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5/5/2011
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Gartner Sees iPads As Transformational

Android tablets also will be contenders, while those from RIM, HP, and others will struggle.

Apple iPad 2 3G Teardown
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Slideshow: Apple iPad 2 3G Teardown
Apple's iPad has proven to have so many applications in so many different industries that Gartner sees it as transformational, an analyst said Thursday at the Midsize Enterprise East Summit in Orlando.

In his presentation, "Your CEO Has an iPad, What's Next," Gartner Research Director Daniel O'Connell discussed other kinds of tablets, recognizing those based on Google's Android mobile operating system as serious contenders. But he kept coming back to the iPad. "There is no one thing that makes it the greatest device in the world," but the combination of portability, a compelling user interface, long battery life, and instant-on (no waiting for an operating system to boot) has made the iPad a phenomenon for both personal and business use.

Employees first started bringing iPads to work as status symbols or fashion accessories, but it wasn't long before they started demanding access to corporate applications, starting with email and working up to remote access to enterprise software using virtual desktop software such as Citrix Receiver, he said.

By the end of 2010, a significant number of enterprises also were developing their own applications specifically for the iPad, O'Connell said. For example, Hyatt Hotels has an iPad application it uses for check-in and check-out during busy periods and also for concierge services. Proving that such projects aren't only for large companies, some restaurants are also presenting their wine lists (complete with reviews of each vintage).

When it was introduced last year, the iPad was able to take off very quickly by tapping into the large number of touch-screen applications that had been developed for the iPhone, most of which could run unmodified on the iPad, O'Connell said. While BlackBerry maker Research in Motion recently introduced its PlayBook tablet, and HP is developing one based on its acquisition of Palm, it will be difficult for new entrants to attract attention from software and accessory makers, "most of whom have their hands full trying to keep up with iPad and Android," O'Connell said.

The iPad does have some flaws, such as the fact that it doesn't work with a stylus, won't work with a gloved hand (for example, that of a health care worker), can't be disinfected, and isn't rugged enough for some uses. Apple will have to address those issues over the next couple of years, or else its competitors will get their chance to show they can do better, O'Connell said. Enterprises also will have to seek out mobile management capabilities from an immature market of vendors that provide capabilities like the ability to wipe the memory of a device that are lost or stolen, he said.

Midsize enterprises should at least be thinking about innovative ways they could use tablets, he said. That might mean developing native applications, although operating system differences mean there would be a substantial porting effort in supporting both the iPhone and Android. Over the next couple of years, it should become more practical to use the multimedia capabilities of HTML5 and JavaScript to support multiple tablets with the same software, O'Connell said.

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