With the new iPad launched this week, Apple is sure to continue its stealthy assault on the business market, but companies wondering if it is the new answer to their mobility strategy need to think again.
The biggest draw for corporate users might ordinarily have been the much-talked about 4G capability of the new iPad (launched with no numerical suffix). As carriers launch 4G networks across Australia, the country will see the first truly data-friendly airwaves. For business-critical applications, 4G is set to offer the speeds users only experience under their own roof, which will make large file transfer or high bandwidth applications easy to use anywhere.
But there's one big catch. So far Telstra is the only Australian carrier with a 4G offering. And what you won't read in the large print is that it runs on a different frequency than US 4G networks, so the iPad will not work on our 4G networks unless either the carriers or Apple make changes, neither of which are likely this year. It is compatible with Telstra's 3G though.
Much is being made about the display technology. With four times as many pixels as the last iPad and with a screen resolution of 2048 x 1536, every application will be much easier on the eyes. Text will be cleaner and sharper, pictures will have more detail and video can display at up to 1080p HD. The front-facing camera is also 5 megapixels, which puts it in a similar class as most compact digital handheld cameras.
For companies with a reliable corporate data network, a fleet of iPads between offices or locations could render most low-end videoconferencing systems obsolete. In the creative industries, the iPad can now compete directly with desktop PCs for the device of choice to review content.
All the extra display strength is powered by a faster, better processor, yet Apple claims the new iPad has the same battery life as the older model – enough for an average workday in most cases. The company has also said all older apps will automatically scale and display with no problems, a relief for those companies implementing their own internal apps.
Voice recognition technology has never been perfect but a good dictation feature is exciting for businesses. Like the feature on the iPhone 4s, it could be a huge time saver when browsing, writing emails, taking notes or using third party app functions on the new iPad. Just click the microphone button on the keyboard and speak rather than type.
If you're in the midst of an iPad 2 fleet rollout and don't want to consider any other provider, go ahead as planned – the only improvement the new iPad would offer is a minimal performance boost. Depending on your industry you would also benefit from the increased image clarity, but there isn't much more incentive than that for Australian buyers.
Ovum principal analyst Adam Leach said today, "Apple has enjoyed a first-mover advantage; however, we expect competition to get more intense through 2012."
Windows 8 is coming and Google Android's Ice Cream Sandwich has 'bridged the smartphone and tablet divide', according to Ovum, so while the iPad still holds a convincing lead, holding off to put both Windows and Android through their paces according to your business needs is a good idea, particularly as they might play nicer with 4G infrastructure from Telstra and any other carriers who come online.
Of course, companies don't want their network integration and IT people to reinvent the wheel. According to Forrester Research, almost half of enterprises already support Macs and 30 per cent support the iPad. If yours is one, adopting Windows or Android would incur costs along with a learning curve.
The last compelling feature in the new iPad's favour, however, is the price. At $899 for the 4g/Wi-Fi/64GB model, it's $150 cheaper than its predecessor.