As with many Apple product launches, today’s release of the new iPad is mostly a consumer event. But that doesn’t mean that the launch won’t have an impact on businesses. In fact, on Monday morning a number of new iPads may be walking into workplaces around the world. And users may be lobbying their employers to purchase the new iPad – if they haven’t stared doing so already.
So, what questions should businesses or IT professionals be asking about the new iPad? More importantly, what are the answers to those questions?
Should businesses order new iPads immediately?
Probably not. In fact, orders for new iPads already show a delay of two to three weeks. More important, as with any new piece of technology, buying and supporting a new device on day one isn’t a good idea. A better approach is to wait to ensure there are no issues with the new iPad and then buy one or two models to conduct an initial test of the new iPad in your environment.
Also, if you are planning a large purchase, it’s probably a good idea to have a conversation with your Apple business sales rep (or your tech reseller if you don’t deal with Apple directly) about exactly what the options are and how quickly your organization can expect to receive new iPads in quantity.
If companies are buying the new iPad, should they go for the Wi-Fi or LTE models?
This is a tough one to answer because each company’s needs are different. Similarly, LTE availability is a factor. After all, if there’s limited 3G/4G service, the extra expense may not get you much bang for your buck. There’s also the question about how corporate-owned devices will fit into your overall mobile and telecom budget.
One advantage to choosing LTE iPads is that they may lead mobile professionals to avoid unsecured free Wi-Fi options, which has a certain data security value – although always requiring a VPN connection is actually a better security protocol. Another advantage for Verizon customers is the ability to tether other devices to an iPad’s LTE connection at no charge – essentially giving you an iPad and mobile hotspot in one device (this doesn’t apply to AT&T LTE iPads as AT&T doesn’t plan to enable this capability at this point).
That said, Wi-Fi iPads combined with 3G or 4G personal hotspot devices may be a more economical option for many companies, particularly when iPads are deployed to users with limited travel needs. In those situations, deploying Wi-Fi iPads to individuals and maintaining a pool of hotspots that various staff can check out when needed is likely to be a more economical choice.
If you are seriously considering or have already decided to buy LTE iPads, it’s probably a good idea to review your telecom or mobile expenses before negotiating the new iPad and its associated data needs into your mobile plans(s).
How much storage is enough for a company-owned iPad?
This is going to vary between companies and job functions. Many mobile professionals may have limited storage needs, but some professions will require an extensive collection of on-device data. Overall, for corporate-owned devices, the 16GB models will probably suffice. After all, it’s unlikely that such devices will store personal media collection (music, TV, movie, photos) and media files are what take up the most space on iOS devices.
Should business or IT leaders consider the iPad 2 as a less expensive alternative?
Absolutely – as noted in MacWorld’s initial review of the new iPad, the actual processor performance is similar to the iPad 2, though graphics performance was notably better. That isn’t to say that the retina display, camera, and graphics capabilities aren’t important. But from the perspective of a cost/benefit analysis, there isn’t a large generational leap between the business capabilities of the iPad 2 and the new iPad.
From a business perspective, the big advantage of the new iPad is its support for LTE. If LTE iPads are a consideration, then there’s no reason not to consider the iPad 2 as a less expensive alternative.
The one possible exception is when the iPad is used as a sales and marketing solution. In those situations, it may reflect better on your company to be able to show off the better screen quality of the newer device.
Does this mean companies need to consider a BYOD program?
BYOD is a major trend that is impacting virtually every industry. Regardless of the new iPad, most business should be exploring BYOD or similar trends like the COPE method promoted by Enterprise Mobility Forum. The new iPad may increase the pressure on a business to look at BYOD as an option, but the truth is that this is something every organization should already be considering. In companies that are avoiding BYOD and the consumerization of IT, there’s a good chance that employees are already using personal devices to some extent and just not telling management or IT that they’re doing it.
What management options are available for the new iPad?
The new iPad has the same mobile device management (MDM) capabilities as every other iOS 5 device. This includes the ability to manage with free tools like Apple Configurator and iPhone Configuration Utility as well as more advanced MDM products. There are also a number of options that allow companies to create a secure on-device data store for business use while allowing the remainder of the device to remain in an unmanaged state (useful for personally-owned devices). Products in that space include offerings from Good, Bitzer, and Quickoffice.
Can businesses stop the new iPad from making it’s way into the office and onto the corporate network?
On a policy level, a business can ban the new iPad (along with previous iPads, iPhones, Android devices, and even USB flash drives). The bigger question is whether or not a company can effectively enforce that ban. While it is completely possible to prevent unauthorized devices from connecting to a corporate network, there isn’t a whole lot that can be done to prevent users from bringing their personal devices into the office. Given that most of the devices, including LTE models of the new iPad, can access the Internet on their own, banning them from a corporate network won’t keep employees form using them
A better approach is to engage staff that want to use the new iPad and offer them ways to do so securely both in the office and after hours or on the road. This can include providing VPN access, using MDM solutions, using mobile data security options like those mention above, and good old fashioned user education about what is the safe and acceptable way to use the new iPad.
Ultimately the new iPad offers a lot of capabilities that stand to make a very powerful business device. The challenge, as with most mobile devices, is to harness that power and ensure that workers are using it in a safe and responsible manner. That said, beyond personally-owned devices, it isn’t likely the new iPad will be a volume purchase option for businesses in the immediate future as demand is likely to outstrip supply in much the same manner as previous iPad and iPhone models.