iPad deployments in the enterprise are the envy of tablet competitors. But several executives and mobile managers speaking at a TabTimes event this week said they’re running pilot programs that if successful will lead to a transition to Windows 8 tablets.
Susan Lasota, the CIO of Marketing & Sales at GE Capital and the keynote speaker at the Tablet Strategy conference, said her company has deployed over 1,000 iPads with 900 of them going to remote sales teams and sales managers.
The results have been great. For example, 90% of the users confirmed that the iPad made it easier for them to respond to customer or deal-related activities, and "nearly all found the iPad to be a valuable sales tool."
GE also estimates a sales force effectiveness target of 20%. Even more telling said Lasota: "No surprise. 97% refused to return the iPad” they were given.
However, GE has noticed that their reps, who are required to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to connect to multiple GE applications, are still using their laptops.
Now the company is piloting a Lenovo Helix, a device that doubles as a laptop and tablet, with an Intel 3rd generation Core i5 processor.
On the "Tablets 2.0" panel, Mark Mangano, director of sales and marketing, technology at Hartford Funds, said that thanks to the iPad, their sales team is better equipped. "We can give you point-in-time access to the data that's important to you when you're in the field.
"That's where the device really shines, in terms of that real time, that 360 view. Previous to that, [our salespeople] would, the night before go through their laptop and take notes… Now we're pushing in data in from our CRM, from our marketing, from what's going on with our live events," Mangano said.
Perhaps their iPad program is too successful. Mangano said, "The thing I'm trying to balance now is tool overload. We went from 'You can use this device for email,' and now we're giving them more things to do on the device." Hartford Funds is keeping an eye on the tools they're giving their sales team in order to "be aware and prescriptive to our users around how the device and the apps flow into daily workflow."
Like Lasota, Mangano says Hartford Funds is piloting deployment of Surface 2 tablets to see if the one device can effectively replace the iPad / laptop combination many of its salespeople now use.
University picks Windows 8 over iPad
On the panel, "Making the right OS and app choices for your tablet deployment," R. David Crain, Assistant Provost & CIO of Southern Indiana University, helped steer SIU to become the first research university that provides their Freshman students with a tablet for no additional charge. In fact, the students helped create the apps that made sense to them.
Drawing the biggest laugh of the day, Crain noted that "Our number one app is a laundry app. They can monitor their laundry and the facilities."
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Crain said the university first considered the iPad but instead chose to purchase the Dell Latitude 10. "We found quickly that online materials had been created for a desktop PC environment that in most cases wouldn't work on an iPad… That, plus the fact that it plugged into our normal management environment, our infrastructure, just made the Windows tablets an easy decision."
Fellow panelist Robert Alonso, Founder and President of Alonso Consulting, said that when steering clients to the tablet that's best for them, he asks them to make decisions about their business environment.
"Do I need to connect to database servers? Do I need to legacy applications? Do I need the complete Office suite? Right now Office is available for the iPad, but it's only read only unless you have an Office 365 subscription, whereas on the Surface tablet you get the full environment with the all functionality that you need.
“And from a development point of view…it's easier to develop for the Surface and Windows tablet," he added.
Defending iPad -- Windows a ‘lazy choice’ ?
However, a third panelist Ulrich von Beck, the CEO of Orchard, said, "I think it's the lazy choice. I think choosing a Windows environment, other than if you are forced to because all your assets are in Flash (looking at SIU’s Crain), has the IT organization in mind and not the end user.
"For the end user, it may not be the best experience. For somebody out in the field, it does depends on the app and software that's on there and the rigor around that piece of functionality on that device."
TabTimes Editor David Needle contributed to this article
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