Confirmed: The iPad Isn’t Good At What It Isn’t Good At

Steve Wildstrom / July 23rd, 2012

What is it about the iPad that moves seemingly rational people to say perfectly ridiculous things?

The latest example of this foolishness is Matt Asay, writing in The Register, who argues that because there are some enterprise chores that the iPad does not do well or at all, “iPad is RUBBISH for enterprise.” The gist of Asay’s argument goes something like this:

  • Enterprise users depend on heavy-duty apps, especially Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
  • These apps are not available on the iPad.
  • The Apple alternatives, Pages, Numbers, and Keynote are less capable.
  • Therefore, the iPad is unsuited to enterprise use.

Each of these statements except the last is indisputably true. And that conclusion is completely wrong.

The problem is the implicit assumption that unless a computing device is well-suited to everything we might ask of any computer, it isn’t suited for anything. This is the sort of thinking–Microsoft is particularly prone to it–that has given us bloated all-purpose devices that can do anything, though often not very well.

To support his case, Asay quotes a Macworld article (unfortunately, no link was provided): “For the most part, I love writing on my iPad. But I still do so only when my MacBook isn’t around…”

I would say the same thing, and I would add that I don’t use my MacBook Air when my 27″ iMac or desktop Windows PC is around. The critical thing is that the iPad is always around when I want it; it has the right mix of capability of mobility for a vast variety of jobs, many of them as great utility to the enterprise.

It is true that putting capable Office programs on tablets gives Windows  slates a potential advantage in the enterprise markets. But, as I have written, the new versions of Office programs, while more touch-capable than their predecessors, still are not very well suited to touch use. It’s not at all clear at this point that a Windows tablet running Excel 2013 will really be very much better for enterprise spreadsheet use than an iMac with Numbers.

The big problem here, though, is the fallacy that lack of capability at any task the enterprise may demand renders a device useless. Let’s accept–and celebrate–the fact that we are living in a world where we have a choice of devices of varying capabilities and where

Steve Wildstrom

Steve Wildstrom is veteran technology reporter, writer, and analyst based in the Washington, D.C. area. He created and wrote BusinessWeek’s Technology & You column for 15 years. Since leaving BusinessWeek in the fall of 2009, he has written his own blog, Wildstrom on Tech and has contributed to corporate blogs, including those of Cisco and AMD and also consults for major technology companies.
  • Rich

    Enough people have brought their iPads to work, preferring them to the computers provided by their companies, that BYOD has become a large issue in the enterprise (due to security questions). Matt Asay seems to have somehow missed that point.

  • FalKirk

    “Confirmed: The iPad isn’t Good at what it isn’t good at”

    What a great title and what a great article. I too read the Register article and it’s stupidity made my blood boil. Steve Wildstrom has demolished the Register’s article with his title alone.

    Well done, Steve. Well done.

    • I haven’t purposely followed a Register link for over 5 years. Their idiotic railing against all things Apple and the iPhone in particular revealed the Register as a collection of short-sighted PC bigot trolls.

  • benbajarin

    Yes, I read that article as well and intended on doing a quick take but Steve did a great job so I don’t need to.

    The Register Article was so misguided it was ridiculous. To take Steve’s analogy even further, Asay’s main argument is the same as complaining that a Camry is terrible at towing a boat and hauling stuff to the dump.

  • immovableobject

    There is nothing inherent about the iPad that would preclude Microsoft from creating a version of Office for it. So if Office isn’t available for the iPad, whose fault is that? This is a game Microsoft has played with Apple for decades. They withhold or release crippled versions of their enterprise apps for Apple platforms. Luckily, third parties will step in to fill the gap with apps that are data-compatible allowing companies that don’t want to remain under Microsoft’s thumb have options.

    • rattyuk

      “There is nothing inherent about the iPad that would preclude Microsoft from creating a version of Office for it.”
      Save that Microsoft will hold back to imply that “only the Surface is a real computer”

      They should have released the product and used the income to offset the odd billion they have thrown at Xbox and that advertising company they wrote off this quarter.

      • steve_wildstrom

        It has been reported–and I cannot testify to the accuracy of the reports–that Microsoft is well along with a version of Office for iOS. Assuming this is correct, the decision seems to be not to release it until after the Windows RT tablets are launched. Another issue is going to be pricing. Microsoft is bundling Office into Windows RT. But an iOS version could not be priced at much more than the $10 per app that Apple charges for the iWorks apps.

        • Apple is putting the screw on a lot of companies especially those that sell expensive softwares such as MS for their OS and Adobe for their creative suites.

          Now these companies have to find new ways of making money because a lot of softwares are going for a song although they may not be as capable but then they are not as bloated and loaded with useless features,

  • He was referring to our July 2012 magazine cover story, “iPad: The New Business Machine”. And of course spelled “MacWorld” incorrectly with a big capped W in the middle.

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