Will the iPad ever be a true corporate device or will Microsoft usurp it?

The iPad is used in enterprises today but will it ever be a true corporate device or just one that IT departments create workarounds to support?

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The iPad is used in enterprises today but will it ever be a true corporate device or just one that IT departments create workarounds to support?

Bring your own device (BYOD) programmes are being introduced at businesses to give staff the freedom to select the device they want to use at work. These programmes might involve the employer paying and supporting the devices or just supporting them. Either way, Apple’s iPad appears destined to populate corporate offices.

But Matthew Oakeley, global head of IT at assent management firm Schroders, believes iPads will never be a true corporate device because they do not integrate seamlessly with Microsoft.

'We are not friends'

“I bet a lot of people bought iPads for work but don’t use them for work," he told Computer Weekly in a recent interview. "The real problem is that, if you run a Microsoft Windows estate, you want something that can talk to it.”

Oakeley said the lack of interoperability between Apple and Microsoft was unlikely to change.

He relates how, at an event, he asked Microsoft Steve Ballmer CEO when Microsoft planned to introduce a means to allow the iPad to talk natively to Microsoft. To which Ballmer replied: "Probably never; we are not friends.”

The iPad in business

iPads have proved valuable to businesses. There are many examples of where the devices have transformed business activity. Deutsche Börse, Standard Life and Resolution are three finance firms that have transformed board meetings through the use of Apple iPads. Using software from Diligent, the companies have replaced hundreds of pages of documents in lever arch files with a system that provides all the information board members need through the tablet devices. This has not only made preparation for meetings easier but cut costs by thousands of pounds.

Meanwhile, British Airways has given senior cabin crew iPads containing data about their frequent flyers so that a personalised service can be offered. And Barclays bank has rolled out 8,500 Apple iPads across branches to improve interaction with customers.

But these are specific roles and tasks, rather than the tablet you would give a new member of staff when they join the company.

Microsoft Surface

Oakeley believes Microsoft Surface could be the tablet that becomes the corporate norm. 

“Windows 8 Pro might allow you to have a mobile device that is just like your laptop. That would be great but I do not think it will be an iPad. The Surface looks like a prototype to something and I think I could eventually prefer it to an iPad,” he said.

Research from security firm SecureData revealed businesses are likely to be attracted to Surface. A third of businesses interviewed said they would recommend the Surface be rolled out in their organisation in the next few years. Because the product was being built to work with Windows 8, users expressed more willingness to adopt the tablet, with 44% believing it will be easier to adopt across organisations.

Read more on iPads in the enterprise

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Barclays Bank to give thousands of staff iPads

HMRC to roll out 7,000 mobile devices including iPads

Apple offers more iPad management features than you might think

Financial Times and Computer Weekly: The challenge of the iPad

iPads on the corporate Wi-Fi

WLAN planning: Are enterprises ready for the iPad?

Limitations of tablet use

Unisys’s authorisation as a service provider by Apple is evidence that Apple is becoming more significant in the corporate sector. Kevin Rayner, head of client services in the UK at Unisys, said tablets might never fully penetrate corporations, not because of security fears or interoperability problems, but because they are not appropriate for many roles. 

“For certain functions carried out by groups of employees, a mobile tablet device is simply not appropriate for their work function," Rayner said.

"For example, a call-centre agent is far more likely to have a corporate standard desktop and network access from a company office. No hint of a mobile device.”

He said businesses are already using tablets in sensitive areas. “I am increasingly seeing tablets used as a corporate front door. Banks have started using tablets as queue-buster tools, possibly gathering sensitive data and directly accessing the corporate network.

“At Unisys we have provided iPads to all our client-facing employees and sales executives use them to deliver professional presentations and for accessing our CRM system, Salesforce.com, while on the road.”

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