Business technology managers are showing greater interest in Apple's new iPad, but they continue to have reservations, an InformationWeek survey finds.
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Corporate IT managers aren't overwhelmed by the new iPad but they do see it as a strong offering, one that will continue to build Apple's presence in enterprises. The new iPad won't dissolve decades of corporate affinity for Windows overnight, but it does appear to be gradually the winning hearts and minds of business users.
InformationWeek surveyed 402 business technology professionals in March about Apple's new iPad, individuals involved in the purchasing, management, or support of end-user devices.
Only 13% of respondents said they were blown away by Apple's latest tablet and had to have one. Most, 61%, characterized the new iPad as a solid offering that met their expectations--inasmuch as that can be said without actually handling one. Perhaps because IT managers are so intimately familiar with computing devices (or because they see Apple's marketing as irresistible to those less jaded), 22% of survey respondents said that end users will be so taken with the new iPad that they'll have to have one.
Corporate IT managers have long viewed Apple hardware as an afterthought. While they started becoming more open to Apple products about a decade ago, their willingness to adopt Apple technology has ramped up sharply since the introduction of the iPhone and the iPad.
Apple's OS X computer hardware remains underrepresented in large companies: 36% of respondents said their organizations officially support Macs, while 39% said Mac are tolerated but not supported, and 25% said Macs aren't allowed.
iOS devices on the other hand are far more well received by businesses. Fifty percent of respondents said their companies officially support iPhones and 47% reported official support for iPads. Only 10% of respondents indicated that their organizations take a hard line and ban iPhones and iPads.
One IT manager in the electric utility equipment business observed that while he wasn't familiar with Apple products and had heard they didn't always play well with Windows Active Directory services, "We will probably have to have become more familiar with Apple because I can see more users wanting [Apple products]."
The obstacles to greater Apple presence in enterprises are varied, but five stand out: 51% of respondents cited the absence of OS X and iOS versions of critical applications (there are 500,000+ apps, just not the right ones); 36% cited lack of internal Apple expertise and disinterest in cultivating that knowledge; 34% cited difficulty integrating Apple users with Active Directory or other authentication systems; 27% said Macs and iOS devices are too expensive; and 27% said Apple's devices are too difficult to centrally manage.
Apple is clearly aware of complaints from enterprise users about device management and earlier this month released Apple Configurator to ease the burden of Apple hardware administration.
The new iPad may win a few new corporate accounts: 7% of respondents said they will increase their commitment to iPads as a result of Apple's latest release and 4% said they will now support iPads. But most survey takers were circumspect, with 32% indicating that the new iPad might be enough to re-evaluate iPad support and 34% indicating that they already support the iPad. Some 23% say they remain unimpressed by the charms of Apple's popular tablet.
Many respondents expressed affinity for Apple products and the iPad. A few offered unqualified praise such as, "Apple has been a complete success in integration and support. People are able to work more freely with an iPad. ... It has a been a great travel machine for our employees."
A few took the opposite tack, expressing absolute opposition. One respondent noted that he could not do business with a company that doesn't publish a product road map. (Don't hold your breath while waiting for that to happen.)
Most respondents offering comments, however, landed somewhere in the middle. They appreciated the iPad and perhaps even used one regularly, but had problems with Apple's unwillingness to communicate or with what they characterized as the company's heavy-handed policies, like lack of support for Adobe's software and limited corporate security options.
The growing appeal of iOS devices among IT managers should worry RIM. InformationWeek surveyed 536 IT professionals in January and found that enthusiasm for RIM's Blackberry devices appears to be waning. While 70% of respondents to our January survey reported using Blackberry devices and 25% reported using Apple devices, that ratio appears destined to swing away from Blackberry, toward iOS and Android hardware. Asked about expected smartphone purchases in their organization in 24 months, 35% anticipated buying RIM devices, 45% foresaw buying an Apple device, 25% identified Android, and 6% expected to be buying Windows 7 or 8 mobile devices.
Perhaps more worrisome for RIM, Apple's hardware was rated better by respondents in several key areas: quality of user experience; feature quality; speed and performance; provision of a common API; support for personal and work activities on one device; running third-party applications; and running internally developed applications.
RIM outscored Apple in areas where it has traditionally been strong: ability to integrate with corporate systems; ability to encrypt data at motion and at rest; centralized security and management; and ability to limit or exclude applications.
Overall, affinity for Apple products in the corporate world is far better than it was a decade ago, when it barely registered. Today, 42% of respondents to our March survey say they plan to increase their usage of Apple products, 32% say they'll continuing using them as they have been, and 15% say they've never used Apple products but are considering them. Only 8% insist they've never used Apple products and never will.
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