are the numbers,

      to back up the "report" or article?

      Taking notice of what friends or some businesspeople around you have as far as tools, is not indicative of the bigger marketplace. When one is involved in the tech industry, one tends to notice that, more of the same kind of people involved in the same industry, will be carrying more of the same kind of tools that you report on. Now, try to get away from "your industry" and report back on what you actually notice. Go to a law firm or to a construction facility or a retail outlet, and then tell me what you notice. What one notices in those kind of businesses won't be the same as within the tech field. It's like me saying that, programmers seem to have more computers at their disposal than the general population at large. It might be true, but irrelevant.
      adornoe
    • RE: Review: Why iPad 2 is still winning with business users

      @Loverock Davidson

      Where are the businesses using the iPad? I can't speak for all businesses, but where I work (pharmaceutical company) I am seldom in a meeting any more where less than half of the participants are carrying an iPad. Some even use it during the meeting. As for me, I hold my meeting notes on the iPad.
      frank.burough@...
  • It's all due to Apple's marketing hype

    It certainly is "surprising" that people choose the most expensive and least useful device. But many people are too influenced by marketing and advertising and on the whole rely on TV ads for information about what products are cool.

    Amid all the hype about Apple products and iPad in particular, most pof us have never heard of the alternatives.

    Most people, for example, are unaware that they can have a full-power PC in tablet form and it's much cheaper than an iPad:-

    http://twitter.com/timacheson/status/58925163105890304
    Tim Acheson
    • RE: Review: Why iPad 2 is still winning with business users

      @Tim Acheson
      <i>Most people, for example, are unaware that they can have a full-power PC in tablet form and it's much cheaper than an iPad:-</i>

      Either provide proof, or go troll on windows sites. You sound like e bitter little man, crying that the public is to stupid to share you Microsoft only vision.
      Rick_K
    • RE: Review: Why iPad 2 is still winning with business users

      @Tim Acheson

      The "most expensive"? At $499, it's the cheapest amongst it's competitors. Plus since it's the one that has the largest amount of native Apps for it, how is it the least useful? Oh I forgot, it doesn't have Flash, whoopity-doo. The only time I encounter Flash is on a restaurant website or YouTube (there's an App for that). Personally I'm glad it doesn't have Flash because it's always crapping out on my Win7 laptop.
      jmiller1978
      • RE: Review: Why iPad 2 is still winning with business users

        @jmiller1978

        Check out the Skyfire web browser for the iPad. You can view Flash based videos with that. Pretty cool.
        kris@...
      • RE: Review: Why iPad 2 is still winning with business users

        @jmiller1978
        Can't agree more with you!
        No Flash ---> More Secure Environment!
        onunez
    • RE: Review: Why iPad 2 is still winning with business users

      @Tim Acheson
      "Most people, for example, are unaware that they can have a full-power PC in tablet form"

      And those that are completely aware don't want a device that weighs twice as much, is twice as thick, has half the battery life, and has few apps truly optimized for touch.

      You know, I once thought that after Windows and the Mac, there wouldn't be another successful personal computer platform built from scratch. Now there are two, with others making a run at it. I think even Microsoft is realizing their "Windows Everywhere" strategy was flawed. And I'm happily typing this on my Windows 7 PC...
      rynning
      • RE: Review: Why iPad 2 is still winning with business users

        no reply
        kris@...