The iPad is getting a reputation as being good for many things — media consumption, mobile messaging and games — to name a few.
It certainly does all of those things but even before getting my hands on one I started thinking about the iPad in the enterprise. Not so much as a laptop replacement for the workforce, but as a specialized tool for certain functions that I believe the iPad would be good at doing.
After using the iPad for a few days (I wish!), I am more convinced than ever that there is a place in big companies to take advantage of the special features of the device. I can see customer support employees using special apps to fill out forms as they deal with customers on the phone. The touch interface could be leveraged to good effect doing this, as many support departments operate with “scripts” written to handle problems over the phone.
The iPad is perfect for this type of repetitive data entry with the proper app running the show. The on-screen keyboard is adequate for the short data entries that don’t fit a scripted mode, while common entries can be programmed to mere button taps. The iPad is perfect for this, with only a light development effort needed to bring common tasks like this to life as an app.
I really believe that IT support staff can use the iPad to troubleshoot employee computer problems. I have spoken to many who do this for a living and they are already using LogMeIn on the iPhone to fix computer problems remotely. Throw in the larger screen of the iPad and this method is an outstanding way to provide this type of support.
Yesterday I ran some errands and found myself in a Target store picking up some items. I carried the iPad in a little case, along with the MiFi for 3G connectivity, just in case. I decided to get a coffee in the Starbucks in the Target, and I sat down to enjoy the drink. I hit the button on the MiFi, and pulled out the iPad to kill some time.
I was having fun in the Starbucks, surfing the web on the iPad, when I remembered I forgot to run a system scan for malware on the ThinkPad back in the home office. I started LogMeIn Ignition (as shown in my video) and logged into the ThinkPad on the iPad. I fired up Microsoft Security Essentials and instigated a full system scan on the ThinkPad. Once that started I logged off and continued my web surfing on the iPad. The system scan was running on the ThinkPad in the office while I was sitting in Starbucks enjoying my coffee.
One nagging question in everyone's mind is "How do we deploy, secure and manages these devices in the field?". MobileIron's Smartphone Device Management platform (distributed in the UK by Cloud Distribution) is able to support iPad out of the box as well as iPhone, WM, Symbian, Android and Blackberry.
I’d love to hear your opinions on the iPad in the workplace. Can you see functions in your company that would be performed well with the iPad? Share it in the comments.
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