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Are Businesses Really Opening Up To The iPad?

There are distinct segments of the corporate and government world that aren't comfortable with tablets like the iPad. But other companies say they are opening their minds and wallets.

The Wall Street Journal's "Businesses Add iPads to Their Briefcases" article attracted a lot of attention on Tuesday. It cited Mercedes-Benz Financial, Bausch & Lomb, Kaiser Permanente and a Chicago law firm as adopters of Apple's tablet, as well as Apple CFO Tim Cook's comment that half of the Fortune 100 are testing it. It was the second such article from a mainstream business publication: Bloomberg BusinessWeek noticed the trend a month earlier, citing boldfaced names such as Wells Fargo, Mercedes-Benz, Tellabs and our parent, SAP. Does that mean iPads are close to becoming mainstream in the business world? Not yet. Trends are newsworthy precisely because they are still novel to most readers. Indeed, if you read the reaction to the WSJ story on the site AppleInsider, you might have come away with an entirely different picture. "I can tell you that the largest defense contractor in the U.S. has not approved the iPad for connecting to the company intranet and won't have a policy in place until sometime next year," went one comment. Echoed another: "Well, 2nd largest defense contractor has no published plans to allow iphone or ipad. Per one of our security focals- 'An iPad doesn't have the security architecture to protect xxxxxx data, so it's not available as a corporate device right now. There is a team out of IT Services which is looking at a way to support iPhones. If they find a solution, hopefully it will also work for the iPad if that becomes a company supported device'. That's their standard answer, for years. With iOS 4 released, may make things easier. But to give you an idea how things work here-Only managers are special enough to rate a booberry, unless they have VP approval. We're still using WinXP and IE6!!!...Cash rules, and if productivity increase cannot be proved, not gonna pay for an upgrade." It's not just defense vendors resistant to the iPad.

"For one strategic partner it still requires 5th level approval to even think about getting one. That is after you get a boards approval first...Even then you better be one of the good ole boys to get one," wrote a commentator.
"I’m with you," wrote a reader on GigaOm. "I work for an IT company and I’d get laughed out the door for suggesting we invest in iPads."
But defense firms seem to be an especially conservative breed.
"Defense contractors are the closest thing we have to business dinosaurs today. Ossified, bureaucratically-driven businesses with little to no motivation to innovate any more than the next contract requires," opined one. Why? Because IT security workers at defense firms "are not risk takers, if it is not written with invisible ink on invisible paper it is not secure," wrote another. "Wireless and secure are not 2 words they would ever put together. I remember them having a fit over IP addressing and still pushing point to point connections." Another reader blamed the game, not the player, pointing out government rules that ban the access of classified data over Wi-Fi. But still another said such rules were outdated and "driven by what a bunch of EDS sysadmins and VP bean counters think makes their job easier and more profitable. Then those get pitched as enterprise cost saving/security measures and eventually get codified in instructions after a Flag officer is convinced."
So that's the bad news. The good news is that there were plenty of readers chiming in with pro-iPad anecdotes.
"I know a small business with 25 workers.....bought 10 ipads for the sales team instead of laptops. They needed internet, email and thats it. Boom," wrote a reader at The Business Insider.
"My neighbor works for Ernst and Young and told me last evening that they are beginning a beta test of iPhones, whereas they currently issue BB devices," wrote a second TUAW reader.
"Our company recently purchased ~60 ipads for our board meetings to replace the massive binders we usually print out, hosting everything on an internal web server instead. More expensive up front, but we're saving a few trees in the process (and lots of labor, especially with the last minute- 'oops, that was the draft, we need to replace pages 323-387 in every binder ASAP')," wrote one reader at The Unofficial Apple Weblog. "10 hour battery- 8 hour meeting = max 2 hour overrun:)"
A third TUAW reader: "The company I work for are now replacing all the company Blackberries with iPhones. iPads will be following soon."

To revisit the question posed in the headline:Are businesses really opening up to the iPad? My answer: iPads still face plenty of resistance, especially from corporations and military agencies operating under strict security rules. But lots of other companies without those burdens are starting to take a careful look.