MicroStrategy is a business intelligence company in McLean, Va., that consults with companies on how to use mobile devices and integrate them with information technology systems. COO Sanju Bansal says the iPad in particular offers features businesspeople should love that may help it gain share in the enterprise market -- and maybe even replace the ubiquitous Balckberry or laptop.
First is the size and weight. An iPad, Bansal says, weighs much less -- about a pound and a half -- than the typical laptop, which is at least twice that. They also take less time to boot up, and are usually always on, in the manner of smartphones.
Then there are the applications, or apps. "Apps take care of a specific feature," Bansal says. "They take advantage of the sensors in the machine." Laptops, he says, use Web browsers for many remote functions, but they are usually not specifically designed for the task at hand. An iPad allows for a level of customization that many businesses need.
The location-based services are also a plus for certain industries, he adds, which is something Web browsers can't offer.
iPads, he says, can be a good replacement for paper as well; instead of having to hook up a laptop to a display for presentations, data can be shared among iPads. "It's impolite to look at your blackberry during a meeting," he says, "But you can share among iPads and it's different, it's not like a distraction."
They even cost less, once the typical cost of a software license from Microsoft is factored in.
Microstrategy takes their position seriously enough that the company has issued iPads to its employees as replacements for laptops.
But not everyone is so enamored of iPads as a business device -- at least not yet. Jeff Orr, principal analyst at ABI research, says the biggest issue for Apple's devices is that they are not set up for enterprise servers; the operating system isn't optimized to be controlled by a single administrator the way a Balckberry's is.
"The iPad and iPhone aren't really designed to be administered by an IT organization," he says. That means that an IT administrator attempting to implement a software update would have to either walk all the users through the process, hope that they download one to their devices from a central site, or update them all individually. With more than twenty or so employees, that would be time-consuming at best.
None of this means that the iPad wouldn't sell; Orr predicts tablet shipments will hit the 11 million mark in 2011, with the iPad making up a large portion of that.
Apple itself has posted two jobs in its retail division geared to selling to small businesses. The locations weren't specified. That would be an indication that the company is also planning to push its products to the enterprise market, but Apple has offered no comments on the matter.
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