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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

excel.jpgThe Excel spreadsheets, however, did not fare as well. Importing spreadsheets into Numbers shredded all but the simplest of documents. Things like merged cells and some unsupported formulas were stripped from the spreadsheets, and in many case, the last value calculated is dumped into the cell. Ultimately, concerns over what exactly had been changed led me to not trust any of the resulting spreadsheets I used during testing.

Getting documents back out of the iPad was a similarly muddled experience to getting them in. Using the export button, you are given the option to email the document, or export it, which pushes a copy of the document back into the shared area where it can be saved to your PC via iTunes. Both options allow you to export the file as a native iWork file, a equivalent Microsoft Office file, or as a PDF. 

Unfortunately, there is also no option for attaching more than one file at a time, forcing me to send each document or spreadsheet individually. The single biggest issue, and the one that ultimately made me turn my laptop back on, was the inability to print from the device. While the world is trudging its way toward the paperless office, there are still many cases where a hard copy is required. The lack of printing options will likely relegate the tablet to more of really big smartphone than a true desktop replacement.

webex.jpgI also had the opportunity to try out a number of third party enterprise applications on the iPad that took advantage of the tablet's form factor to great effect.  First, I was able to participate in an online meeting using Cisco's Webex conferencing application for iPad, something I would not have even considered on the small screen of the iPhone.  I was able to see all of the attendees, as well as the full presentation with while moving around the office, without a hitch.  I also got a demo of MobileIron's first application for the iPad, called MobileIron Sentry, that essentially turns the tablet into a console for the company's mobile device management platform. By using the iPad, administrators would be able to graphically track the mobile devices connecting to their servers and quickly approve or block them from access.  And then, of course, there is Citrix.  Along with its own GoToMeeting web conferencing application, Citrix has rolled out an iPad specific version of its Receiver application. Receiver enables the iPad to serve as the remote desktop for Citrix's XenApp server, becoming the remote client to the company's application virtualization solution. Want to run Windows applications on your IPad?  You can, through a virtual window into your data center. While these are but three use cases, there are certainly more opportunities for the tablet to streamline business processes.

Depending on your needs, the iPad offers some useful, and undeniably slick, possibilities to enterprise users, and maybe future versions will come closer to what we need to leave our laptops at home, but it's not quite there yet.  

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