The iPad in business

The iPad in business

Summary: When Motorola and Boeing's desktops were taken over by wintel bigots the stacks of abandoned Macs on the loading docks signaled the end of the company's dominance in their fields - now iDevices threaten to reverse those losses, giving control back to the users.

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TOPICS: CXO, iPad, Mobility
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Last week's newsletter from Information Week referenced an article by senior editor Chris Murphy (obviously not my evil twin either) reporting on a pilot project in which iPads were issued to 40 sales personnel in Mercedes Benz dealerships - with the initial focus on letting them access a customer financial planning application from the dealership floor.

The headline lessons he sees as learnt from the pilot are:

1. People want the iPad 3G cellular version

2. Coding for the iPad's fairly easy (compared with the iPhone)

3. It's about marketing, and sharing in the Apple glow

4. People want to close the deal: Signatures

5. People want to print from the iPad

6. People don't need a keyboard

7. This is only the start

but to understand them in context you'll need to read his full article.

Implicit in most IT pilot projects of this kind is the assumption that if you hand the user something new and useful, that user will find ways to make it work within, or around, the rest of the infrastructure - and the usual unstated corollary is that the less proprietary and restrictive your infrastructure, the greater the flexibility it offers users in doing this and so the less disruptive the change process is to the IT organization.

Thus the most interesting thing I see in Murphy's report is that the reason the iPad amounts to a disruptive, rather than additive, technology for this company is that its flexibility contradicts assumptions built into their existing backend applications and processes. Specifically, focusing the pilot around a single, and quite narrow, application suggests that the company's IT thinking and architecture is tightly silo-ed -and therefore that both the limitations on the pilot and the changes they had to make in the pilot application reflect the constraints their view of how IT works put on the company's ability to benefit from user focused innovation.

Consider, for example, their discovery that it wasn't hard to make an application written for IE work with Safari - sounds good, right? well, except that had the application environment been any competent variation on LAMP/SAMP no adaptation would have been necessary and comments like this (quoting from the story):

The company can't yet track whether salespeople are accessing MB Advantage via PC or iPad; it expects to have that capability by November.

would be exceedingly difficult to explain.

More subtly, the story points at the conflict between user and IT views of what's good for the company - even linking to another story quoting Steve Jobs as saying:

What I love about the consumer market that I always hated about the enterprise market is that we come up with a product, we try to tell everybody about it, and every person votes for themselves. They go yes or no. And if enough of them say yes, we get to come to work tomorrow. You know? That's how it works. It's really simple. That's why in the enterprise market it's not so simple. The people that use the products don't decide for themselves. And the people that make those decisions sometimes are confused. We love just trying to make the best product in the world for people, and having them tell us by how they vote with their wallets whether we're on track or not.

Job's use of "confused" here, reflects, I think, his audience and context - less constrained usage would feature terms like "arrogant", "self-interested", "closed minded", "luddite" and "uninformed" to reflect user frustration with IT decisions made on value to IT, not value to users.

Look closely, for example, at this bit from the discussion of lesson "7: This is only the start"

The company isn't sure what its next step in mobility will be, but dealers are likely to push the iPad's use, now that they have it in hand. Already, one Mercedes dealer uses a remote-access app to let a salesperson access his or her desktop via the iPad. It's easy to see how salespeople might use a tool for checking vehicle inventory while on the lot, for example. "This is the start of looking into what [dealers] could do with the tablet PC," Kanzleiter says.

What I see here is classic blinkered IT thinking: in reality, the iPad isn't a tablet PC and every MB sales person getting one is going to want the applications they use moved to the servers - and that desktop PC sent to the landfill.

As Murphy says, iDevices are coming to the enterprise whether IT wants them to or not, but what he doesn't say - presumably in deference to his advertisers - is that what's coming with them is the end of the client-server era as users push IT to adopt the Sun/NCD network computing model in which the display is just a front end for data and applications across the network.

So what's the bottom line? simple really: iDevices are facing enterprise IT management with the same choice the tea parties have set for American Republicans: get on board, or get run over.

Topics: CXO, iPad, Mobility

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36 comments
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  • Geez.... iPads and Tea Parties

    You really are a pervert and a bigot.

    Oh and let's see Ummmmm iDevices are going to become more pervasive in the IT space or at least with corporate end users.

    We had that one figured loooong ago. but thanks for telling us. Wake up and smell the coffee Rudy
    junknstuff@...
    • perverts and bigots

      @junknstuff@...

      "pervert and a bigot"? On what basis is that accusation made?
      And should we not exhibit more tolerance in this day and age?

      Of course, if there were Murphy twins, there's no reason
      to assume that Chris was the evil one. ;-)
      dc.martin@...
      • RE: The iPad in business

        @dc.martin@... <br><br>You obviously haven't been reading these blogs <img border="0" src="http://www.cnet.com/i/mb/emoticons/wink.gif" alt="wink"> He certainly perverts history and logic and his bigotry is undeniable, but I think I'd prefer to keep his sexual preferences unknown. <br><br>Rudy obviously hasn't used an iPad. Unfortunately I had to to test its HTML 5 capabilities. As an unwieldy, heavy, dirty, brick of a media player for people with more money that sense, it certainly wins the prize. <br><br>I'm sure people also wanted to take their pet rocks into the office. Even the latest TV shows are eschewing iPads for real tablets and are starting to realise that having to walk up to screens to touch them ruins the view <img border="0" src="http://www.cnet.com/i/mb/emoticons/wink.gif" alt="wink"> <br><br>Just use one Rudy. See if you can even edit a URL without cursor keys using that awkward magnifier, let alone write a blog. It's a phone OS Rudy, not a grown up one and the irony is, you don't even get a phone <img border="0" src="http://www.cnet.com/i/mb/emoticons/wink.gif" alt="wink"><br><br>A for making web apps that use IE and Safari, I beg to differ. Safari on the iPhone and iPad limits HTML 5 and will not allow autoplay. Safari also has the distinction of not rendering standard Arial text to the same width as all the other browsers. I'm at the stage of just forgetting about Safari support and hoping poor Mac users have FF or an alternative browser. I was hoping to actually use the 1024x768 iPad display, unfortunately Safari wants to zoom pages and keep its boring UI up all the time.<br><br>But it's OK Rudy, just keep theorising, Heaven forbid you actually use any of the stuff you rave about - Sunrays excepted of course <img border="0" src="http://www.cnet.com/i/mb/emoticons/wink.gif" alt="wink">
        tonymcs@...
      • Are you one of those people who said the iPad was a

        @tonymcs@....<br>a fail when it was announced but not released? Regardless you seem based on this post and past one's to be a rather angry person who WANTS Apple's products to fail and can't seem to understand why they are not so you default to insults rather than well facts. Oh well it takes all kinds I suppose.<br><br>Pagan jim
        James Quinn
      • RE: The iPad in business

        We love just trying to make the best product in the world for people, and having them tell us by how they vote with their wallets whether we?re on track or not. <a rel="follow" href="http://www.worldwideacademics.com/programs/online-diploma.asp">diploma Program</a>
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        IanBell840
  • iDevices Dominance

    well iDevices are surely storming the every kind of market, and they surely will dominate the other buisnesses as well....
    for the latest in Tech.....do visit...
    www.techknowhow.info
    Naufil
  • iPad is the new sunray....

    but oracle isn't having any of it.
    sparkle farkle
    • RE: The iPad in business

      @sparkle farkle
      Actually, Oracle is - with the JAVA and OS X announcements with Apple. This pretty much opens the door for a lot more activity in this space.
      woot!
  • What happens to the device and your data...

    ...when you do the $100 swap-over when the battery pooches out? Straight to President-for-Life Hu.
    Feldwebel Wolfenstool
    • RE: The iPad in business

      @Feldwebel Wolfenstool
      Same thing that happened when my iPhone 3GS "pooched out" after being caught in a rainstorm on my bike.
      After coming home with my new iPhone, I plugged it into my computer, a few keystrokes later and all 22G of songs, apps, data were all restored on the new device.
      MG537-23482538203179240121698430309828
    • RE: The iPad in business

      @Feldwebel Wolfenstool No issues! It just reloads everything from your backup.
      Jeffsters
  • Mr Murphy will latch on to almost anything

    in an effort to relagate the PC to some dusty corner, believing that some Unix based systenm will run the entire operation.

    Should we see an uptake of tablet's in the eneterprise, likely will the back end remain the same, in a vast many cases a Windows based setup. Add to thtat Android and Windows based PC tablets, and in truth the PC isn't placed in a corner, instead just morphed into another form factor.

    And Mr. Murphy will still bejust as upset.
    Tim Cook
    • At this point you are both just guessing....

      @Mister Spock
      The "fact" of the matter is only time will tell this tale. There has yet to be a true success story concerning a Windows 7 tablet as of yet. Will there be? Who is to say previous Windows XP versions have not been successful so who knows? There is also Android tablets coming out and more to come so the previous tablet world never had that to contend with and despite that advantage did not do so well. To predict anything this early in the game is certainly illogical.

      Pagan jim
      James Quinn
  • Accessibility?

    Nobody talks about accessiblity and the ipad. I can't imagine it is considered to be accessible for vision impaired people. Can anyone shed any light on this? There are a lot of legal issues and requirements in various country that will make it difficult for a touch only solution to be fully adopted until they can meet accessibilty requirements.
    razzledazzle
    • RE: The iPad in business

      @razzledazzle

      Watch and learn:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqZpHTUhSYs
      kisap
    • RE: The iPad in business

      @razzledazzle Fortunately Apple did imagine, the device is almost uniquely well adapted for people with vision problems.
      Jeremy-UK
    • RE: The iPad in business

      @razzledazzle

      Here's an article from "Access World," the magazine of the American Foundation for the Blind.

      [u]hthttp://www.afb.org/afbpress/pub.asp?DocID=aw110302&select=1#1[/u]
      msalzberg
  • iPads aren?t aimed at IT or Enterprise markets.

    But, the people inside IT may take advantage of the iPad when it can fill a need. Sales and presentations seems a no brainer for the iPad, so this use could be co-oped. But, laptops do a great deal more than that.

    Regarding the American T.E.A. Party, political viewpoints are generally inappropriate inside technical articles, because they invite an irrelevant response. Do you really want to discuss the fact that the T.E.A. Party is coercing the Republican Party out of being the Democrat Lite Party? Why should Conservatives vote for RINO?s and Progressives in the Republican party at all?

    You seem to imply that it is wrong to give voters more choices. We?ve long had a choice between proponents of big government and a slightly smaller government, but small government has been given little more than lip service. Why not debate this issue when well over 60% of Americans say they would prefer small government?

    Why do you, off handedly, mention it unless you want to indoctrinate us?
    UrbanBard
    • huh?

      @UrbanBard
      1- "tea" as in tea party is not an acronym, it's a historical reference.

      2 - I used the reference to it as an illustration of what happens when IT opposes users, not as a political statement.

      3 - "You seem to imply that it is wrong to give voters more choices." Really? where? That's pretty much the opposite of my position in both politics and IT.
      murph_z
  • iPads are not "smart displays"

    iPads, smart phones, web apps, etc don't have the core architectural features that make Sun Rays so secure. They still have substantial view logic, even if business logic and storage are exclusively server side. And keeping all the business logic server side and data server side requires discipline. It is not inherent in the architecture as it is with Sun Rays.

    Also, LAMP/SAMP do nothing to enforce cross-browser compatibility. There are plenty of web applications in the enterprise that are hosted on pure Unix architectures that only work in IE. Again, we're talking about design and implementation discipline, not an inherent architectural feature.
    Erik Engbrecht