Tablets making their way into the enterprise
The BlackBerry may have bested the iPhone as the smartphone of choice in the enterprise, but another Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) device is starting to prove its mettle in business mobility market. The iPad with its large screen, long battery life and instant boot time is making its way into board rooms and brief cases.
To meet that new demand, developers are starting to target the iPad and other forthcoming tablets with business intelligence and productivity software. MicroStrategy (NASDAQ:MSTR) has been developing its business intelligence software platform for the iPhone for several years, and within 90 days of the launch of the iPad it released MicroStrategy Mobile for the iPad, said senior vice president of products Mark LaRow.
“People in the vertical industries we support spend a lot of time at their desks making decisions based on business intelligence software—maybe 15 hours a week,” LaRow said. “The big innovation of mobility allows you to carry that business intelligence with you wherever you go.”
MicroStrategy started with the iPhone because it was the first smartphone with the screen real-estate to display its complex graphs and metrics, while also having a user interface that allowed customers to manipulate that data easily and intuitively, LaRow said. The iTunes app store also provided an easy way for enterprise users to get the app on their devices without moving every device through IT, LaRow said. With the iPad, that real-estate becomes even larger, allowing enterprises to use the full desk-top capabilities of its software on a user interface they’re already familiar with, LaRow said.
While MicroStrategy has just started seeing the iPad make its way into the enterprise, the company is swallowing its own medicine. “We’re swapping out our laptops for iPads,” LaRow said. About 1100 employees now use company-issued iPads, and MicroStrategy plans to hand out hundreds more, covering more than half of its workforce. The software maker has developed its own custom apps such as the Corporate Request Center, which allows managers to review and approve time-off requests, purchase orders, performance reviews and expense reports, and the Sales Kit, which serves as a handheld multimedia engine for MicroStrategy’s sales force, containing brochures, Webcasts, slide presentations and white papers that field workers can call up at a moment’s notice.
At last week’s CTIA Enterprise & Applications event, a panel of chief information officers from various industries also sang the tablet’s praises. Though HealthSouth (NYSE:HLS) isn’t about to adopt iPads on a large scale, Deputy CIO Rusty Yeager the hospital and healthcare service provider is looking for an alternative to the PC Tablets its physicians and medical staff use today to handle patient histories and documentation. “A tablet PC is a PC in a different form factor,” Yeager said. They have low battery life and long boot times. Tablets, however, dispense with those limitations, while also providing simple touch interfaces, he said. “If we can get some of the security and manageability issues right, there things would make huge impact on our industry,” Yeager said.
Even if HealthSouth doesn’t move wholesale to an iPad or tablet implementation itself, it will have to support those platforms on its IT network, Yeager said. IT in health care by its nature has to be open to other standards given huge amount of collaboration hospitals do with outside physicians. Doctors coming onto the Health South network are increasingly bringing their own smartphones and tablets and they want to use the devices to access hospital applications and patient data, Yeager said.
AT&T (NYSE:T) as Apple’s sole U.S. partner for 3G-connected iPads sees a huge opportunity for the device in its enterprise business. While smartphones like the BlackBerry paved the way for enterprise communications, tablet form factors are unleashing the full information capabilities of enterprise data networks, allowing workers to perform tasks they previously could only do at their desks, said Michael Antieri, president of AT&T’s new Advanced Enterprise Mobility Group. “Whether it’s a doctor doing his rounds or an insurance agent making a sale, the form factor of the iPad just fits,” Antieri said.