iPad's Surprising Business Appeal

Preliminary survey by Citrix shows companies are ready to purchase the iPad for business, as are individuals for business purposes. What's the most popular iPad application for business?

As Apple's iPad celebrates its two month anniversary, the hot new tablet has gone on sale in the U.K., Canada, Japan and elsewhere, causing long lines in many locations reminiscent of the U.S. launch. However, it's not just consumers who have their eyes on the tablet. An early survey by Citrix Systems indicates there's strong interest in the device from business customers.

Citrix (NASDAQ: CTXS) is collecting survey entries through May 31, but in a preliminary tally of 494 respondents, 80 percent said they will purchase and use the iPad for business.

Business e-mail was the most frequently-mentioned application, with more than 90 percent saying that would use the iPad for that purpose. Citrix said the ability to view, edit and create presentations on the device was a close second. Over 50 percent of the respondents said they will use the iPad for online meetings "and to access critical business information."

To the broader question of overall benefit, 90 percent indicated they wanted the iPad for increased mobility and the ability to work at home or elsewhere.

Because Citrix is primarily a business software supplier, the survey results probably skew more towards business users of mobile devices rather than consumers. "To be clear this is not a cross-section of all businesses, rather it is mostly comprised of Citrix customers and those that have come to our Web site and have interest enough in the iPad to take a short survey," said Chris Fleck, vice president of Community and Solutions Development at Citrix, in a blog post.

Still, Fleck said he was surprised by the high interest in iPad for business use, which he predicts will presage a significant uptick in the so-called Bring Your Own Computer (BYOC) to work phenomena.

"The big news is the high percentage of support the iPad is getting and that people are using them for work and companies are accepting them," Fleck told InternetNews.com. Enterprises have become more accepting since the iPhone first came out, Fleck said, so it appears the iPad will not have to go through the same levels of resistance from IT as early iPhone users.

"The fact that IT can safely provide access to company apps, data and virtual desktops without managing the device will make the iPad a game changer for business beyond just the form factor and features," he said in the blog. "This device will provide the leading example of how IT can keep control of the data, apps and compliance yet enable their users to maximize their choice and productivity from anywhere."

iPad may also be finding fans in IT circles. According to an earlier Citrix survey, one of the top business applications for the iPad was for use by mobile IT professionals.

"What's profound about this is that it's going to change the way companies manage their IT where [the IT staff] doesn't have to be in control of the endpoint," said Fleck. "IT still controls the data and the applications but the iPad belongs to the individual."

IT departments have also had the decision made for them, to some degree. "Quite frankly what's paving the way is that sales execs and CEOs are bringing iPads to work and insisting IT support them," said Fleck. "These are the money makers that command premium service from IT."

Security issues?

Bringing your own computer to work, particularly a preferred notebook, is not new, but it's also not a common practice. For one thing, most workers won't buy or bring in their own equipment when the company will provide a computer for free. But Fleck said there's another key reason. "Most IT departments are nervous about having someone bring in a laptop from home that their teenager's been using that's full of viruses and then having them plug that into the corporate network," he said.

"But the iPad is locked down and secure and there's no RJ-45 jack to plug into the wall, which is a big plus from an IT perspective," he said. "So some of the things people complain about with the iPad, that it's too constrained and doesn't have ports, actually works in its favor when it comes to bringing it to the office."

Citrix was an early iPad supporter. The company's Citrix Receiver software can be used with the Citrix Xen virtualization back-end to make the iPad a thin client on the corporate network and, among other things, run Windows 7 applications on the device.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

Tags: iphone apps, iPad, Apple, Apple iPad, virtual desktop

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