Apple's iPad tablet will have a strong future as a device for business users - so long as the right applications are developed for it, according to silicon.com's exclusive panel of CIOs and IT directors.
While tablet devices have been available for a number of years they have been mostly limited to niche business applications. But with Apple's reputation for creating elegant user experiences with its hardware and its App Store ecosystem to encourage the development of new uses for the device, many industry watchers expect the iPad to represent a breakthrough for a previously unloved form factor.
CIOs are already optimistic about the outlook for the new device. When asked "Do you think the iPad has a future as a business device?" silicon.com's CIO Jury voted yes by a margin of 10 to two.
Madhushan Gokool, IT manager at Storm Model Management, said: "As with the iPhone, when it first came out, businesses were very 'scared' of it, and thought there was no future benefits for the business. The iPhone has not been out for a long period, and it has already revolutionised some businesses. The same will happen with the iPad."
Neil Hammond, CIO at British Sugar, said senior execs and mobile business managers are looking for a device that is lighter than a laptop but has a better display and keypad than a BlackBerry. "If the iPad can fill this niche then it has a future," he predicted.
And Mike Roberts, IT director at The London Clinic, said - provided the iPad will support terminal services and the common applications found on a Mac - "it could be very useful in areas that require high-quality images and mobility such as hospitals".
However, several CIOs emphasised how important the applications available via Apple's App Store will be. Florentin Albu, ICT manager at EUMETSAT, said: "Its future depends very much on the applications that will be available for it. There is already a host of apps on the iPhone that have business applications, from real-time monitoring to BI presentations. If these apps will take advantage of the portability and larger display of the iPad, I see it used more by business professionals."
Alastair Behenna, CIO at Harvey Nash, added of the device: "It's highly portable, has iPhone-like simplicity and usability and positively oozes 'I want'.
"What is even more interesting is the impact the app store pricing model will have on the traditional software pricing and delivery structures if this embeds in the psyche to the extent it should, given our voracious appetite for mobile gadgetry."
Nicholas Bellenberg, IT director at Hachette Filipacchi, predicted the impact of the iPad could even reach Redmond.
"It may be a catalyst for a greater move towards this and away from the hegemony of Microsoft Office," he said.
But Steve Clarke, systems and operations director at the TalkTalk Group, had some words of caution.
"We tried tablets in the past without great success and I can't think of a business case that would stand up when we have netbooks and fully functional laptops available," he said.
Today's silicon.com CIO Jury:
- Florentin Albu, ICT manager, EUMETSAT
- Alastair Behenna, CIO, Harvey Nash
- Nicholas Bellenberg, IT director, Hachette Filipacchi
- Graham Benson, IT director, M and M Direct
- Steve Clarke, systems and operations director, The TalkTalk Group
- Adam Gerrard, CIO, Avis Europe
- Madhushan Gokool, IT manager, Storm Model Management
- Neil Hammond, head of IT, British Sugar
- John Keeling, CIO, John Lewis
- Matthew Oakeley, CIO, Schroders
- David Pirie, group IT director, BCA
- Mike Roberts, IT director, The London Clinic
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Steve Ranger is the UK editor of TechRepublic, and has been writing about the impact of technology on people, business and culture for more than a decade. Before joining TechRepublic he was the editor of silicon.com.