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Does the iPad Really Enhance Productivity?

As we continue down the long and convoluted journey of enterprise mobility, we often here talk about mobility management.  I still believe that managing the mobile implementations within (and increasingly beyond) the workplace is critical, but I also like to occasionally take a step back and see how we can take a broader perspective on our favorite IT subject.

In 2011, two of the major areas of “chatter” for the mobilized business are: Tablets and the perennial (and elusive) favorite – Productivity.  Isn’t it great then to find a story about how five companies are using the iPad to enhance productivity in the workplace?  It must be pretty important if (as of the time of this missive) it has garnered 1600 retweets and 700 share on LinkedIn.

Given its popularity, I think it’s a genuine shame that the article is missing the major point.  The iPad is not the key enabler for enhanced productivity in these five companies.

Now in fairness, the article does in passing say one thing:

Less than a year after the device’s launch, however, the jury is still out on its net productivity. And these five companies are making a pretty strong case for how Apple’s tablet (and it’s competitors, when they catch up) has a lot of potential to make business more efficient.

So two things.  First of all, are we to believe that the iPad is the key to productivity enhancement or is it tablets in general?  There are only seven words in the entire article that suggest it goes beyond just the iPad.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to harp on the iPad.  I’m one of the few people on the planet who still doesn’t have one, but that’s more because I wanted to wait for the second generation (third if you count what Bill Gates thought of 10 years ago) tablets to come out (I digress).

What is the difference between having that same application on a BlackBerry PlayBook, the HP TouchPad, the Motorola Xoom or any other tablet (please Microsoft, put Windows MOBILE on a Nokia tablet)?

Nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.  Rien. Niente.

Take Angry Birds (as even cited in the article) for example.  Isn’t it basically the same on Android as on iOS?  Now, does the larger real estate provided by a seven or 10 inch screen provide increased convenience?  Of course it does!  The point is that it’s not the iPad that has enhanced the productivity of the five companies cited in the article.  It’s the applications that they are using on the larger and more convenient form factor.

Even more importantly, what enhanced productivity in those companies is not the applications per se, but the fact that these five companies realized that there were tangible benefits from mobilizing some of their business processes.  Or in other terms, they could enhance their business processes through mobile solutions.  There’s no doubt in my mind that they did some sort of strategic planning to better understand their (former) business processes, saw that there were areas for improvement and then assessed various means to improve those business processes through mobile solutions.  The tablet was a means to the greater end.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I fully realize that the iPad was first to market, and has had a wild success thus far.  The competition has been late to respond, and the current crop of Android based tablets leaves users wanting more.  But that’s because of the software on those slabs….it’s not that there is anything materially wrong with the hardware.  That’s all going to change in 2011, and as such, I think we should hence think more about how the tablet form factor (and not just the iPad) will continue to drive better business processes and the enterprise mobility revolution.


  1. Posted February 26, 2011 at 10:04 | Permalink

    I think it is the combination of mobilized business process and the device capabilities that together make a winning pair. An iPad or other media tablet brings together some features that make for better use cases in these and other business scenarios. Traditional tablets were too slow and bulky while smartphones are too small. The media tablet combines the instant-on of a smartphone with the large screen of a PC tablet, offering the best of both worlds. Try doing a side-by-side view of Jimi Hendrix portraits on an iPhone.

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    • Posted February 27, 2011 at 14:59 | Permalink

      “An iPad or other media tablet…”

      Randy – so do you consider the iPad a media tablet or a platform for mobile computing?

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  2. Posted February 28, 2011 at 11:56 | Permalink

    As I have commented before, I think the evolution of tablets spells the demize of the laptop. We are learning that what we do is about the applications, not the OS. Frankly the OS is a pain in the neck, requiring anti spyware, anti virus software etc. All things MUCH better handled on our servers.

    Now, someone needs to figure out how to make it REALLY EASY to get at data stored on servers (call it the cloud if you like) remotely. VPN, yeah, well…… Remote Desktop,,,,,? not what I mean. Quick, simple access to remote virtual drives.


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  3. Posted March 4, 2011 at 20:28 | Permalink

    @Phil well said, Generally productivity gains assessed can be because of the process , the presentation, the app and majorly because of a form factor convenience. Ipad is the first Enterprise tablet, that is a reality.
    Eventhough all tablets look polymorphic – media, computing, collaboration etc. for enterprise we can see Computing and Collaboration winning.

    Now the way we evaluate “value created by mobilizing business process”, we generally don’t want to categorize tablets and smartphones in same bucket.

    Computing tablets have a clear edge on content presentation rich scenarios of business process. Sales, Marketing, BIs adopt first, blue collar apps later (if somebody rugged-ize tablets – without making it a laptop, Yeah you guessed it right, Motorola :) ).

    I will love to see a discussion on a future Nokia N99 Microsoft tablet. WinMo7 has this device form factor centric ecosystem – uni device specification strategy . They might have to create one for Tablets. It will be interesting and all will be happy to see Windows7 like presentation on tablet- No extra user education needed.

    @Ric, agree the way you visualizing & we can read this with your other discussion on “thin clients”, Desktop Virtualization will become a reborn reality and governments pay the telephone bills :) and enterprise wifis bless all and as Phil said – Back to 80s

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  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Philippe Winthrop, Sniper PR. Sniper PR said: RT @biz_mobility: Does the iPad Really Enhance Productivity? http://t.co/v3Xpf4e via @the_emf_dot_org [...]

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