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The iPad mini: 2013's next big business tool?

Joel Mathis | Jan. 29, 2013
Portable and less pricey, Apple's little tablet still seeks its business niche—and is finding some surprising takers.

"From a form factor standpoint, doctors can now carry the mini device around in their coat pockets," he says. "This effectively means that their electronic medical records, order entry, reference materials, and imaging capabilities are within arm's reach at all times."

Even in hospitals, though, Braunstein expects that doctors will have to bring in the iPad mini themselves, rather than using hospital-issued models.

"For the most part, it's going to be the individuals," she says. "These devices make their lives easier, so that's what they're going to be bringing into the workplaces."

The winding path to adoption

Previous iOS devices entered the workplace quickly, but by wildly different routes.

The iPhone, for example, was initially disdained by IT departments that had built their security infrastructure to support the then-dominant Blackberry line of phones from Research in Motion. But the iPhone elbowed its way into the office anyway, initially brought in by top executives and then, increasingly, their underlings--forcing IT departments to adapt. The "bring your own" approach worked for Apple: More than five years later the iPhone is one of the dominant smartphones in the enterprise market.

The iPad, in contrast, was more immediately embraced by institutions--and ended up being distributed in businesses and other workplaces on more of a top-down basis. Within months of its 2010 launch, the tablet was at work in car dealerships, cockpits, and medical schools, as institutions recognized that it could help reduce paperwork and provide more mobility to users than traditional laptop computers.

Analysts say that they expect the iPad mini to follow the iPhone's trail into the workplace, arriving initially as a BYO device before institutions grasp how to use the small tablet to their advantage.

"I think it's hard to say it's going to definitively follow one [route] or the other," says Frank Gillett, a vice president and principal analyst with Forrester Research in Massachusetts. "The mini, because it's so small, will follow an individual approach initially--though some businesses will find a smaller, less expensive screen appealing."

The larger iPad should remain the device of choice for many businesses, Gillett says, since cash register applications such as Square Register and business applications such as SalesForce probably make more sense on the bigger tablet. But in other instances--particularly where device cost is a major factor--the iPad mini has an advantage. It could also prove advantageous in situations where space is at a premium, particularly for users who spend lots of time on planes and in other cramped locations.

"It's like a lot of other things," Gillett says. "You pick the right tool for the job."

 

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