Like its “I” predecessors, the Apple iPad has piqued the public’s imagination. After enduring pre-launch ridicule, as well as some post-launch grumbling over perceived shortcomings, the wireless tablet computer exceeded sales expectations when it debuted in early April, hitting the 2 million mark by the end of May.
Because the iPad hovers somewhere between a PC, a netbook and a content-consumption platform for e-books, video, music and gaming, consumers and students were thought to be its likeliest users. Quite unexpectedly, however, business users and even government organizations are embracing the device. Workers serving an array of markets are lauding the iPad’s cordless portability, long battery life and impressive display, as well as the range of useful applications.
In the federal government, early adopters include the Army, the Federal Aviation Administration and NASA. State and local governments are using the devices in libraries, town halls and emergency operations facilities, such as those run by the Washington Emergency Management Agency. And Maryland’s Kent County Health Department is testing iPads for use by its nurses.
Ezra Gottheil, senior analyst at Technology Business Research, believes the iPad will appeal mainly to organizations with mobile users that need to interact with customers or the public in a nonintrusive, attractive way. But for general office-driven uses, “a laptop is still better,” he contends, and the familiarity of netbooks will continue to hold an advantage. Adoption of the iPad and similar types of devices will grow once more dedicated vertical applications appear, Gottheil predicts.
A recent Forrester Research report says tablet sales in the United States will overtake netbook sales by 2012 and will grow at a compound annual rate of 42 percent between now and 2015. While the devices have similar capabilities, the iPad’s ability to synchronize data across services will give it the upper hand, the report argues.
Part of the Job
Small businesses are in the vanguard of business-oriented adopters of the devices, according to Gottheil.
Tom Wanat, director of innovation at Hilltop Consultants in Bethesda, Md., bought the 3G version of the iPad as soon as it was available. Six other people at the 25-employee IT consultancy also use the iPad, and “now it’s a big part of our day-to-day workflow,” he says.
Wanat prefers the iPad because it’s half the weight of his notebook and because of its “phenomenal” battery life. “That’s what hits you right off the bat — you can go for days without charging it,” he says. He also highly values its tight integration with Microsoft Exchange.
The iPad’s inability to multitask is an issue, Wanat concedes. “There are times I feel I’m doing a lot of hopping back and forth between applications,” he says. But to the iPad’s credit, he adds, toggling between applications is quick.