"Tablets will replace some laptops and desktops," says one CTO. "Consumer tech is way ahead of corporate IT. In fact, the iPad will be another nail in the coffin of old policy-driven, staid corporate IT control freaks. Business is demanding speed, simplicity, and ease of use. And the companies that get ahead of that curve will have a huge competitive advantage."
Control freaks? If that stings, it's because there's truth in it. Among the top reasons cited for not supporting iThings is an unwillingness to develop expertise and do the work needed to bring these devices into the management fold. Still, more IT pros are realizing they'd better get on the consumerization bandwagon before they get flattened by it.
We did see an interesting dynamic around adoption by executives vs. the rank and file. "Our chairman bought an iPad but refuses to allow IT or anyone else to purchase one," says a respondent. "However, he expects IT to have been born with the iPad gene and know how to support it."
Only 7% of respondents to our InformationWeek Consumerization Survey supply iPads to more than 25% of their employees. But the market winds are at Apple's back: Fully 42% of respondents will increase use of Apple products in the future, and an additional 15% are considering adding them to the supported mix. A mere 11% plan to become or remain Apple free.
Now that we've had time to use the new iPad and compare it with its year-old predecessor, the iPad 2, let's run down the top seven changes and assess their significance for enterprise buyers who may be mulling whether to initiate a tablet pilot, upgrade employees on first- or second-generation iPads, or switch from Android tablets.
1. Display: Physically, the new iPad is virtually indistinguishable from the previous version except for the added weight from the new one's larger battery. The new device delivers twice the resolution of the iPad 2 and a greatly improved range of displayable colors and saturation, thanks to a display with more pixels than a 1080p HDTV--pixels so small they're indiscernible at typical viewing distances.
A popular use of the iPad is outfitting sales teams with the devices so they can show customers dynamic, resizable images instead of static catalogs; whether the new tablet will serve that function better than the iPad 2 depends largely on what you're selling. The differences are most noticeable on icons and text. On high-resolution photographs and HD videos, the differences are subtle; the most noticeable improvement is color rendering and saturation, not pixel resolution. This is actually a testament to just how good the iPad 2's display already is. In fact, most images won't test the limits of either device. The same is true of video.
2. 4G LTE: The other big addition on select models is 4G LTE wireless networking, and it's a welcome improvement, especially for road warriors. Verizon models now also support Wi-Fi tethering, what Apple calls Personal Hotspots, to connect another computer to the Internet using the iPad's cellular connection. That makes the new iPad an alternative to mobile routers like the MiFi. Verizon throws it in at no extra cost with iPad data plans (it charges $20 per month for this feature on the iPhone), so it's hard to see how AT&T remains competitive without it.
3. Performance: Most of the engineering for the new iPad's A5X processor went toward handling all those extra pixels, not running applications. Like the A5 found in the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S, the new processor has dual instruction cores running at 1 GHz, but double the GPU count, going from two to four. Apple also doubled the RAM, to 1 GB, and the RAM is now a discrete component, not packaged with the A5 system-on-a-chip. In side-by-side testing, it's almost impossible to detect a performance difference between the second- and third-generation devices. Both are well-suited to typical knowledge worker tasks.
4. Battery life: The new iPad maintains the same impressive battery life as the iPad 2 by packing a bigger battery--in fact, the device could accurately be described as one big, flat battery with a few chips and a fancy display panel glued on.
Battery life is about the same, but recharging takes about twice as long. That's because the new iPad's battery is 70% larger than the old and uses the same lithium-polymer technology. The external charger is highly recommended. Factor all that in when deciding whether to equip traveling users with the new device or stick with the iPad 2.
5. Hardware support: At 5 megapixels, the rear camera on the new iPad is better than the iPad 2's notoriously lame one, but isn't as good as that on the iPhone 4S and doesn't include a flash. But it does sport image stabilization and can take HD video, useful for some functions. There is no change to the front-facing camera, so videoconferencers are still stuck with standard definition. No upgrade advantage there.
6. Better software: iOS 5.1 has no major breakthroughs--those came with last fall's introduction of iCloud and Siri. The big addition for business users is support for voice dictation, an exclusive on the new iPad (sorry, iPad 2 owners). While it's not a full-fledged information assistant like Siri, it's still useful for those times users don't want to deal with the touch screen keyboard.
7. Effortless migration: One area where iPads shame both PCs and Macs is in the upgrade and migration process; it's incredibly smooth and conceptually simple enough that many people won't even need IT: Use iTunes to back up the old iPad, either locally or to iCloud, and restore to the new one. You end up with a perfect clone of the old device, clear down to the screen lock PIN. IT organizations needing to update and sync iPads en masse will find several third-party products that can parallelize the process; these include Bretford's PowerSync Cart, Datamation Systems' sync-and-charge products, and the Ergotron Tablet Management carts.
Upgrading won't make a dramatic difference to most employees with iPad 2s. Unless the business case demands a photographic display or 4G cellular connectivity, you can safely stand pat. For those with the original iPad or an early version Android tablet, now is a good time to move to the new iPad.