Enterprises are "jazzed" about the iPad, an industry analyst said today, citing conversations with dozens of companies that are replacing notebooks with Apple's tablet or putting them into the hands of workers who previously relied on paper.
"There's just a lot of excitement about the iPad in business," said Ted Schadler, an analyst with Forrester Research. "They are jazzed by the fact that it's not a smartphone, not a laptop, that they just feel good when they get one of these things in their hands.
"In a selling situation, the iPad is simply more intimate than a notebook," he continued.
Schadler spoke with dozens of companies about their business use of the iPad, and their plans for tablets in general, to get an idea of how enterprises are using the technology now, and how they will use it in the future.
His conclusions: The majority of firms see the iPad succeeding as a replacement for a traditional laptop, but the real impact will come from companies that substitute a tablet for a clipboard and paper, or as a technology tool where none was available previously.
"The underserved markets are what I call 'replace' or 'in place,'" said Schadler, referring to scenarios where the iPad replaces paper-based information or finds its way into situations where technology was completely absent. "The big [sales] numbers will be in 'displace,' where the iPad is used instead of a laptop. But the impact will be much, much higher in the others."
Schadler put one pharmaceutical company's iPad plans under the "replace" category.
"[It's] thinking of issuing tablets and home PCs to its home-based sales teams," he said. "The logic is simple: You have three minutes to pitch a doctor on a new drug or device in a hallway between patient visits. Wouldn't it be nice to show her a video and a few slides on a tablet? Much better than heaving potentially out-of-date collateral at her."
For the "in place" group, Schadler cited a small non-profit that told him it had recently used a 3G iPad and a simple Web form to collect $1,400 in contributions from participants and corporate sponsors while a money-raising race was in progress. "Anywhere access now means anywhere philanthropy, too," said Schadler.
Some firms have pushed for tablets based on basic return-on-investment numbers. One sales manager Schadler spoke with was urging his company to skip a Windows 7 notebook refresh cycle for its home-based sales force, and instead issue an iPad and a desktop. Together, the desktop and iPad priced out less than a high-end laptop.
In another instance, a pharmaceutical sales team decided to dump printed literature for iPads because of Federal Drug Administration (FDA) rules that require drug makers to destroy their inventory of printed materials when changes must be made to the brochures.
"This can waste a $100,000 print run for a single drug," Schadler said.
Many of the companies declined to go on the record, Schadler noted, but as the iPad and other tablets make more moves into the enterprise, he expects that hesitancy to change.
The iPad also benefits from enterprise IT's experience with smartphones, said Schadler, who praised Apple for maturing its iOS platform, including additions such as support for SSL VPN in the upcoming iOS 4.2 upgrade slated for the iPad next month.
And the oft-bandied "consumerization" of the enterprise -- the idea that devices aimed at consumers worm their way into business -- also gives tablets in general, and the iPad specifically, a leg up, Schadler argued. "The improvements to iOS make IT much more able to manage the iPad," he said. "And I'd say that IT acceptance of the iPad shows that IT just 'gets it,' when they didn't initially about the iPhone."
Apple has boasted of its iPad business wins since the tablet debuted. Earlier this month, Apple executives again touted the tablet, saying that 65% of Fortune 100 firms were already deploying the iPad or piloting projects.
"I don't know about you, but I've never seen an adoption like this in my life in enterprise," said Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook during the company's earnings call with Wall Street analysts on Oct. 18. "Enterprise is historically much slower moving on adoption."
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.