When Dan Kerzner wants to show his colleagues at Microstrategy the latest numbers for the company, he calls them into a conference room that's equipped with a television and he fires up his iPad--and without further fuss the spreadsheet on his tablet is on the big screen for all to see.
Kerzner isn't using a projection system. There aren't a lot of cables snaking around the table and floor. Instead, he and his colleagues at MicroStrategy (which develops business-intelligence apps) are using a sometimes-mocked product--the Apple TV ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice )--for something it wasn't specifically designed to do: Connect iOS devices to televisions in meeting rooms. Turns out that, by making it easy for workers with AirPlay-enabled iPhones and iPads to wirelessly project their presentations to the big screen, the Apple TV can in fact be a useful business tool.
"I can just pop into a conference room and share the data from the palm of my hand," says Kerzner, senior vice president of MicroStrategy's mobile division. "You don't have to do the normal VGA-cable shuffle."
MicroStrategy likes the Apple TV so much that the company is pushing clients to adopt the hardware in their businesses as well, saying it makes business presentations less expensive and more convenient.
"Why, in order to stream a video from your phone to your TV, would you want to hook up a cable, when you can just push a button and stream it?" Kerzner says. "At $100, it's not a big deal to put [the Apple TV] in the conference room."
By now, the growth of Apple "consumer" products in the enterprise sector is well-known. Workers are bringing their own iPhones and iPads to the office, forcing IT departments to adapt and inspiring businesses to find a range of new uses for those products. The Apple TV could be next.
Ben Arnold, an analyst with NPD Group, suggests that, even if the Apple TV does find a home in the meeting room, it'll soon have lots of competition there. Audio companies are making AirPlay-compatible speaker systems that work directly with iOS products, he points out; he expects that will soon happen with televisions as well, rendering the Apple TV's AirPlay compatibility less unique and less of an advantage.
"For now, it's an interesting proposition, a good way to present a company's application from an iOS device," Arnold says of MicroStrategy's approach. "If you've set up your workforce with iPhones and iPads, then for the time being it's good."
There are some practical concerns: For example, the Apple TV doesn't always work properly on Wi-Fi networks that use enterprise-level security protocols. Kerzner acknowledges that challenge, but says it can be worked around; MicroStrategy, for example, set up a wireless sub-network specifically for use with its the Apple TVs.
Kerzner thinks that, as more consumers get used to Internet television systems such as the Apple TV and the Roku ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ), they'll expect to find similar products that are just as easy to use in their offices. Apple products have succeeded in the workplace because they're easy to use; the Apple TV doesn't have to be the exception.