Friday, January 07, 2011

The Year of the Pad

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that 2011 will be the year of the tablet computer. Some people still think this means Windows-based tablet edition PC's or laptop hybrids/convertibles, but it really means the NEW tablet - Pads.

My worst fears have become a reality - the iPad has been ridonkulously successful and has spawned an entire industry of me-too Johnny-come-lately impersonators. So reality being what it is (inescapable), we'll have to adjust.

CES this week showcased Google's latest Android OS, which is being called Honeycomb in a manner consistent with their irritatingly quirky penchant for naming their releases. Froyo is as stupid to say as it is to write, and whoever had that idea should be punched someplace tender for a few hours (or at least once for every time an IT executive has been forced to use the term).

Its goofy name aside, it did look impressive in the live demo. It was running on Motorola hardware, and one would fairly imagine that any and every Apple competitor will be cheaper than Big White. If the ActiveSync support is good, well, it's hard to say no.

In quite an about-face, we've actually been talking about supporting these things. Even down to the iPhone. There have emerged some very compelling business apps that bring a sort of Star Trek futurism into the present day. It's amazing how powerful information can be when it is easy to access and truly portable. If only wireless networks were worth a damn. There are a couple of SharePoint apps that do a fantastic job of present collaboration spaces in Apple's intuitive (and almost ubiquitous now) touch interface. With iOS at least, handling PDF's and Office document types requires no configuration at all. Modifying lists is simple and fast. And if all else fails, you just fire up Safari and do things the old fashioned way.

I would still not personally pay for an iPad, but if the company provides one, I'm confident I would be able to replace my laptop with it for daily use. Or perhaps go to a modest desktop configuration and travel only with the iPad. I've done enough testing with it to have become used to them, and my shoulder / back would definitely appreciate it. The apps are 95% there, and improve far more rapidly than their shrink-wrapped counterparts. For all the concerns bandied about, I really do see these as far easier to manage than traditional computers. In the right environment, they would be a brilliant way to augment virtual desktop initiatives.

Some polls show people flocking towards standardization as if that is what IT needs to be able to effectively manage these devices. I can't personally see why that would be the case unless you plan on doing A LOT of development - certainly far more people advocate standardization than I imagine really need it. ActiveSync with Exchange 2007 or later is really adequate for most small-to-medium organizations right out of the box, and it puts the onus on the device - not the admin - to work properly. The most IT would NEED to do is plainly state which OS platforms and versions it wants to support based on their risk profiles.

The only constant is change. Customers first. Antidepressants are fun!

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