iPad: Enterprise Launch Pad



SharePoint and Exchange integration for the iPhone and iPodTouch is one thing, but consider for a moment the XGA resolution display at 132 pixels per inch density iPad (Wi-Fi only) and iPad “3G” (Wi-Fi + 3G) for use with SharePoint, Exchange, and other enterprise applications. While these new devices’ merits for personal use may be interesting from a consumer electronics perspective (not just in a lap, wall, tabletop, or dashboard), their utility as mobile workstations in business environments large and small, public and private has humongous potential.

I’m not suggesting that every forklift operator in a warehouse, or every delivery person around the globe, any instructor with a projector, or every disk with a high definition workstation should abandon what’s currently working for them and jump on a new iPad. Well, it’s not a shipping product for another month or two (Wi-Fi first then the Wi-FI + 3G model), pending US FCC approvals. Also, with just an XGA display of 9.7″ (approx. 246 mm) there would be a lot of scrolling (swiping/panning) around to see everything in a big virtual display – there are just some times when a bigger display is good. These first models have no integrated front and back cameras for using video chat (e.g. iChat) wherever you go without a laptop/notebook.

However, with updated versions of the Calendar, Contacts, Mail, and other built-in applications which are targeted at the iPad’s 1024×768 (XGA) display instead of the classic 480×320 (half-VGA) of the iPhone and iPodTouch, the usability of Microsoft Exchange Server hosted features in this size device is far more fluid than in its smaller cousins. With updated versions of Safari and other built-in apps, using SharePoint could be far more productive than with a small display.

Indeed, authoring emails, notes, meetings, and other text input can use the landscape or portrait mode on-screen multi-touch multi-lingual context-sensitive keyboards. If you’re addicted to external physical keyboards, such an animal could be used as well, such as the recently announced optional keyboard, dock, and stand combination accessory. There are customary viewers for viewing Word, PowerPoint, and more kinds of documents. But what about authoring documents in SharePoint? Along with most of the 140,000 or so iPhone/iPodTouch applications which can run unmodified on the device in black-box or pixel-double modes, new applications can be (and are being) developed using the iPad SDK. Apple is releasing iPad-specific versions of Pages, Keynotes, and Numbers (like their Mac OS X iWork versions) which are highly compatible with Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. These are add-on paid apps.

Remote Desktop into your servers and less portable workstations for running native Windows apps with this portable display and mobile touch access on either Wi-Fi, or (with the Wi-Fi + 3G model) 3G networks. If you’ve ever used Remote Desktop apps on the iPhone or iPodTouch, you likely know that not having to scroll as much or at all in such a light, highly-mobile device would be a great advantage over BlackBerry, iPhone, and other small portables without the fold-out form-factor of NetBooks and laptops, classic fold or invert style tablet PCs.

Apple’s finally-announced, soon-to-be-shipping iPad is different enough than most NetBooks, Tablet PCs, and Touch PCs in many ways I shall not bore you with here. Once I’ve had a chance to integrate some into enterprise customers networks, I hope to post a detailed review. Until then, let me know what you think the likelihood any of these devices will be either allowed onto your networks, into your facilities, or perhaps designed into your networks to run SharePoint apps, remote Windows apps, or device-local native apps. It’s not just about running games on a accelerometer touch tablet.

* Photo from Apple <http://www.apple.com/ipad/gallery/>

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