I’ve had the privilege of using the iPad Air 2 for a little less than a week now and, despite the “sky is falling on the tablet market” themes we hear, I wanted to put the iPad Air upgrades into perspective. There are two ways to look at the iPad Air — a consumer angle which I will touch on in a later post and a less talked about enterprise angle to explore.
What most miss about the new iPad’s upside is the opportunity to extend computing to areas where it was not prevalent before. The PC, in the shape of a desktop and notebook, is an efficient design and has evolved to be specific to its purpose. Those two form factors are the best computers for deep work done sitting down. The PC in the shape of a tablet is not specifically designed to replace the desktop or notebook for those who sit down all day to work. There is, however, something the iPad is designed to replace that mobile field workers use frequently–the clipboard.
When we talk to companies deploying iPads or interested in deploying iPads, a primary observation stands out. iPad’s are largely being utilized by workers who did not previously use a computer regularly in their day job. This is because their job function requires them to stand or be moving most of the time. In essence, most of these workers carried around a clipboard along with some paper process as a part of their routine. This could be a safety officer or inspector on a job site who made notes and filled out forms just to go back to a desktop PC later in the day and enter data. Public health and safety workers have similar processes. Construction workers are using iPads loaded with blueprints and can interact with them digitally, even marking changes or updates to a design in real time. I’ve heard stories of iPads in use to interact electronically with manuals while working on an aircraft. I could rattle off dozens of stories from IT managers and CIOs who have shared with us the creative ways iPads are being deployed in the enterprise. The common theme among them all intertwines mobility with eliminating inefficient paper processes with more efficient digital ones.
With that understanding, it makes sense Apple continues to make the iPad thinner and lighter. To use this “PC in the shape of a tablet” all day while on your feet, it has to be light. It has to be easy to hold and operate for long periods of time. Touch ID is another essential element for the iPad to fulfill its enterprise purpose in this context. These mobile field workers spend much of their time outside the four walls of the corporate office. They are the most likely to have their mobile devices lost or stolen. Security is crucial for these deployments and Touch ID, which works as flawlessly on the iPad Air 2 as on the iPhone from my experience, solves a critical pain point for enterprise deployments that previous iPads did not. Apple also made an improvement to the display essential for field worker deployment. If you go outside to use the iPad as part of your job, eliminating the glare is a valued feature. From my experience, the work Apple put in to make the iPad’s screen less reflective lives up to the promise.
From the perspective of how and why iPads are gaining ground in the enterprise, you can see why the newest improvements of the iPad Air 2 will be not just attractive but also necessary. The iPad’s head room for growth is significant. Based on the types of jobs that are extremely mobile and work done out in the field frequently, we estimate there are upwards of 300m jobs, and growing, where computers are not used today because they were in the shape of a notebook or desktop. Yet this is where the opportunity lies to bring a computer in the shape of a tablet.