We all love it but is the iPad right for enterprise mobility?
The iPad it’s great! Super styling, great app performance, marvellous screen, so simple yet effective. A real icon of industrial design in the 21st century and designed by Brit Jonathan Ive. Apple have shipped 85 million so far.
Beyond social media and games one of the more interesting emerging uses for the iPad is to support dual screen marketing. “Sixty per cent of people say they watch TV and go online concurrently two or three times a week, while 37% claim to do so every day”. So the iPad is being touted very heavily as a real weapon for consumer products companies.
So what do you do if your business application is leading you to use a mobile device and the venue is not on your sofa?
Received wisdom tells us that it if you describe your business environment in any of the following five ways you are more likely to be a potential user for some sort of rugged mobile device rather than one was not built with business “productivity” in mind.
- Blue collar
- Mobile Worker
- Field Service
Why is this? It comes back to our definition of Enterprise Mobility. There is a world of difference between manager types in an office checking their email vs. a worker on the road performing highly specific tasks. This is reflected in the suitability of a unit to perform a specific task and the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) involved with the acquisition and management of a deployment.
- Different releases of hardware over time. Consumer devices typically change every 6-12 months. This can lead to a mix in the installed base as units are replaced which increases support overhead. Locking down an OS and application suite so it is the same for all users all the time is still a lot simpler in an environment where legacy back end systems and staff are all genetically WinTel.
- In most cases your Windows based applications will run on a rugged Windows 7 tablet with no modifications.
- A consumer device like the iPad will typically be replaced 2-3 times in the lifetime of a rugged device. This is mostly due to damage from being dropped but with the big issue may well be theft.
- A rugged device typically has a 3 year return to base warranty. The cost of technical and break fix support will be significantly higher for an iPad. They are not built for high frequency repairs and phone support may well not be tuned into your idea of response to a mission critical problem.
- Detailed screen layouts such as picking lists and forms do not so work well with finger touch displays found on devices like the iPad. Pressure triggered stylus technology is far more suited to business applications.
- Apps to improve the productivity of a manager are generic and readily available for iOS. Building task specific apps for mobile workers can lead to specific mobile application development.
- An iPad is not optimised for installation in a vehicle and does not have an IP rating that would suit many harsh environments.
So the iPad is bad news – not at all. Although there are some amusing scare stories there may indeed be applications in your business where an iPad is exactly the right tool for the job. This is where people contemplating enterprise mobility projects often get befuddled and wrapped up in what new shiny piece of kick ass technology you can be a hero by deploying.
The key question is: what is the nature of the business process that is causing a problem, how will enterprise mobility help and which tool over the lifetime of the project is the right one for the job?