It is widely understood that Apple is a consumer company but the iPhone is taking huge marketshare from RIM and the iPad is becoming an indispensible tool in the enterprise for a variety of tasks like mobile presentations. Moreover, the suite of apps available for the iPhone and iPad mean that companies are able to leverage these gadgets in new and innovative ways. Finally, as the move to the cloud continues, accessing the information stored in a remote data center can be done easily on a tablet which doesn’t need gobs of hard disk space.
So I was intrigued when I learned that Nathan Clevenger, Chief Software Architect, ITR Mobility has written a new book iPad in the Enterprise. Having researched the space thoroughly, I had to learn more from Clevenger because as we are seeing before our eyes, tablets have begun to gain significant corporate traction and the iPad has a virtual monopoly on the tablet space at the moment.
Here are the results of our e-mail interview:
What prompted you to write this new book?
When the iPad first came out, I didn’t realize how transformative it would become. I got one on release day, brought it home, got it set up, and handed it to my two year old as an experiment. It took more than 30 minutes to get it back from him. Because had used my iPhone before, he already knew how to turn it on, and he knew all the apps that were his favorites. He just started using the device and the apps with zero training. That level of intuitiveness is amazing.
Within days of the iPad launch, I began seeing them in people’s hands at many of our clients – from folks at the bottom to the very top of the reporting structures of these organizations. And then I noticed a very interesting thing starting to happen. While the smartphone arena is transitioning in many enterprises from corporate-liable deployments to more of personally-owned devices that are supported for corporate connectivity, organizations started deployed corporate-owned iPads left and right. Many of these same Fortune 500 customers of ours that were in the process of transitioning from corporate-owned BlackBerry or Windows Mobile devices to legions of personally-owned iPhones and Android devices started to do centralized deployments of iPads. So while smartphones were being brought into the organization by employees which was introducing a very heterogenous platform environment, many enterprises seemed to want to standardize on the iPad for more of a homogenous platform environment, which makes support and application development somewhat easier.
Once our customers started getting the iPads into the hands of users, they all started clamoring for apps. I interviewed a few dozen Fortune 500 executives for the book, but I think Best Buy CTO Robert Stephens explained this phenomenon the best. “Up until recently,” Stephens said, “Most business executives didn’t have any confidence to know what to ask IT for. But now they see that they can track a FedEx package right from the iPad, and see exactly where it is or who signed for it. You can customize and order a pizza from Papa John’s right from your iPhone. IT no longer has the unique set of knowledge about what is possible. The user now knows they want, and now they can and will demand it from IT.”
As a result, every one of our Fortune 500 customers knew that they needed apps, but they didn’t have a strategy and they wanted to know the best way to get started. That’s why I wrote the book.
Do you see tablets replacing laptops?
Personally, I believe that the tablet is more of a displacement for the laptop than a replacement. The iPad doesn’t do everything a laptop does, nor should it. But it also does many things that a laptop can’t do.
Many folks have observed the tablet is a great platform for content consumption, but not content creation. I don’t necessary agree with that. While the iPad and other tablets are not the most efficient form factors for many types of traditional content creations like word processing or spreadsheets, they are incredibly effective at many other types of content creation, like for instance replacing paper forms or checklists. Combining that type of rapid touch-screen data capture with GPS, not to mention capturing images with the camera, signatures on the touchscreen, or even barcodes or magnetic stripe cards with external accessories, the iPad can do many types of content creation better than any other device before it. And this isn’t just some theoretical vision - we’re seeing many Fortune 500 firms leading the way with innovative iPad apps deployed through internal enterprise app stores that are doing this today. It’s not replacing laptops in most situations, but augmenting what users are given (and the laptops are being left at home or the office a lot more during travel).
Why do enterprises need to consider tablets/iPads if they already have smartphones and laptops?
Like I mentioned previously, the iPad isn’t a replacement for laptop or a smartphone. But it does take a lot of demand for use away from both the laptop and the smartphone. Anecdotally, I know that I personally use both my laptop and my smartphone a lot less now than before I had my iPad.
From an ROI standpoint, we’re seeing the benefits to enterprises on two fronts: both tangible and intangible. The tangible benefits of enhanced productivity, increased efficiency, and things along those lines are coming from apps that drive specific line-of-business functionality, like customer relationship management, order entry, business intelligence, workflow automation, or the very vertical-focused solutions like the hundreds of applications we’re seeing across the healthcare industry. On a more intangible basis, there are many soft benefits from increased employee satisfaction from not only giving the users a technology that they want to use, but allowing them to explore how they can use the device to do their job better.
What was the biggest surprise you encountered when researching the book?
While it seems obvious to me now, I was most surprised by how controversial the “consumerization of IT” is as a topic. In many ways, “consumerization” was much more controversial than the iPad itself, which is not what I expected. As I talked to many Fortune 500 CIOs through the writing of the book, I learned that the reason for this is that the trend of “consumerization” boils down to a fundamental issue: power. IT has maintained complete control over corporate technology, and that monopoly is being threatened. While some of the CIOs I spoke to were negative about the impact of this, many were extremely positive.
For example, At paper-giant Weyerhaeuser, CIO Kevin Shearer shared with me, “The lightning fast speed of adoption of the iPad into the business world caught everyone by surprise. Now business execs are showing up with their own iPads, bought with their own money, expecting full and seamless connectivity and integration between personal and business applications. It’s what every CIO dreamed of but we all thought we would have more time to prepare for these customer expectations.”
And at Chevron, CIO Louie Ehrlich recognizes that devices like the iPad are bringing challenges but also significant opportunities, saying, “Consumer devices such as smart phones and tablets can be game changers for an enterprise. They provide an opportunity for steep change in the speed of business decisions and increased individual productivity, but come with a distinct requirement for IT to rethink old paradigms around application development, delivery, and support.”
Where will the tablet market be in five years?
I honestly have no idea, but I am very excited to see what the future holds! I’ve spent my entire career, the last 12 years, in the mobile software arena, and I stopped trying to predict the future a long time ago.
I do think it is ironic though, that Bill Gate’s 2001 prediction of mainstream tablets was actually fulfilled by Steve Jobs just one decade later.
Do you have any thoughts on iPad competition?
There is a lot of competition, and that competition is only going to get better. I think it will be very interesting to observe if the tablet goes the way of the PC and continues to move towards centralized deployments that provide platform standardization, or if they go the way of the smartphone with BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) introducing platform variety. As a result, the platforms most widely deployed within the enterprise may or may not align exactly with the popular consumer demand and the overall market.
Why is your book a must-read for the enterprise decision maker?
In today’s rapidly changing landscape, IT leaders need to be strategic and proactive in how they approach this technology, as opposed to simply reacting to what happens. My book lays out a roadmap for how business and IT can collaborate to take advantage of this technology, not just for the short-term, but to put flexible processes and mobile best practices in to place to be ready for which ever direction the industry moves next.