BI firm takes iPads over laptops

MicroStrategy will deploy nearly 2,000 Apple iPads to execs and sales personnel after finding strong TCO numbers

MicroStrategy, a business intelligence software maker, has deployed 1,100 Apple iPads to executives and sales personnel to conduct critical job-related tasks. The company said it expects 700 more iPads to be deployed soon.

MicroStrategy is one of the largest business users of iPads to go public about its deployment. Most other businesses that have talked about iPad use have around 100 users.

MicroStrategy said it is using some applications that can run on both the iPad and the iPhone, while others are designed to fully take advantage of the larger 9.7-inch iPad touch screen. For example, some of the latter applications help sales personnel easily show off videos or live demonstrations to customers during face-to-face meetings, said Mark LaRow, senior vice president of products.

Apple has wisely made it possible to import and export documents, spreadsheets and presentations in the Microsoft Office formats of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, which are almost universally used by businesses large and small, he noted. "Apple is breaking the mold for mobile computing," LaRow said.

From the end-user perspective, one of the biggest advantages the iPad has over a laptop is its instant-on capability. "People don't wait two minutes for it to boot like with a laptop," he said. "It's instant on, and that's a big deal."

But instant-on is far from MicroStrategy's major justification in using the iPad.

LaRow said its total cost-of-ownership should prove far more prudent with the iPad than with laptop computers.

In fact, LaRow said the company compared the TCO of iPads and laptops and the result was "wildly in favor of iPad." Microstrategy typically spends about $1,000 a year to support each laptop over a three-year life cycle, including software licenses, maintenance and hardware. By comparison, the company concluded that the iPad would cost just $400 a year, though it is expected they will last only two years, he said.

While some attorneys using iPads must still rely on desktops or laptops for long document creation or editing, LaRow said he and others in his company find that using a Bluetooth keyboard with the iPad is working just fine for creating long memos. LaRow is also using a Bluetooth mouse supplied by Apple when he sits to use the iPad.

LaRow said the iPad could be very useful for "anybody who stands up on the job," such as a worker using clipboards or a warehouse manager.

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