Apple's iPad 2 provokes IT anxiety
- — 05 March, 2011 06:10
As exciting as the new iPad 2 is bound to be for both consumers and business users, some IT executives who will have to support the second-generation Apple tablet are already cringing.
The iPad 2, set to be available on March 11, is faster, thinner and lighter than its predecessor tablet and includes two cameras for video. These and other new features and apps will likely lure many business users to try out the new device, several IT managers said.
Therefore, it's inevitable that large IT shops will have to spend significant time and expense supporting them, the IT managers said.
Unfortunately for those IT executives, Apple and its CEO, Steve Jobs, didn't talk about such business concerns at the unveiling of the iPad 2 and iOS4.3 on Wednesday, analysts noted.
Generally speaking, the massive numbers of workers who are using consumer-focused products like tablets and smartphones for business tasks are already forcing their will on IT shops and the corporations they serve, some IT executives said this week.
"I have coined this 'the tyranny of consumerization,'" said Dave Codack, vice president of employee technology and network services at TD Bank Financial Group in Toronto. His group supports some 81,000 workers at the financial services firm.
Codack said his organization is currently testing the original iPad device along with Apple's iPhone smartphone for various company-related uses, and it plans to test the iPad 2 and the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet from Research In Motion that's slated to ship soon.
Codack is not a Luddite, not even close, and says his IT staffers "seem to be excited" about the new dual-camera feature, dual processor, improved graphics and lighter weight of the iPad 2. "I believe this translates into additional perceived benefit for end users," he said.
But Codack quickly added that "frankly, the newer technology is making these devices more consumer-oriented. With employees using these devices in their day-to-day lives, it's inevitable they will expect enterprise support to eventually bridge these two worlds, which will put pressure on the internal technology organization to step up."
He said he called the process a form of tyranny because "the enterprise is not dictating technology with these devices; the revolt is coming from the end-user community."
Codack's point of view about consumer devices becoming workplace tools is not at all new but has been aggravated by Apple's iPad 2 announcement, some analysts noted. Apple had made a fairly big push to show enterprise friendliness in the iOS mobile software it unveiled last year, adding support for third-party VPNs used by corporations and other improvements.
However, analysts argued that more needs to be done to satisfy corporate IT needs.
"Yes, there's excitement for what iPad 2 brings to business users, [but there's also] disappointment for how hard Apple makes it for enterprise IT to deploy and manage," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J.Gold Associates. "Apple did not address this at all with iPad 2 or iOS 4.3. I think they missed an opportunity."
Apple might be planning other moves to satisfy enterprise needs, but IT managers will still have to work with third-party vendors such as Sybase, McAfee and MobileIron to manage and secure the iPad 2, Gold added.
Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney said that Apple apparently feels that "the consumer is going to drive the enterprise." While Apple encourages businesses to adopt the iPad, it "has no intention of becoming a Dell, an HP or Lenovo as far as enterprise support."
A company with workers using Apple products must either provide back-end support to a limited number of applications or reorganize their entire support model to meet Apple's way of doing business, Dulaney said.
Another option would be for companies to buy iPad 2s and other mobile devices from third-party integrators that would be charged with "doing their best to support Apple products." But, he added, such support "will always be limited."
Corporate concerns over limited support from Apple are often fairly broad. Supporters of Apple in the workplace generally believe such criticism is unfair, given their believe that a new iPhone or iPad can significantly improve worker productivity.
Jude Olinger, CEO of The Olinger Group, said he sees both the potential workplace benefits and the likely support challenges of the coming iPad 2.
Olinger Group, a market research firm, bought 284 first-generation iPads last April for its representatives to conduct shopper surveys in-person at 134 U.S. shopping malls.
Olinger said he now plans to buy 20 of the new iPad 2 tablets, partly to try out the two-way FaceTime video chat capability. That new feature could allow home office personnel to observe or even participate in a remote survey.
"The front and rear camera will be very useful for training survey interviewers, for capturing qualitative information and for seeing nonverbal cues if we are interviewing a survey respondent," Olinger said.
But Olinger faulted Apple for its continued lack of Flash player support on the iPad, which prevents the playing of some videos. "It is a disappointment," he said. "I wish they had Flash support or a workaround."
A more crippling limitation is Apple's lack of support for the iPad, specifically during the deployment of hundreds of new devices, Olinger said.
"The hardest thing with the original iPads was how to activate nearly 300 machines at one time," he said. "With four people working activations, they could only get 40 done in a day."
While Olinger said he has become an Apple convert in recent years and lauds the intuitive nature of its interface, he thinks the reputation of the vendor has fallen down in terms of overall enterprise support. That lack of support makes it costly to use Apple products on a large scale, he added.
"If Apple could get their enterprise applications together, they could give Microsoft a run for their money," he said. "Starting with iPhone, they are backing into the enterprise."
Codack at TD Bank is deploying long-term tests and trials of various devices, including the iPad, partly to evaluate how much IT support will be needed.
For smaller companies, support concerns for the iPad 2 don't offset the benefits gained from the innovative ways it can be used.
James Burland, who writes the iPad Creative blog and works as an assistant at Anglebury Press, a small printing company on the south coast of England, said he expects the extra horsepower will provide a general boost in the performance of the Google Docs service the company uses for job planning.
"We are also toying with [providing] live video support to customers via FaceTime, because many have either a Mac or an iPhone, and using an iPad to drive a very large display on the factory floor to provide job progression updates and general information," Burland said.
Gold said that RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook would be a good fit for companies concerned about Apple's support operation.
Motorola recently acquired a small enterprise management company, 3LM, to enhance the enterprise management and security capabilities of Android-based mobile systems, Gold said. He did note that without such enhancements, plain vanilla Android is "even worse than iOS" in enterprise manageability and security.
"End users love the concept of iPad," Gold concluded. "But IT ultimately has to deploy and pay for the ongoing device maintenance and control efforts. This is a real cost to companies that users don't usually see or appreciate, but it's real and substantial nonetheless."
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is email@example.com.