IPad for the enterprise? Maybe

If Apple's new iPad is going to make its way into large business settings, IT managers will first need to to do some careful evaluations, because even tech analysts are split on the idea.

Ted Schadler, an analyst at Forrester Research, blogged today that the iPad will most likely enter the enterprise through the consumer door -- just as the iPhone did.

"Make no mistake, this is an attractive business tool," Schadler wrote. "Laptops will be left at home."

But Phillip Redman at Gartner Inc., and Steve Hilton at Analysys Mason, flatly rejected that view. In separate e-mail comments both said that the iPad doesn't fit into the enterprise at all.

"Not enterprise material," Hilton wrote, noting that it doesn't include common office productivity tools, uses a custom chipset and and only lasts 10 hours on battery when Wi-Fi isn't running.

Schadler's case for the iPad in big business settings was fairly detailed. He noted, for instance, that 20% of companies already support iPhones. And the iPad is "just a big iPhone to them."

Noting Apple 's historic ability to time its products for the market, Schadler added that the people the iPad is aimed at is made up of information workers who self-provision what they need, rather than simply using what their employers provide. Schadler calls the trend "technology populism."

Noting that mobile professionals make up 28% of the workforce, Schadler added that the iPad "offers some superior characteristics for the things that mobile professionals care about." He stressed the use of messaging and collaboration; a full Web experience on a large 9.7-in. screen; access to business media such as the New York Times ; and full-size document tool support with iWorks on the iPad.

He even suggested that Microsoft start building iPad software into the Office format. "This thing will take off among high-net-worth mobile pros," he said.

Au contraire, Redman said in an email. "I don't see a fit at all [with enterprise users]," he said, arguing that the iPad really will be a niche product that fits into the netbook market generally.

"It befuddles us that Apple seeks to kill the netbook segment," he said. "The netbook was committing hari kari just fine without the iPad."

The good news for techies trying to decide whether the iPad will do well in the enterprise is this: They have some time to decide. The WiFi-only model doesn't go on sale for 60 days, and the pricier WiFi-plus-3G model doesn't hit the streets until the end of April, according to Apple.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld . Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen , send e-mail to mhamblen@computerworld.com or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed .

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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