iPad Frenzy Will Pass Business Users By

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

It’s the most eagerly awaited tablet launch since Moses, but business geeks will struggle to justify getting one on the corporate IT budget, says Peter Judge

Finally, the iPad has been launched, and eWEEK has held one in its collective hands.

Unfortunately, it’s going to be a long wait before we see one in the UK, and until that time we’re going to have plenty of discussion about it. Is it really a new product class? Will it change the role of books? Will it alter gaming?

And at eWEEK, we’re contractually required to ask this: will professional IT staff, from CIOs downwards, even care?

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From our First Look at the device, it looks a sensible move, but it’s a sideways product extension, not a radical departure.You can tell this is merely an extension of Apple’s line from the accuracy of predictions about it. The Guardian crowdsourced the specifications 24 hours before the launch, and got almost every detail right – including the iPad name. The only thing 10,000 Guardian readers got wrong was predicting it would be black.

iPad takes the things that work well in existing Apple products – the App Store, the multi-touch screen, the simplicity (or lack of options, depending on your view), and packages them differently.

This creates new opportunities, where the new product exploits an opportunity for change.

When the iPod launched there was an opportunity for portable MP3 players to break through the stupidity of record companies and change music distribution. That opportunity still exists – Apple is just the most successful company to challenge it.

When the iPhone launched there was an opportunity for mobile phones to break through the market stupidity, and make data do useful work on a phone, going beyond the timid email of RIM Blackberry or the pathetic walled gardens of the mobile operators.

This time round, there’s an opportunity to change book distribution, but it’s not such a big one as the other two. The amount of money in books is smaller, the existing paper products still generate love, and any e-reader still has technical drawbacks compared with them.

And the new tablet is obviously going to be a good way to consume movies and on-demand TV. iPlayer (or Canvas) on the iPad will be a natural combination, as people actually want a portable TV viewer.

None of which gives us a compelling business use for the tablet of course. But people who dismissed the enterprise impact of the iPhone have been proven wrong as business users increasingly take it up and other phones play catch-up.

Business users are currently in love with netbooks, sometimes as a second, more portable laptop. If they find they are consuming more data than producing it on the road, then some might be lured into an iPad, or demand a netbook that looks a bit more like one.

Again, though, that’s a nibble into the main market for business devices. Business geeks are going to love the iPad, but they aren’t going to get one on the corporate budget.