Every time I look at the worldwide sales stats on personal computing hardware, it becomes clear that the iPad will lead the charge for mobile workers who want to switch from a PC to a tablet as their primary computing device.
However, if an executive has an iPad, it’s usually carried in conjunction with his or her laptop and a smartphone. The average mobile worker incidentally has 3.5 computing devices, Wi-Fi hotspot provider iPass revealed in its Global Mobile Workforce Q1 2012 Report.
While Apple sold 22.9 million iPads in the last three months, the fact remains that iPad is still a novelty. Why? Because 99.9% of these devices can’t access critical content behind the firewall to do real work, and if they can, even the most basic Microsoft Office documents don’t render properly.
It turns out, there aren’t many viable ways to provide secure content access - largely due to the fact that iOS is relatively new, and that Apple has announced no plans to provide all of the enterprise-grade security and connections that PCs have today.
So for iPads to become a trusted endpoint, there are essentially two choices that IT departments have: 1) provide secure content access for iPad using the few modern platforms available to do it, or 2) lock down enterprise content access to email and calendar, and hope that mobile employees won’t use Dropbox, iCloud and Gmail to get at the content they need.
The iOS rendering challenge
In addition to security, there is also a document rendering challenge. Apple’s iOS operating system is not Windows. Any iOS app company that wants to deliver a solid Microsoft Office rendering experience would have to align with the 20-plus years application development done on PowerPoint, Excel, and Word – and match it bug for bug and feature for feature at every release.
In addition, tablet app developers would need access to all the fonts and other media which get used within all of that existing content.
The good news is things are changing and fast. Tablet apps and platforms are starting to bridge the wide gap. For example, because our company depends on mobile workers being productive with Microsoft Office documents, we created a new rendering engine for iOS and without compromise to security or compatibility.
While a rendering engine is an extreme method of bridging the gap between the Windows and iOS worlds, you can definitely expect that dozens of enterprise software companies will be coming out with more enabling technologies to make it even easier to do real work on an iPad.
So the next time you have to drag your 3.5 devices around town, ask yourself: What is keeping my iPad (or any other tablet for that matter) from being my primary work computing device? I look forward to reading your comments.
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