The iPad is ten years old, and we just had the launch event for the iPad Air (4th generation) and iPad (8th gen), so it feels like a good time to reflect and take stock on “iPads in the enterprise.”
In the iPad’s early phases, a wave of companies bought a lot of them. Within 90 days, 50% of the Fortune 100 had started buying iPads. This led to what in retrospect was some pretty hilarious headlines, including “How the iPad Conquered the Enterprise” (July 2011). Call it the Oprah phase (You get an iPad and you get an iPad and you get an iPad!!). Lots of product bought, but very little intention behind what they were going to do with them.
Many of them went to sales teams, which seemed more of a perk than a way to change how salespeople worked. I even had a client who upgraded their sales teams to the 12.9” iPad Pro because the PDF brochure text on the 10” iPads was too small when showing them to customers…they never once considered increasing the font size of the PDFs. But hey, what’s a few million dollars between friends?
Even smart uses of the iPad—like an airline’s Electronic Flight Manuals—were more about weight savings (aka, fuel savings) than productivity.
But these early stumbles out of the gate were predictable in many ways:
- The iPad hadn’t yet found its footing as a device, undifferentiated from the iPhone in many respects, other than by screen size.
- Mobile maturity was still pretty low in Corporate America. Enterprises weren’t (and to a large extent still aren’t) investing in building custom apps to re-engineer business processes and leverage the unique capabilities of mobile devices. And with the much smaller tablet populations versus smartphones, iPads were at the bottom of the list for action.
But a lot has changed over the past year or so that should make companies rethink the iPad. Apple has finally made a lot of investments into iPad that are both symbolic and impactful. First and foremost was the launch of iPadOS, a separate and distinct OS for the iPad. There was symbolism in the new OS as well as iPad-specific functionality in both iPadOS 13 and 14. The combination of Apple Pencil and the new Scribble capability seem to be real game–changers for note-taking and drawing. There’s also a host of new hardware accessories, like the new Magic Keyboard and support for the Magic Trackpad that help transform the device into something much more ready to take on traditional computing tasks (typically done with a traditional computer). Lastly, the recent introduction of Apple Silicon and Universal Apps (that let you build cross-platform apps with a single code base) make it easier to justify investments in building custom apps.
On top of everything about the iPad as a platform, the new iPad Air looks amazing. It’s a very attractive product from a feature perspective. The Touch ID sensor built into the power button is both genius in its technical execution as an authentication device while enabling the iPad Air to have slim bezels, making the device more of a clean pane of glass without the notch, as well as a timely method of authentication that’s more effective than FaceID for field workers who may wear face shields or other face coverings because of the work they’re doing or because of COVID-19. Layer–in the other hardware improvements, such as USB-C which makes the device more enterprise friendly, and the new A14 Bionic chip which makes it a screaming performer.
So many good reasons why the iPad is now better positioned than ever to have a real place in the enterprise, serving both office and field workers alike. I implore you to revisit how to use the iPad within the Enterprise—specifically how your organization can really leverage the device’s unique capabilities and reimagine how your employees get work done. And if you need some help envisioning all that the iPad can do for your organization, please reach out to us at any time. Our proven strategic approach has helped countless clients worldwide streamline business processes, discover novel revenue streams, and empower field services to double as sales. We’d love to help you get started.