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10/19/2010
02:54 PM
Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
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Global CIO: 7 Tips For Using The iPad In Business

These lessons come compliments of Mercedes-Benz Financial, which has been testing iPads in car dealerships the last four months.

4. People want to close the deal: Signatures

One of the key pieces of dealer feedback was they needed a way for people to sign the iPad. So Mercedes-Benz Financial has just added a feature so customers can use their finger to sign the device. Dealers think that feature will be particularly useful when someone's returning a leased vehicle. The employee and owner walk around the car, mark on a form any damage that exists, verify that the odometer's accurate, and then on the spot will be able to sign a form completing the process.

5. People want to print from the iPad

Mercedes-Benz Financial heard from dealers that they'd like to be able to print documents. Apple doesn't knock itself out making products business friendly, and the lack of a printing option at the launch is an example. Mercedes Benz Financial will add printing as soon as Apple allows it. "Unfortunately, that's not in our hands, it's in Apple's," says Michael Kanzleiter, Mercedes-Benz Financial's senior marketing manager.

6. People don't need a keyboard

The team at Mercedes-Benz Financial wondered if salespeople would want an external keyboard, rather than using the touchscreen keyboard. But they found people adapted fairly quickly to using the iPad keyboard, at least for the amount of data entry needed for the MB Advantage applications.

7. This is only the start

The iPad project is the second big step in Mercedes-Benz Financial's mobile strategy, having launched an iPhone bill-paying app for consumers a year ago. The company isn't sure what its next step in mobility will be, but dealers are likely to push the iPad's use, now that they have it in hand. Already, one Mercedes dealer uses a remote-access app to let a salesperson access his or her desktop via the iPad. It's easy to see how salespeople might use a tool for checking vehicle inventory while on the lot, for example. "This is the start of looking into what [dealers] could do with the tablet PC," Kanzleiter says.

The iPad will find a business role. Now, Steve Jobs has said he hates the enterprise IT market. He thinks IT people pick products for the wrong reasons. But, Jobs doesn't seem to mind if people buy his products and use them for work, the way they have for the iPhone. Apple's latest TV ad even gives a nod to "work" among the iPad's uses.

More than a few IT teams got caught flat-footed by the iPhone's popularity among employees, and how determined employees were/are to use it for work. Employees fought for it because the iPhone catapulted the mobile Internet forward, making the smartphone more than an e-mail gadget. The iPad's tablet format might not be as big a leap, but it's driving the mobile Internet forward again. Don't get fooled again.

The Enterprise 2.0 conference in Santa Clara, Calif. is Nov. 8 to 11. Register here.

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