iPad is Coming to Enterprises, Ready or Not: Page 2

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The other reason is that Pages produces Microsoft Word documents. But how compatible are those documents? We're going to find out. Users will simply create documents on their iPads, save in Word format and attach them to e-mail. These iPad-produced Word documents will start circulating on company e-mail systems starting Monday.

Keynote and Numbers do not produce Office compatible files. (They do produce PDF files.)

The sharing of Office documents across different versions and platforms is already an un-solved problem for many enterprises. The iPad, with its semi-compatible iWork apps, may add to the problem -- at least initially. A nice solution would be for Microsoft itself to offer Office apps for iPad.

Microsoft finds itself in a familiar pickle regarding iPad apps. On the one hand, the company could make a killing selling Microsoft Office for iPad. On the other, doing so would provide an enormous boost for the main competitor of Windows-based touch tablets. Plus, Microsoft would be forced to share one third of its revenue with Apple! Ouch!

We can be sure all Office competitors, including from Apple, Google and OpenOffice -- not to mention future third-party apps, will rush to fill any vacuum created by the absence Microsoft Office for iPad.

If Microsoft fails to act, the biggest initial threat will come from Google. The company already has a nice iPhone app for Docs, which will work right away on iPad. Google has been innovative in creating really nice iPhone applications, most especially their HTML5 Google Voice app, not to mention Google standbys Gmail, Calendar, Talk, Buzz and Reader. The iPad-optimized version of Docs will almost certain appear within the next few weeks. And Docs supports Office formats in both directions. So users serious about producing Office-compatible apps will at the very least be able to do so using Google's free cloud-based service.

In the short term, iWorks and Google Docs will provide limited Office compatibility. In the longer term, it's likely that just about all alternatives will evolve to produce Office documents.

No doubt hundreds or thousands of companies will develop enterprise and business apps for the iPad. And cloud services will be optimized for iPads.

But is that enough?

Can iPad Become a Real Enterprise Device?

Of course, IT managers aren't going to be impressed that iPad can do web browsing, e-mail and limited Office document creation. The iPad represents a new headache, and a new threat to security and internal compatibility, not to mention sanity.

It's reasonable to assume that iPad will support all enterprise integration features of the iPhone, if not immediately then at least by the end of the year. iPhone supports most major VPN protocols, as well as Exchange ActiveSync.

Three years on, some enterprise IT departments have begun to support iPhone. It's not clear how much those efforts can be extended to iPad, which Apple claims runs most iPhone applications.

IT managers won't even want to think about iPads until they can be mass-deployed, connected securely, remotely provisioned, managed centrally, encrypted and remotely data-wiped if lost or stolen.

The truth is that any major official acceptance by IT decision-makers won't happen with the 1.0 version. If it happens at all, it will take years, not months. The tire kicking may start this year, but serious deployments won't -- at least not on any significant scale.

The most important fact to understand about iPad in the Enterprise is that in addition to being an alternative to other devices (like netbooks), which is what IT managers are concerned about, it's also an addition. In other words, iPad may prove to be not so much an alternative to other mobile devices, which would be bad, but an addition to them, which would be really bad.

The war starts Monday. Enterprise users will want to use iPads. They'll try to use them. They will use them.

It's going to be an interesting battle, and one with a forgone conclusion: iPads will win eventually. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see how quickly they can be properly integrated into a total enterprise system. Best guess: not very.

The question of iPads in the enterprise isn't if, but when.

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Tags: iPad, iPad apps, Microsoft Office, sofware, Enterprise

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