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Apple's iPad Not Ready For The Enterprise

Much like the iPhone before it, the Apple iPad is a polarizing device. Supporters of the tablet see it as a new paradigm in personal computing, while others deride it as just a really big media player. We put Apple's tablet to the test, seeing how close the new device could get to replacing the traditional laptop in the hands of an enterprise user. After a week of testing, the iPad experience offered a series of highs and some really big lows, but in the end, it is not quite ready to replace my

The iPad includes full support for Exchange features like the Global Address List (GAL), so I was able to quickly search the GAL for coworkers and send off an email to them without having to have their contact information stored locally. This support extends to the calendar application as well, allowing me to accept meeting invitation requests, as well as send invitations of my own when creating an calendar entry. The PIM and email applications take full advantage of both the iPad's 9.5" screen and its ability to rotate between landscape and portrait modes and I found myself preferring to work within these applications, rather than going back to Outlook. The only issue I had was when I received an calendar invite via Gmail, I was unable to open or frankly do anything with the attached VCF file. This is particularly strange, given Apple's broad support for this vCard format throughout their desktop operating system. Still, if you live on email and your calendar, the iPad will certainly serve you well.

For security conscious administrators, the iPad offers the same levels of policy enforcement as the iPhone. Defined through the Exchange server, the device policies can set the requirement for unlock pass codes, as well as the length and complexity of those codes.  The iPad also supports remote wiping of the device, when either initiated by the user or the Exchange administrator. During testing, I let my colleague who managed the Exchange server I was connected to trigger the remote wipe and the effects were nearly immediate. The iPad's screen almost instantly went black, then the Apple logo appeared as the device scrubbed every bit of my corporate and personal data off of itself and returned factory fresh.

presentation.jpgUnfortunately, when it came time to actually do something beyond checking my email, the experiment started to go awry. With the iPad, Apple also announced that it had developed a version of its iWork product for the tablet. Available as a separate purchase from Apple's iTunes store, the iWork suite consists of Pages, the word processor, Numbers, a spreadsheet app, and Keynote for presentations. The fact that these three apps are available independently of the iPad itself is a mixed bag for the enterprise user. It adds additional investment to what many believe should be required functionality for the tablet, but on the positive side, these apps can be maintained by Apple outside of the core OS upgrade cycle, so we should see more frequent updates and new functionality than if the applications were part of the base operating system. Similarly, because the iWork apps are not considered base functionality, competing solutions from third parties could make their way into the AppStore without fear of being denied by Apple. While it might be a pipe dream to think that Microsoft would port its preeminent Office suite to the tablet, the separation of apps and OS does open the door to this possibility.

The process of transferring Office documents from your PC to the iPad is convoluted.  First the file must be associated with a registered application in a new section within iTunes. This puts the document in a shared area on the iPad. The file, however, still does not automatically appear in the given iWork application. Users must tap on a small file folder icon on the top of the screen and import the document into the application. The file then gets imported into the particular iWork format, which sandboxes the document within the application. For most users, using the iTunes method of transferring documents to the device will no doubt be too cumbersome, and most will resort to just emailing the files to themselves, then opening the document there. Unfortunately, this sandboxing of documents within iWork extends to emailed files as well, separating the document from the original email. The sand box effect will no doubt be the most difficult process for new iPad users to comprehend.

All of the standard Word documents I imported into Pages converted without much trouble, although some font substitutions did occur. The biggest issue I encountered was that the Pages application does not support edit tracking, so opening a document with the Track Changes enabled will apply all of the changes, leaving you with the final edit of the document, but no way to actually see what changes were made. Similarly, Copy and Paste functionality exists, enabling you to, for example, copy a chart created in Numbers to be pasted into your Pages document, but unlike native Microsoft Office documents, the resulting chart is static, losing the ability to be live updated by changes in the spreadsheet.

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