How does the 3rd generation iPad perform in the enterprise environment?
For IT managers at organizations large and small, the new iPad comes with both added features, and new management challenges.
While the 2,048 x 1,536 pixel resolution Retina display was the most visible enhancement to the newest Apple offering, the device’s underlying iOS 5 operating system, optional iCloud service, and optional hotspot capabilities should be of more interest and strategic concern to IT professionals.
Most mobile device management (MDM) vendors voiced support for the new iPad and the latest version of Apple’s iOS when the device was announced on March 7. On March 12, Apple released the latest version of its Apple Configurator utility that uses simple workflows and basic policy profiles to configure up to 30 iPads from a single Mac.
The mighty configurator
Apple’s iOS Configuration Profiles are how MDM tools control iPad accounts, policies and device restrictions. Controlling iPad access to the iCloud storage utility is limited to either allowing or disabling iCloud components, including backup, document sync and Photo Stream.
For the new iPad, which often shows up at work as part of a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiative, these policies will likely be a sore point. Tests at eWEEK Labs in Foster City, California, showed that this “on” or “off” approach is likely the most feasible way to control iCloud on the new iPad so that IT managers can ensure that sensitive corporate data isn’t accidentally shuttled off to the cloud.
The new iPad with Wi-Fi started shipping last month, and costs £399 for the 16GB model, £479 for the 32GB model and £559 for 64GB model. The iPad with Wi-Fi and 4G from any of UK’s four providers costs £499 for the 16GB model, £579 for the 32GB model and £659 for the 64GB model. I tested the 64GB iPad with Wi-Fi and 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) service.
With the obvious exception of the Retina display, the new iPad looks almost exactly the same as the two previous generations of Apple’s tablet. The biggest differences between them are inside the device. The new dual-core Apple A5X processor, the iSight 5 megapixel camera and the 4G hotspot capability (when using the optional wireless service) are all improvements that will entice personal and business users. In fact, all of these changes enhance the iPad as a platform for business use.
Management of the new iPad has everything to do with iOS. I used Apple’s updated Apple Configurator on a MacBook Pro to configure and control my test subject. Using Configurator, I was able to decide how my email accounts were enabled for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync and IMAP/POP. After working with Configurator to set up these accounts, I was able to use the iPad as a “supervised” device (one that is easily reset to my standard settings, including installed apps) or as an “unsupervised” device. When I removed the device from Configurator management, I was able to remove my work email accounts without disturbing my personal email settings.
While Apple enables extensive control of the iPad, I was not able to create a policy that governed the use of the Wi-Fi hotspots. In the future, it would be great to see controls that provide a more fine-grained policy around how other users can connect, for example via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or both.
I would also like to be able to control whether or not the iPad can be tethered to a PC or Mac. And it would be lovely to be able to extend passcode policy for the iPad to the hotspot credentials. As it stands, the hotspot has its own, separate password policy.
IT managers should also note that with the advent of the new iPad, a number of enterprise-class apps are likely to increase. For example, around the time of the iPad announcement, CloudOn made available its app for accessing Microsoft Word documents from the iPad, and Asavie Technologies prepared to launch the iSimplyConnect VPN service.
These developments, along with Apple’s launch of the B2B App Store last July, mean that iPad use in the workplace is set to increase. While the new tablet has the fundamentals in place for safe use in the enterprise, IT managers should press for even more controls as both the device and iOS evolve.
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