What we don't know about Apple's upcoming slate PC
As the smoke clears from Steve Jobs launching the Apple iPad, missing details suggest there's less to Apple's tablet than meets the eye.
Does the iPad support Microsoft Exchange email?
Apple mentioned several web-based email providers that would work with the iPad's Mail app, such as Gmail and Hotmail, but Microsoft Exchange was conspicuously absent. I first assumed that the iPad would support Exchange and the same handful of Exchange ActiveSync security policies as the iPhone and iPod Touch, but now I'm not so sure.
My colleague Jason Snell, editor-in-chief of Macworld, would be surprised if Apple removed Exchange from the iPad, given its place on the iPhone and iPod touch, but he too can't say for certain.
Analyst Chris Hazelton from the 451 Group noticed the Exchange omission back on January 27 and said the iPad categorically won't support Exchange.
He acknowledged that this was a supposition on his part, not a confirmed fact, but that Apple has not responded to his inquiries.
Apple hasn't responded to me on this, either, and neither he nor I can fathom why Apple would not clarify this simple fact immediately.
If you, like me, see the potential of the iPad as a laptop surrogate for short business trips, the lack of Exchange support kills that potential, and it signals that the iPad is not a dual-purpose business/consumer device as the iPhone and iPod touch are. Instead, it is, as has been suggested by some, just a big iPod.
Apple's announcement of the iWork productivity app for the iPad led many of us to see the iPad as a lightweight laptop for email, web access, and basic document work - but the lack of Exchange, coupled with iWork for iPad's inability to save files in Microsoft Office formats, would mean that the only business users who could harness the iPad for work would be that tiny portion of Mac-based professionals who don't run Exchange email.
Does the iPad support VPN and configuration management?
If the iPad doesn't support Exchange, I can't imagine it wouldn't work with VPN and configuration management, two capabilities that the iPhone and iPod touch can claim.
Although the iPhone and iPod Touch doesn't support over-the-air management of the device or its security capabilities, they do support these capabilities using emailed or web-downloaded configuration files.
This management approach is nowhere usable for enterprises, as it gives no assurance that users have the right configuration, but small businesses with local IT staff can deal with it. (Yes, several vendors such as Good Technology now offer more enterprise-class management tools for the iPhone.)
If Apple has pulled these capabilities from the iPad, then almost no business can seriously allow an iPad on to its network. Apple won't say.
NEXT PAGE: Can you use other services apart from iTunes
- We look at what we don't know about Apple's slate PC
- Support for Microsoft Exchange?
- Can you use other services apart from iTunes
- Is the internal storage upgradable
- If Apple won't say, maybe you shouldn't buy