The iPad is about to steamroll into the Enterprise

Since the iPad was originally introduced people have been buying it for an amazing assortment of tasks.  While no one has been talking much about its penetration in the Enterprise it is getting to a point where it can’t be dismissed or ignored.

Just recently I’ve been to a significant number of meetings where one, two or more of the participants were using an iPad to take notes or look up information.   A quick chat with some of the other participants revealed that several of them are heave iPad users at home but haven’t yet decided to bring it into the office as they prefer to stick to their company issued computers.

The big question is how long will it be before an iPad becomes a company issued computer?  The BBC has already started a trial of the iPad as an all around computer replacement, for certain tasks.  The company’s CIO was quick to grasp that for some specific occupations it is a great tool.  A clear example of such an occupation is technical support.

The people that are responsible for providing technical support of just about any type spend a  large slice of their time moving around in the office or other company premises and having a 700 grams, instant on computer that can access the company’s system’s through a regular wi-fi connection of through a VPN over 3G is clearly a great advantage.   The same applicability seems to have been clear to most health professionals, almost from day one.

With the release of iOS 4.2 for iPad in November, Apple will be adding a feature to the iPad which is specially interesting for business users: the ability to print directly from the device.  This is something that a lot of people have been asking for a long time.  Coupled with the ability to better manage the applications on the device and the ability to quickly switch tasks this will make the iPad even more attractive as an all around desktop or notebook computer replacement.

Just how good is an iPad as a general computer replacement?  Obviously it depends a lot on what you do with most of your time on a computer.   In my case I moved most of my activities to the iPad.  I use it for 90% of my browsing, 90% of my email and Twitter and pretty much 100% of my Facebook usage.  When don’t I use the iPad for email and Twitter?  When I’m already using another computer to accomplish a task I haven’t moved to the iPad yet, such as writing blog posts.

Make no mistake, I do all the reading, research and notes for the blog posts on the iPad, but I prefer to use my MacBook to sit down and actually write my posts and for doing all my image handling. I haven’t yet used the iPad to create a presentation, but I have used it to share some slides with one or two people.

While I still wouldn’t recommend the iPad as anyone’s single computer, specially as Apple goes out of its way to tie it up to a regular computer and iTunes, I consider it the best option for carrying around with you all day, going into meeting and moving around the office.  I also think it is the  best computer to carry on short trips.

I have surprised my self with just how many PDF’s I’m actually reading instead of just saving them for reading at a future opportunity that never comes.  Being able to read the PDFs while just sitting on the sofa or reclining in bed without the weight and heat of a notebook on my lad has proven to be be a huge improvement and incentive to go through all that material.

There is already a large number of applications which are specifically geared towards business use such as Apple’s productivity tools and those of the Omni Group.  Those are  a few of the better known examples. I’ve run across several other interesting apps such as iMockup for iPad which helps you sketch application interfaces on the iPad and Manuscript which is geared towards writers.  While both of these applications are still in their first iterations they are already quite interesting. Both of these applications were designed with professional activities in mind.

As more applications that focus on business activities, more the attractive the iPad becomes to business users.  Up this point, the handfull of potential competitors that have come out to challenge the iPad in the tablet space seem highly unlikely to present a competitive threat in the Enterprise space.  In this space the only company that might be up to the task of challenging Apple is HP.  Wether or not it will live up to the expectations created with the acquisition of Palm and its webOS mobile OS is still in the air.