Apple just announced its media tablet (we coined these things mobile media tablets in 2005 in private client conversations and in print in 2007) amidst much excitement and surprisingly little secrecy. There wasn't much if anything in the announcement that the bloggers hadn't anticipated.
This product will appear in 60 days with WiFi and in 90 days unlocked with AT&T data plan for $629 and $29/month. It will catch on quickly as an employee-provisioned third device, particularly for Mobile Professionals, 28% of the workforce. IT will support it in many organizations. After all, it's just a big iPhone to them and already 20% of firms support them.
Most of the media coverage will discuss the impact on consumer markets. I'm going to talk about the impact on businesses and on information & knowledge management professionals, the IT executive responsible for making the workforce successful with technology.
Make no mistake, this is an attractive business tool. Laptops will be left at home.
One thing's for sure, Apple knows how to time the market. And the market it's timed this time around is an important one: information workers self-provisioning what they need rather than what their employers provide. We have called this trend Technology Populism (AKA consumerization of IT), and it's important enough that we're writing a book called Groundswell Heroes about how to harness it.
Apple also timed the rest of it right. The technology, the media industry, the digital experience, the developer ecosystem, the retail presence, the applications, the operating system, the increasingly HTML5-enabled Web, the price, and the wireless industry is ready for this product.
Oh, I'm sure it will have problems. Despite the claims, battery life's sure to be inadequate for someone on the go all day, for example. But the iPad extends all the things that Apple's already got up and running. And Apple has addressed the usual problems already: cost, availability, accessories, wireless access.
And it offers some superior characteristics for the things that Mobile Professionals care about. Mobile Professionals are one of the four Workforce Personas we've defined. This segment is 28% of the US information workforce defined by a high need for mobility and a lot of applications. Mobile Professionals care about:
- Messaging and collaboration on the go. (Need email, calendar, contacts, Web conferencing.)
- Full Web experience. (Big screen, big Web pages. Duh.)
- Business media. (The New York Times app is just the beginning).)
- Full-size document tools. (Execs review, tweak, and present a lot on the go.)
- Secure wireless connectivity. (Any time, any place. This one needs work.)
- And let's not forget, Looking cool. (Haven't seen it yet, but it's sure looking good.)
This thing will take off among high net worth mobile pros. And IT should be okay with that, at least in non-regulated industriess where the lack of application management and device control tools are not big issues. After all, iPad is really just a big iPhone.
And in April 2009, 17% of enterprises and 25% of SMBs supported iPhone and in September 2009,16% of US information workers used iPhones for work, even at the world's largest organizations.
Now, some "What it Means" (WIM) points:
WIM #1: The importance of great document tools just increased. Apple's support of iWorks on the iPad gives execs what they need to present on the road and leave the laptop at home. Microsoft should build best-in-class iPad software in the Office formats. (Or watch execs move key material to the iWorks formats.) Adobe should take responsibility for a great PDF reader. And these readers must also be great presentation tools.
WIM #2: The importance of application push just got greater. Apple should make this a priority in its v4 release of the software. (We expect to see the v4 release in July 2010.)
WIM #3: Google has even more need now to retain control over the Android experience so developers can target that platform with the same relative ease as they can target the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad market.
WIM #4: The market for device and application management just got more important. Apple, make the management APIs a key initiative to allow vendors like Good, Box Tone, and Sybase to solve that problem. (Device management vndors, feel free to comment below if you want to be included in the conversation.)