Are you considering using the Apple iPad in business? Here's what you need to keep in mind.

The iPad has certainly proved popular with consumers, but does it have a place in business?

Questions that IT has been focusing on lately are related to how its unique handheld form factor, instant-on capability and all-day battery life might support or even spawn a whole new set of applications within the enterprise.

On the flip side, there has obviously been a considerable amount of discussion about the potential risks and limitations of the iPad for business use. Concerns relate to connectivity, security, deployment costs and the depth (or lack thereof) of Apple's commitment to enterprise IT. Some early users also report that the iPad can't replace a laptop for heavy-duty work tasks, such as writing long documents.

The debate continues: Will the iPad get into the corporate environment in a big way? Apple and third parties alike are doing all they can to attract enterprise customers with a bevy of apps geared to corporate use.

Success in a new product or market segment attracts more than customers. It invites bitter competition as well. And that is exactly what's happening with the iPad. It seems to have given a new lease on life to tablet computing more broadly, and now we see a decent line-up of old and new competitors readying their own tablet offerings.

Most notable among the new ones is Cisco Systems, which recently announced the Cius, an Android-based device that's primarily designed for the enterprise. Combined with Cisco's Telepresence high-end videoconferencing systems, the Cius could add a whole new dimension to virtual meetings.

Another potential challenge comes from a German company called Neofonie, which announced a Linux-based device called the WePad (now renamed WeTab), which features USB ports and supports Flash.

As these devices continue to come on the market, I believe the iPad is likely to succeed in the corporate world, and in a big way, especially for customer-facing applications. IT should seize the opportunity to develop a whole new breed of enterprise applications that would enable non-intrusive use of computers in certain business interactions. These applications would enable people to use an iPad in much like the way that pen and paper are used now.

To support internal deployment of enterprise applications, Apple has set up an enterprise program for companies with 500 or more employees and a valid Dun & Bradstreet number. Likewise, there is a free program for higher education, called the University Program, to develop educational materials based on the iPad.

NEXT PAGE: Security's already baked in

  1. We look at what you need to know
  2. Security's already baked in
  3. Business transformation in different industries
  4. Market research, education
  5. Architecture, design and deployment issues
  6. The iPad's office productivity features
  7. Enterprise tools from third parties