Q&A: a First Hand Enterprise IT Take on the iPad

Eric Lai, Senior Writer | April 13, 2010 in Uncategorized | Comments (1)

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Andrea Werle is an information security analyst here at Sybase. She is also one of the lucky few inside Dublin HQ to enjoy some quality time last week with the iPad for the sake of (commence fingers making air quotes) testing its enterprise readiness. (end fingers) Well played, Andrea, well played. Seriously, Andrea was gracious enough to share her first-hand expert views on the iPad.

So after a week, are you ready to declare the iPad the ultimate mobile enterprise device?

It is really cool. There were so many things that I do on my iPhone that I used to think, ‘Wouldn’t it be nicer if it had a little bigger screen?’ The iPad covers that. The iPhone apps that have been specifically redesigned to take advantage of the iPad’s extra real estate were pretty impressive and added a lot of features.

werle smaller

What apps are you thinking of?

I’m running a remote access client for iPad. It lets me bring my work with me without having to carry a clunky laptop, and it has a better and more useful view than the iPhone, which I like to use only for emergencies. There are actually a whole bunch of apps and tools for everything from attending web meetings to making phone calls.

In general, the iPad is a fantastic remote diagnostic tool. Once you VPN in, you can do server monitoring and network monitoring and pretty much anything I can do from my desk.

How much do remote diagnostic apps cost?

$2.99 is typical. $6.99 would be on the high-end.

There are some reports about connectivity problems, in particular, weak Wi-Fi signals. Did you face any of that?

I haven’t had that problem, but I operate in pretty Wi-Fi-saturated areas. So really I found the connection to be pretty fast.

How about overheating or battery life?

It hasn’t overheated at all and the battery life is way better than the iPhone. I think it’s because my iPad’s not doing 3G or Bluetooth to a headset – that really eats up a battery.

Is it rugged enough for employees (hint hint) to carry out in the field?

It’s not exactly fragile. But the iPad is slippery and because it’s surprisingly weighty for its size, it’s a little awkward. If you have a padded case like I do, it’s a 100 times better.

How about doing productivity stuff?

I was using our (Sybase’s) iAnywhere Mobile Office application. It runs very well on the iPad, giving me access to e-mail, calendar and tasks. The latest release will auto-complete e-mail addresses by searching the corporate directory. All in all, I’d say it was less like ‘eating our own dog food’ than like ‘drinking our own champagne.’

There is also a web meeting client, too. It only lets you listen in on a meeting, not participate, which is fine since the iPad doesn’t have a camera. The lack of camera is kind of a bummer, not just for the obvious videoconferencing capabilities, but also because you can’t use the iPad to recognize objects or read barcodes.

Part of your job as a security analyst is to be paranoid. So can the iPad be secured?

If you are outside company walls and want to access corporate data, we use two-factor authentication. So if you were to use an iPad for e-mail, we would require a PIN code lock, as well as make it impossible to turn off the “Wipe after x attempts” feature.

There is encryption on the iPad itself, but Apple also lets you connect with 3rd party device management and security tools like Sybase’s Afaria. So if it’s lost or stolen, you can easily wipe the data.

Are you ok with Apple controlling the software download process using iTunes?

Being a security person, it does bother me, but it’s ok.

What do you think about enterprises who think they have to run a Windows-based tablet?

It’s not vital. Once I’m on the network, I can run my Windows desktop from the iPad, or connect to a Mac or whatever I need. Because you can play Flash videos there, that solves the lack of Flash on the iPad, too.

Should enterprises hold out for the 3G model?

On the one hand, a 64GB iPad with 3G costs $829. I’ve paid less for servers (at home). And many of the iPad’s newsreading apps will cache content so that you can read offline, so that is nice. On the other hand, if you’re going to take the iPad to meetings, customer sites or on the BART, than you definitely need 3G.

So does the iPad make the iPhone and other smartphones obsolete?

I think the iPad has a place for sure in the enterprise. Testing some of the peripherals leave me with a vision of the office of the future. Could it be an iPad that you connect to your office monitor and keyboard, and handset? And when it’s time to head to a meeting or lab, you just undock it to take your work with you?

As far as being a 100% smartphone replacement, I’d say probably not, and not just because it would be a lot easier for police to ticket people talking on their iPads while driving. No, obviously, you’d use a Bluetooth headset, though that might drain the battery fast. And while you can make/take phone calls on your iPad using a VoIP app, I think that people ultimately want to carry something around that fits in their pockets.

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By the way, if you’re interested in hearing straight from Sybase experts on how your company can manage and secure an iPad, sign up for this webcast.

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