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IBM Equips IT To Welcome Holiday iPads

Big Blue touts its range of products to help IT cope with the rash of consumer and mobile devices headed for enterprise networks.

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After the New Year, expect employees at every level to bring iPads, Android tablets, and smartphones into work, looking to get on the corporate network.

When that happens, IBM wants to make sure its customers will be ready, Kevin Cavanaugh, VP of IBM Collaboration Solutions, said in an interview this week. Last year, the joke was that many a CEO came back from the Christmas break with a new iPad that he expected to be able to use for work. When that happened, the CIO and IT team wouldn't "want to say no, except that they'd just been working on a policy to ban these devices," he said.

The executive iPad is just the most visible symbol of the unstoppable trend toward the consumerization of IT and the trend toward employees bringing their own devices to work, Cavanaugh said. IBM has responded by delivering enterprise software that runs on these devices, whether they are owned by the enterprise or not. IT may not welcome the chaotic state of the mobile technology market, but mobility looms increasingly large in enterprise technology planning.

[ Is your enterprise security up to the challenge consumerization brings? Learn more: BYOD Strategy Should Start With Data-Centric Security. ]

For the iPad, IBM has delivered clients for IBM Connections, LotusLive online meetings, and Sametime messaging, as well as document viewers for Lotus Symphony and Open Office and clients for such enterprise software as Cognos business intelligence. Many of these products, available as free downloads in the App Store, have trickled out over the past four to six weeks, he said. IBM previously offered an iPhone client for its Connections enterprise social network, which could be run on the iPad, but the new version takes advantage of the larger screen and other features of the tablet.

Parallel efforts are bringing a range of IBM communication, collaboration, email, and scheduling applications to Android.

"The message we've been trying to get out to the IT departments who deal with this is, 'man, just deploy this stuff!'" Cavanaugh said. Enterprise IT managers who aren't used to getting thanked for the work they do find themselves being told how great they are when they make it easy for people to use the devices they want to use, he said.

"This year, the Christmas story is more folks get tablets, more folks get a diversity of tablets, Android devices, and potentially other devices we're not supporting yet, as that market heats up," Cavanaugh said. "Now, the IT department can be better prepared for it. Last year, they were maybe a little befuddled to have some new device come in that they weren't used to. This year, when the boss shows up saying I've got this device, you can say 'great, let's get mail on it, let's get calendar on it, let's get you to set up to do meetings at the airport.'" That way, when the CIO walks away from the encounter, Cavanaugh said, "he will be thinking, 'Man, my IT department is pretty good,' as opposed to 'why doesn't my IT department keep up with the world?'"

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard

The Enterprise Connect conference program covers the full range of platforms, services, and applications that comprise modern communications and collaboration systems. It happens March 25-29 in Orlando, Fla. Find out more.

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