Macquarie University to 'wait and see' on the iPad

The flood of tablet PCs expected in 2011, plus business model and ecosystem challenges with Apple's iPad making Macquarie University cautious
  • Tim Lohman (Computerworld)
  • 28 October, 2010 13:02

The plethora of tablet PCs expected to flood the Australian market next year will see Macquarie University take a ‘wait and see’ approach on whether to standardise on Apple’s iPad for its staff and students.

Speaking to Computerworld Australia, the university’s CIO, Marc Bailey, said he was yet to be sold on the iPad as the standard tablet device at the education institution.

“All options are on the table as to how we might deliver on a new kind of [tablet] device… We are also looking at the plethora of other tablets that will ship next year,” he said.

“We see certain people being early adopters [in the use of iPads] but we are taking a little bit more of a ‘wait and see’ approach. We have a great relationship with Google so we are keen to look at [Android-based tablets].”

While the university had a good relationship with Apple as well, Bailey said, how to deploy iPads en masse at the university was still a major challenge.

“I think you’ll find many people are running pilots [of iPads] but not many people have put both feet in,” he said. “We’re still not ready to declare it a panacea and give every student an iPad.

“There are still a bunch of limitations with the model — the device is fabulous — but the business model and ecosystem has along way to go.”

The comments are in line with a blog post by Bailey following his first hands-on with the iPad, in which the CIO wrote that while the iPad 1.0 wasn’t likely to be a mass-deployed "one device per student Holy Grail”, there was scope for its use in academia as a “desktop companion”.

Bailey has also received strong support from fellow CIO at Macquarie University Hospital, Geoff Harders, who also said he was reluctant to introduce the tablet.

However, Apple’s focus on a direct relationship with the consumer was a problem in a business context, Bailey wrote.

“There is no corporate Appstore billing, there is not even a way to bill back Appstore through our carrier of choice,” the post reads. “Provisioning at scale is therefore a huge issue regardless of the token advances made in the technical areas of fleet management in iOS4, coming to iPad in a few months time.”

“While we'll certainly welcome iPad to our campus in general, this problem alone leaves us still looking for a large scale-viable non-traditional form factor, with an obvious need to look at Android devices and presumably WinPhone7 (Windows Phone 7) when it ships.”

The lack of enterprise-grade support for the iPad is something that sectors beyond education are picking up on.

Earlier this month, Gartner vice president, Robin Simpson told <i>CIO</i> that IT departments had to get used to the concept that Apple did not view itself as an enterprise vendor and that support would likely have to come from third parties in the meantime.

“From a consumer point off view, Apple has the most unbelievably efficient supply chain of any vendor I know of in its ability to create something in the factory and customise it… then ship it direct to the customer… now why can’t they scale that up to support enterprise?” Simpson said.

“Apple could easily create an enterprise ordering portal where an enterprise purchasing officer just signs in, enters in the products they want and where they want them… and gets a single invoice. It is an opportunity which Apple is missing.”