iPad Creeping Into Business Offices

Analysts say the popular Apple tablet needs more business apps, but early adopters are finding ways to use it at work.

Apple Inc.'s iPad tablet computer, hugely popular among consumers since its April debut, is slowly finding its way into the hands of doctors, lawyers and other businesspeople who say it can help them do their jobs.

For example, the IT shop at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP gave the Chicago-based law firm's attorneys permission to use iPads -- as long as they're willing to pay for the devices themselves. About 100 of the 800 attorneys are using them.

"The iPad has real value for attorneys servicing our clients, of being able to access corporate data and document libraries immediately and [doing so] a lot quicker than on a laptop," said Michael Barnas, the firm's director of application services.

IT managers have approved the iPad's security and management functions, and the firm is providing limited support to road warriors who have problems logging in, authenticating or using Citrix Receiver middleware on the device. But Barnas added that IT personnel can't yet provide full remote iPad support.

Attorneys with iPads still use laptops as well, because they need to write long documents that are subject to many revisions -- a nearly impossible task on Apple's tablet today, Barnas added.

At Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., cardiologist Jon Wahrenberger said he and four colleagues use iPads to access electronic health records and to take notes while examining patients. He said the device's "low profile" makes it less intimidating to patients during exams than a laptop might be.

Wahrenberger said the medical center recently installed a Microsoft Exchange server that includes extensions to the iPad. "There's huge excitement for this stuff," he said.

Still, the iPad needs to add far more business-friendly capabilities before it can become a corporate staple, contended Ted Schadler, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc.

Most important, he said, is the need for applications that can be used to create and edit common documents across multiple computer platforms.

"Until we get access to corporate applications, employees will still have to lug around their laptops," Schadler said.

He did note that the iPad has the "same security model and administrative model as [the one Apple built into] the iPhone, so they've done due diligence on that already."

Schadler also cited three practical uses of the iPad for businesses today.

First, he said, salespeople can use the device to scroll through slides or demonstrate a Web site; second, executives on short trips can use it to access e-mail, calendars or Keynote slides; and finally, doctors, retail sales staffers, warehouse workers and others can use iPad devices to access to applications while on their feet.

This story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an earlier version that first appeared on Computerworld.com.

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