Report: iPad Is an Enterprise IT Triple-Threat

The enterprise is all over the iPad (s aapl). RIM (s rimm) can’t put the genie back in the bottle, no matter how hard it tries. But what is it about the iPad that appeals to IT departments and employees alike? Why the sudden shocking proliferation?

Forrester’s Ted Schadler looked at how tablets are making their way into the enterprise in a new report, asking more than 200 companies about their experiences with the iPad (primarily) since January 2010. What they found was both surprising and, in some ways, to be expected.

IT Leads the Charge

First, and most unusual, it looks like the drive to bring the iPad to enterprise isn’t being pushed from the bottom up, as is often the case with new technology adoption at larger companies. Instead, IT departments are stepping up and initiating iPad pilot programs of their own accord. According to Forrester, this time IT doesn’t want to be stuck in the reactionary position of playing catchup, as happened when the iPhone first starting infiltrating the enterprise in a major way.

The numbers reflect this strategy. 30 percent of firms are actively working on tablet apps, while another 43 percent are interested in the devices in some way or another. Considering the newness of tablet tech, those are very high percentages.

How the iPad Is Useful

In the report, Forrester identified three major ways the iPad is working its way into enterprise IT:

  • Displacing Laptops. The iPad is a worthy notebook replacement for many, especially for people who use their portables mainly for email and other forms of web-based communication. But for now, the device is mostly appearing in scenarios where it’s more appropriate, so people aren’t ditching their notebooks entirely at the office just yet.
  • Replacing Paper. We see this happening in the medical and pharmaceutical industries especially. Anywhere people once had to carry around a stack of paper, basically, is a good place for the iPad to step in. In many cases it’s more portable, and it’s definitely much more flexible .
  • New Uses. Where companies may have lacked an efficient way doing something, or at least of doing it in a way that provided instant connection to additional resources and data, the iPad has stepped in to fill the gap. Forrester cites the example of sales floor personnel being able to instantly customize an order with a customer.

The advantages and disadvantages of tablets in enterprise, according to Forrester.

Effect on Business

It’s too early yet to provide solid numbers on the kind of business impact the iPad is having in enterprise, but a few use cases described in the report do point to some pretty significant advantages. One pharmaceutical company, for example, is using iPads to avoid the costs associated with the destruction and reprinting of new marketing materials when changes need to be made, something it’s required to do by the FDA. Sales staff can carry iPads instead of printed materials, so that updates can be issued on the fly, keeping everything current.

The introduction of the tablet isn’t without challenges. Forrester notes that IT will soon be faced with a glut of choice, and recommends prioritizing iOS, Android (s goog), and HTML5 first. There’s also the problem of when you can and can’t use an iPad. Office still has only limited support on the device, with no official solution from Microsoft (s msft) on the horizon.

Problems aside, the iPad is already guaranteed to be a permanent fixture in business. It should provide a way for Apple to heighten the enterprise presence of all of its offerings, since iPad users will want greater cross-platform integration once tablets prove their worth.

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