The new third-generation Apple iPad is generally a hit with a sampling of enterprise users, based on quick reactions from half a dozen IT professionals and consultants. All like the greatly enhanced display, the graphics processing boost and 4G LTE wireless support.
But a few were hoping for a bigger processing boost or one of several specific features, a number of which Apple seems unlikely to ever deliver (like support for Adobe Flash Web content). And several noted that the real locus for enterprise benefits, and problems, lies in the latest update to the iOS firmware (release 5.1 for the new iPad), about which Apple has had little to say publicly.
Dubbed simply the "new iPad," Apple’s latest tablet features double the screen resolution of the iPad 2 and four times the pixels at 2048 x 1536, a slightly beefed up dual-core CPU (the A5X) with a new quad-core graphics processor, LTE cellular support, voice dictation, and a greatly improved rear-facing 5-megapixel camera. It will run iOS 5.1 and be available starting next week. Importantly, both pricing and battery life are unchanged.
"The processor speed, 4G, and improved screen resolutions are all big pluses for the enterprise," says Manoj Prasad, vice president of global applications and testing for Life Technologies, a biotech products company in Carlsbad, Calif., with a growing iPad deployment. "4G, the new processor speed and improved screen resolutions will allow IT to port more backend applications like Oracle, and Siebel to iPad."
But he still thinks the tablet can’t yet substitute for laptops. "It still lacks the capabilities to completely replace laptops, making the ROI calculation for iPad difficult," Prasad says.
Others say Apple’s priorities for the new iPad means it can be applied in entirely new, emerging areas where laptops make no sense, or at least no sense anymore.
"For an understanding of where the iPad is going it's critical to note the focus on processing power and resolution," says Benjamin Levy, a principal with Solutions Consulting, a Los Angeles firm that specializes in Apple and iOS deployments for enterprise customers. "The iPad is no longer an addition to existing platforms and work structures but is now fully capable on its own and will be defining new ways of working with media in the professional space."
"The new iPad can be seen as more of a tool for digital media than ever before, able to work with high resolution DSLRs [digital single lens reflex camera images] and video, high resolution audio files, high resolution graphics files, etc.," Levy adds.
Although lacking the quad-core CPU that many were expecting, these users see real performance gains with the new iPad.
"The combination of the retina display, the [new A5X] chip and 4G/LTE is going to make the iPad an even more productive business device," says Hugh Owens, director of mobile at MicroStrategy, a business intelligence and analytics software vendor with an extensive iPad 2 deployment, and with iPad customers. "4G will enable users of MicroStrategy Mobile [the company’s iOS application] to pull down analytics even faster, and our native app is already positioned to take advantage of the A5X chip for faster and more compelling rendering."
"The iPad continues to be a great business device in consumer clothing," he adds.
"Overall, the new iPad is a significant upgrade. Apple is going to sell a boatload of these," says Derick Okihara, IT technician at Mid-Pacific Institute inHonolulu, where he oversees the iPad and iPhone deployments. "In our environment, having a solid camera capable of 1080p video, faster graphics for apps, and the high resolution display, make the iPad that much more useful, especially for students."
Levy sees camera applications that go beyond snapshots and home videos. "The camera improvements will be very useful, especially in custom apps for data entry, bar code reading, situation reports and documentation," he says. "Couple that camera with a decent custom app and many [enterprise] workflows can be changed for the better."
The new iPad is now more clearly, and effectively, a platform for creating new kinds of apps, and content, exploiting images, video, high-definition audio, in new ways, according to Randy Saeks, network manager, Northbrook/Glenview School District 30, Northbrook, Illinois, another iPad site.
"What I see in the announcement today is really showing that an iPad isn't just a consumption device but has the ability to create really rich, engaging content," he says. "With a lot of the [new] app updates and announcements -- iMovie, iPhoto, the iWork suite, as well as what is added to the hardware with a great display and improved camera -- it opens the door for how they can be used in classrooms and creative environments."
"Especially with looking at [the question of] what kinds of devices to put in the hands of our students, the value for what you can do with the new iPad and [its] associated cost is much more attractive than it was with the first iPad announcement," Saeks says.
Most of these users agreed they see no IT-specific implications in the new iPad, at least yet. "I'm not seeing any challenges to support the new devices," Saeks says.
"I’ll have to take a deeper dive into iOS 5.1," says James Gordon, vice-president of IT at Needham Bank, a small community bank in Massachusetts that has deployed iOS devices among a majority of its staff and the board of directors.
An enterprise consultant with a federal systems integrator, who requested anonymity, echoed that attitude. "I hope to see more with iOS 5.1 once that is released," he says.
Apple’s decision to cut the price of the iPad 2 by $US100, bringing the entry-level price to $US399, may have a significant impact on deployments. "This opens up possibilities, especially in education markets with a lower buy-in price point," says Okihara. "$100 x 1,000+ [units] is significant."
Levy agrees. "By lowering the price on the iPad 2 while bringing advances into the new iPad, Apple is able to deliver new technology and features quickly to those who want them right away, while removing some of the barrier of entry to those who don't yet have an iPad," he says.
Gordon was hoping the rumors of a quad-core CPU were true. And at Life Technologies, where a lot of content is in Adobe Flash, the continued and apparently eternal lack of iOS support for that technology remains a complaint.
Prasad at Life Technologies also says he’d like to see direct video output for iPads.
"The bar for tablets and mobile computers has been set very high [with the new iPad]," says Gordon.
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for "Network World."Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnwwEmail: firstname.lastname@example.orgBlog RSS feed: http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/2989/feed
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