I just read a blog post titled, “iPad in the Enterprise: A Dirty Little Secret,” by Tom Kaneshige, who blogs about all things Apple for CIO.com. His secret: People don’t use computers very much at work.

He cites some impressive iPad sales stats: 60 million sold thus far, including “a record-breaking 3 million on the opening weekend of the third-generation iPad earlier this month. UBS analyst Maynard Um predicts 12 million new iPad sales this quarter, if supply can keep up with demand.”

But his basic contention is that iPads can do nearly all the things folks need to do at work just as well as a desktop or laptop computer, but more simply. Maybe these folks are doing far different stuff from me, but I don’t buy it. If you spend any amount of time in apps like Word or even email that require lots of typing, you’re going to want a real keyboard. Kaneshige argues otherwise:

“Critics also shake their head at the iPad’s virtual keyboard. They can’t imagine anyone writing emails without a physical QWERTY keyboard. The iPad is not a good content-creation device, they say.

“Yet the iPad’s adoption in the enterprise is pretty impressive, so maybe the answer is most people don’t really write long missives at work. Or this could mean, as I happen to believe, that the iPad’s virtual keyboard is pretty darn slick. (I’m almost just as fast on it as I am with a physical keyboard.)”

I’m no where near as fast on an iPad as a real keyboard and even if I was “almost” as fast, that’s not good enough; we’re looking to improve productivity here, after all.

Another disturbing bit from his piece is that he cites Dropbox, the cloud storage and file-sharing service, as one of the most popular productivity apps in the App Store. Yet another recent feature on CIO.com calls out Dropbox and other, similar services as a threat to enterprise security. Users are employing them to “self-provision” collaboration tools in order to share files with users outside of corporate walls – and perhaps compromising the security of enterprise intellectual property in the process. That’s an issue that has to be addressed, and answers are not exactly easy to come by.

I’m not trying to argue that there’s no place for the iPad in the enterprise. Clearly, it’s a great tool for folks who are on the road regularly, such as sales people, especially since it helps them give better, more engaging presentations – as we’ve covered in previous posts. And yes, these sorts of employees can probably get by the majority of the time without a true laptop or desktop, as can upper tier execs who don’t frequently type out long email missives and aren’t writing white papers.

Kaneshige hits the mark with this statement:

Nearly all the companies in the Fortune 500 are actively using iPads to improve workflows, business processes, and customer engagement, claims Apple. And the device has only been around for two years.

That’s how I view the iPad: as a new tool that enables companies to do things in new ways. And companies would do well to try to figure out where the device can help “improve workflows, business processes and customer engagement.” But laptops and desktops will still play a significant role for most of the enterprise workforce.

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