Are you considering using the Apple iPad in business? Here's what you need to keep in mind.

The iPad has certainly proved popular with consumers, but does it have a place in business?

Questions that IT has been focusing on lately are related to how its unique handheld form factor, instant-on capability and all-day battery life might support or even spawn a whole new set of applications within the enterprise.

On the flip side, there has obviously been a considerable amount of discussion about the potential risks and limitations of the iPad for business use. Concerns relate to connectivity, security, deployment costs and the depth (or lack thereof) of Apple's www.apple.com/uk commitment to enterprise IT. Some early users also report that the iPad can't replace a laptop for heavy-duty work tasks, such as writing long documents.

The debate continues: Will the iPad get into the corporate environment in a big way? Apple and third parties alike are doing all they can to attract enterprise customers with a bevy of apps geared to corporate use.

Success in a new product or market segment attracts more than customers. It invites bitter competition as well. And that is exactly what's happening with the iPad. It seems to have given a new lease on life to tablet computing more broadly, and now we see a decent line-up of old and new competitors readying their own tablet offerings.

Most notable among the new ones is Cisco Systems, which recently announced the Cius, an Android-based device that's primarily designed for the enterprise. Combined with Cisco's Telepresence high-end videoconferencing systems, the Cius could add a whole new dimension to virtual meetings.

Another potential challenge comes from a German company called Neofonie, which announced a Linux-based device called the WePad (now renamed WeTab), which features USB ports and supports Flash.

As these devices continue to come on the market, I believe the iPad is likely to succeed in the corporate world, and in a big way, especially for customer-facing applications. IT should seize the opportunity to develop a whole new breed of enterprise applications that would enable non-intrusive use of computers in certain business interactions. These applications would enable people to use an iPad in much like the way that pen and paper are used now.

To support internal deployment of enterprise applications, Apple has set up an enterprise program for companies with 500 or more employees and a valid Dun & Bradstreet number. Likewise, there is a free program for higher education, called the University Program, to develop educational materials based on the iPad.

NEXT PAGE: Security's already baked in

  1. We look at what you need to know
  2. Security's already baked in
  3. Business transformation in different industries
  4. Market research, education
  5. Architecture, design and deployment issues
  6. The iPad's office productivity features
  7. Enterprise tools from third parties

Are you considering using the Apple iPad in business? Here's what you need to keep in mind.

Security's already baked in

Before we look at cases of business transformation that are helping the iPad garner immediate attention - and at others that might be forthcoming - let's examine the level of security that enterprise use requires and see how the iPad ecosystem is addressing security.

When it comes to using the iPad at work, IT's biggest security concern is the need for stronger authentication tools and data privacy safeguards.

The iPad supports the use of IEEE x.509-standard digital certificates, which are used to authenticate users and back-end servers on VPN or Wi-Fi networks and via regular e-mail connections. The iPad also supports over-the-air self provisioning for enrollment and configuration of devices and distribution of certificates through Simple Certificate Enrolment Protocol.

As for data protection, in addition to supporting basic SSL (Version 3), the iPad offers 256-bit encryption for data transmission as well as for data stored on the device. For applications that require two-factor authentication, such as those for retail banking where what-you-know (a user ID or password) must be presented together with what-you-have (an official token, like a smartcard), the iPad supports RSA SecurID and CRYPTOCard.

Other enterprise security features include 'sandboxed' environments for applications, the signing of all applications either by Apple or the enterprise, and administrative tools to restrict use of certain applications.

NEXT PAGE: Business transformation in different industries

  1. We look at what you need to know
  2. Security's already baked in
  3. Business transformation in different industries
  4. Market research, education
  5. Architecture, design and deployment issues
  6. The iPad's office productivity features
  7. Enterprise tools from third parties

Are you considering using the Apple iPad in business? Here's what you need to keep in mind.

Business transformation in different industries

Let's now discuss some of the applications that account for most of the initial excitement about the potential for enterprise use of the iPad. Although they come from a variety of vertical industries and involve a spectrum of workflows, they represent a single underlying pattern - using iPads for customer relationship management (CRM) purposes.

Wells Fargo has taken an early lead in the use of iPads for CRM purposes. For example, it demonstrated its financial products and services on iPads at an investors conference in May, and its large customers can use iPads to approve wire transfers.

In the world of automotive finance, Mercedes-Benz is about to deploy iPads at all 350 of its US dealerships, having completed a successful pilot at 40 of them. In the pilot test, dealership employees used iPads to present financing options to customers, and even process financing applications, as they walked around the showroom, eliminating the need for sit-down meetings in an office.

In life sciences, Update CRM, a US subsidiary of Austria's Software AG, has launched a tool called Update.Revolution Touch that's designed to give pharmaceutical salespeople real-time access to back-end corporate systems, including order-processing applications, while pitching their products to physicians.

The list of similar industry-specific CRM applications available for the iPad is growing rapidly. It includes Iron HQ - an app for the agricultural, industrial and power equipment market from Iron Solutions, a CRM app for the pharmaceutical industry from Medi-soft, open-source software provider SugarCRM's Sugar iPad, which was developed using a mobile development tool kit called Appcelerator Titanium, Mobile Intelligence, another CRM system for the pharmaceutical industry from French firm Cegedim Dendrite; and an application from Tellabs for approving shipping orders.

ERP systems designed for the iPad are starting to hit the market, too. SAP www.sap.com was the first of the big ERP vendors to deliver an iPad app, offering a version of its reporting tool for Apple's tablet. Likewise, there are now business intelligence (BI) applications for the iPad as well.

NEXT PAGE: Market research, education

  1. We look at what you need to know
  2. Security's already baked in
  3. Business transformation in different industries
  4. Market research, education
  5. Architecture, design and deployment issues
  6. The iPad's office productivity features
  7. Enterprise tools from third parties

Are you considering using the Apple iPad in business? Here's what you need to keep in mind.

Market research, education

The $20bn market research industry, which has been in a slump lately, might get a boost from the iPad. For example, The Olinger Group conducted surveys at 130 shopping centres recently using 200 iPads to gather data. The employees conducting the survey were pleasantly surprised to find that shoppers were eager to participate in interviews because they were interested in the iPad.

For Olinger, the move to invest in hundreds of iPads paid off in the form of improvements in data quality and the ability to aggregate data in real time. The firm was also able to develop a survey-taking system that it will be able to reuse in the future.

Some of the most obvious applications for the iPad are in education and training. For example, The Elements: A Visual Exploration from Touch Press is a graphically rich guide to the periodic table of chemical elements that gives educators a new way to teach an old lesson.

Universities have not yet formally adopted the iPad as an educational tool. In April, some high-profile US schools, including Princeton and George Washington University, banned iPads from their campuses, citing concerns about security and bandwidth. Lately, however, some institutions of higher education have adopted a more welcoming stance. For example, George Fox University and Seton Hill University give students iPads, according to Wired magazine.

In another education-related application, UK military personnel are using iPads to learn how to handle combat missions. In early trials at the Royal School of Artillery in Wiltshire, troops have learned jargon and procedures more quickly than soldiers did in the past when they sat and listened to lessons from instructors. That could lead to wider adoption throughout the British military.

Other industries

For many years, corporate imaging applications, which need to be served up on the go, have been waiting for a device like the iPad. These applications include electronic medical record systems, computerised physician order entry systems, insurance adjustment tools and other health care systems.

In the months to come, there is bound to be a frenzy of enterprise iPad adoption (especially if Apple adds a camera to the device). When coupled with speech-recognition apps like the Dragon transcription tool, use of the iPad can't help but improve the quality of interactions between, say, physicians and patients and insurance adjusters and their customers.

The hospitality and travel industry and the real estate industry are likely to develop applications incorporating features of augmented reality (where live images are interspersed with stored instructions and data), which allow people to see, and interact with, the metadata of images of buildings displayed on iPads. For example, if you were shopping for a home, you could use an iPad to take a virtual tour a subdivision and analyse the interior and exterior of a particular house.

On the more tactical side, help-desk personnel could handle 'run and maintain' applications more efficiently if they had iPads. That applies to applications for infrastructure in general, such as roads and buildings, and to those used to manage IT assets like servers, switches and routers.

NEXT PAGE: Architecture, design and deployment issues

  1. We look at what you need to know
  2. Security's already baked in
  3. Business transformation in different industries
  4. Market research, education
  5. Architecture, design and deployment issues
  6. The iPad's office productivity features
  7. Enterprise tools from third parties

Are you considering using the Apple iPad in business? Here's what you need to keep in mind.

Architecture, design and deployment issues

When it comes to the development and deployment of other types of enterprise mobility applications, there are different architectural considerations, based on the scope and scale of the application. For stand-alone e-form-type applications, such as one for market research, a simple e-forms server with its own back-end database would be needed. Integration with corporate databases could be handled either through file transfer or more robust middleware as the situation demands.

In such cases, development and deployment tools will likely come from niche vendors like Mi-Co and Syclo.

For iPad applications that are part of a broader enterprise mobility strategy, Apple suggests IT should write device-independent applications for consumption on a much broader set of mobile devices. In other words: Write once, deploy anywhere.

Such applications would need a presentation layer that leverages respective style sheets to present a shared set of XML documents as part of the enterprise mobility architecture. An example of a tool kit used for application development in this situation is Appcelerator Titanium.

On that note, it is nice to see that the big players are also getting into the enterprise mobility application development space, including Oracle with its ADF Mobile product.

Limitations and concerns

Because the iPad uses the same operating system as the iPhone - and because the iPhone tool kit is used for iPad app deployment - it could well be that most of the enterprise connectivity issues of the iPad have already been sorted out - or will be in the near future. Still, the iPad's form factor will place it in a set of new business situations that are so far untested. It's not clear how well even the additional security features will hold up, especially the first time through.

The iPad's use in image-processing applications will be limited unless a camera is added to the device. Setting aside direct costs for the device, enterprises will also need to worry about additional deployment costs involving a whole new set of data plans, if Apple doesn't officially support tethering between company-owned handhelds (at least iPhones) and the iPad.

Finally, readability may be an issue people who try to use iPads outdoors under sunny skies.

But even given some of those issues, the iPad is definitely going to be more than an iFad.

The iPad has already caught the attention of the enterprise, and it continues to inspire the imagination of business managers and their IT partners alike. This collaboration is about exploring ways of applying the iPad to situations where the spontaneous use of computers could lead to improved customer service and business productivity. The device has the potential to be a channel in its own right for building customer intimacy.

NEXT PAGE: The iPad's office productivity features

  1. We look at what you need to know
  2. Security's already baked in
  3. Business transformation in different industries
  4. Market research, education
  5. Architecture, design and deployment issues
  6. The iPad's office productivity features
  7. Enterprise tools from third parties

Are you considering using the Apple iPad in business? Here's what you need to keep in mind.

The iPad's office productivity features

Efforts by Apple itself to offer official support through a set of native apps and formal approaches (documented in the vendor's iPad in Business document) coupled with a plethora of third-party applications, point to a serious enterprise iPad ecosystem that is growing in size and sophistication. Here are some highlights of Apple's offerings in this area:

  • iWork apps (Keynote, Pages, Numbers) for authoring office documents such as presentations, text documents and spreadsheets.
  • Built-in support for Microsoft Exchange Server via Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync with strong passwords, password expiration, password reuse history, caps on failed log-in attempts, auto-lock and remote wipe.
  • Support for other standards-based mail/calendar/contacts environments that are based on IMAP, CalDAV and LDAP protocols and standards.
  • Secure access to corporate intranets through virtual private networks with support for Cisco IPSec, L2TP over IPSec and PPTP.
  • Support for Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA2) with IEEE 802.1x authentication for iPad to connect to corporate wireless networks.
  • Support for enterprise deployment of the iPad using iPad/iPhone Configuration Utility 2.2. The utility can also be used to install apps and to control user interactions.
  • IBM's iPad version of Lotus Notes Traveller, which was released In early June. It features two-way encrypted synchronisation of email, calendar and contacts with IBM Lotus Domino servers. The app also features per-message email encryption.

NEXT PAGE: Enterprise tools from third parties

  1. We look at what you need to know
  2. Security's already baked in
  3. Business transformation in different industries
  4. Market research, education
  5. Architecture, design and deployment issues
  6. The iPad's office productivity features
  7. Enterprise tools from third parties

Are you considering using the Apple iPad in business? Here's what you need to keep in mind.

Enterprise tools from third parties

In addition to the iPad's native features, here are some third-party enterprise connectivity and productivity tools for Apple's tablet:

GoodReader for iPad
A simple yet effective application that reads many of the standard office file formats, including PDFs and high-resolution photos, and simulates Windows' "My Documents."

WebEx for iPad
A tool that allows users to participate in online meetings via VoIP connections and to conduct chat sessions during webinars.

LogMeIn Ignition
An application that remotely controls PCs and Macs, allowing applications on remote devices, including Microsoft Office, to be used from anywhere.

Citrix Receiver for iPad
Much like LogMeIn, this tool provides on-the-go access to all corporate applications and documents.

GoToMeeting for iPad
A software product that allows users to hold online meetings and otherwise collaborate online; it's much like WebEx.

RDP or VNC for iPad
Two protocols that support remote access. RDP connects to Windows clients using Remote Desktop Protocol, and VNC supports VPN access to Windows and Mac machines. There are a number of RDP- and VNC-based apps available for the iPad from different vendors.

MobileIron Sentry
A security tool that lets network administrators manage corporate mobile devices including iPads

Office2 HD
An app for viewing and editing Google Docs and Microsoft Office documents.

Dropbox
A cloud-based storage service that lets users share documents between a desktop computer and an iPad

SugarSync
A service that's similar to Dropbox

Evernote
An app for note-taking, web-clipping, image-processing and synchronisation to the cloud to enable cross-platform sharing.

See also: 10 ways to get more from your iPad

  1. We look at what you need to know
  2. Security's already baked in
  3. Business transformation in different industries
  4. Market research, education
  5. Architecture, design and deployment issues
  6. The iPad's office productivity features
  7. Enterprise tools from third parties