Apple announced the iPad two years ago and began shipping it in April 2010. In less than two years, the rapidity and scale of the shock to the PC marketplace has been stunning. And it's far from finished: Web apps and tablets will become the dominant computing platform for knowledge workers, and IT should start shifting its strategy to accommodate the change.
IT managers used to determine what mobile devices their employees used (and thus invariably chose BlackBerry), but now companies are adopting a "bring your own device" (BYOD) approach to mobile. IT managers will need to shift to not just accommodating iPads as an additional mobile device, but to a full-fledged BYOD approach for their knowledge workers' client computing. Let them decide if they need a tablet, an ultrabook, or a laptop. IT will need to develop applications first for the Internet and second for tablets, and only develop for traditional PCs for a small slice of back-office production workers.
Knowledge workers will demand the use of tablets first and ultra-thin notebooks like the Macbook Air or ultrabooks second. Companies will accommodate this shift because their employees will be more productive and satisfied, and it will cost the company less, since often the employee supplies his or her own device. As the ability to implement and leverage this BYOD approach improves, today's slow migration will become a massive rush. And the business PC segment for knowledge workers will follow what already is happening in the broader consumer segment.
[ Want more on iPads? Read 9 Powerful Business Uses For Tablet Computers. ]
As an IT manager you should ensure your shop is on the front edge of this transition as much as possible. The tools to deploy, manage, and implement secure sessions are rapidly maturing and are already well proven. Many companies started pilots or small implementations in the past year, in such areas as providing iPads instead of 5-inch thick binders for their boards of directors, or giving senior executives iPads to use in meetings instead of printed presentations.
But the big expansion has been allowing senior managers and knowledge workers to begin accessing corporate email and intranets via their own iPads from home or when traveling. With the success of these pilots, companies are planning broader rollouts and are adopting formal BYOD policies for laptops and tablets.
So how do you ensure that your company stays abreast of these changes? If you have not already piloted corporate email and intranet access from smartphones and tablets, get going. Look also to pilot the devices for select groups such as your board and senior executives. This will let you get the support infrastructure in place and work out problems before a larger rollout.
Work with your legal and procurement team to define the new corporate policy on employee devices. Many companies provide the employee a voucher covering the cost of the device purchase, but the employee is the owner. By keeping any corporate data in a secure partition of the device, one that can be wiped clean if it's lost or stolen, you can meet your corporate IT security standards. But BYOD email is only the most basic level.