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Readers Sound Off on the iPad

The Apple iPad has been on the market for little less than two years, but in that time the tablet device has sparked a wildfire for demand -- one Microsoft and Google are trying to play catch up to.

Redmond readers are evensinging the praises of the iPad, not only as a consumer device, but the role it can play in the enterprise. And readers really seem to like it.

But the Apple device is far from perfect. Reader Rynbrandt shares what he believes is the biggest issue with the tablet:

Screen resolution could be an issue with some applications, and device security and wireless connectivity could also be issues.

Roel Schreibers. E. Alcock, IT manager for the Robert Boissoneault Oncology Institute, lists some of the IT concerns with the iPad :

The iPad is, business-wise, the ultimate thin client with only one downside: there's no central control possibility for administrators to deploy apps toward he corporate iPads. Securing the iPad is in the hands of the end user.

Ipads are deceptively complex and they aren't immune to problems. Without buying expensive third-party tools, there's no way to centrally manage iPads to do 'simple' chores like distributing credentials such as certificates, wireless LAN parametersand VPN settings.

There's no way to maintain OS consistency or application consistency, as even third-party tools can't perform OS or application upgrades or prevent overzealous users from performing updates themselves.

The result could be end-user problems that will keep IT working overtime:

Users may require emergency support from IT when they update their apps and find the app has changed so much it will no longer connect to resources, and the user has no clue why.

We've had our fair share of OS or application glitches that require us to restore the iPad to factory settings and restore or reinstall all of the user's apps. Such glitches include failed app installations or upgrades, apps that cease to function correctly and WiFi glitches. I would hazard a guess that an iPad probably takes as much maintenance or more than a PC or laptop. This is simply because there are mature products and processes, many of which can be automated, for managing PCs and laptops, whereas there's not really such a thing for the iPad.

Alcock is also not a fan of iPad security:

iPads have huge security problems that people seem to be glossing over. Apple has yet to get full-device encryption working well enough that it can't be simply bypassed. It has a built-in keystroke logger and takes screenshots of what you have open when you push the home button. According to an Apple rep I spoke to, neither of these can be disabled if you happen to work in a high-security environment. The keyboard cache can be manually purged, however. Combine those three things, and you have a pretty scary recipe that could cause your corporate security or compliance team some sleepless nights.

Reader Marsorry Ickue also has a range of concerns, starting with a relatively small amount of local storage, between 16GB and 64GB. And while some see the closed nature of the iPad as increasing security and stability, Ickue has the opposite view:

The closed-off Apple approach is a bit of a hindrance that forces my users to make more use of cloud services for information portability or VPN. Apple could definitely create a section that allows for at least a small portion of the device where users can store this type of data that doesn't interfere with their otherwise secure environment.

One advantage PCs and laptops have for day-to-day use is a full-size keyboard. Kay G. Hopwood, IT director for the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau just can't get used to iPad input:

I've been unsuccessful at writing on the screen -- and I mean using a stylus, not a finger. I'm too old for finger painting. I need to write notes and service orders by hand on the device. I'd like to see some improvement in that area.

iPad fan Dimitri Mundarain, group manager for datacenter operations at Citrix Systems Inc., has just one beef:

Apple had done great work on the iPad 2 with the new processor and the 3G option, but IT folks could certainly benefit from a better pointing device with more precision and a less clumsy cut-and-paste functionality.

Gripes Lead To Suggestions
The best companies listen to customers, and Redmondreaders are giving Apple an earful on what should be added or changed in future models.

 Rob Blankers, a network engineer for Lockton Affinity, has a laundry list of suggestions:

I'd implement some type of a native 'virtual mouse,' complete with a right-click button. I'd also like to see tabbed browsing rather than opening a new window in Safari. I'd make iPads easily capable of becoming managed computer objects in an Active Directory, and provide a Microsoft Management Console snap-in to centrally manage them. Last, I want a USB port that doesn't require a proprietary cable, a full-size and fully functional SD card slot and a built-in file browser like Windows Explorer.

The iPad is clearly not a Microsoft product, and it doesn't appear that Microsoft even likes to acknowledge the thing. But Microsoft customers do, and there are a few things Redmond readers hope Microsoft will do to support the iPad in the enterprise.

The No. 1 request by reader Ickue? A native iPad version of Microsoft Office:

Microsoft should create an Office version for the app store. It will be a No. 1 seller and maintain the company's dominance in the productivity suite arena while also maintaining true to its core business.

Reader Ron Rynbrandt wants even more application support:

Microsoft needs to fully embrace the platform and provide more tools -- and applications like Office -- with cloud connectivity. A quick search reveals that one of the world's largest software companies has only five applications available for download in the Apple app store –five!

However, supporting the iPad may be easier said than done, according to reader Blankers:

To fully support applications running on the iPad, Microsoft would need to completely change the Windows interface, or make a simple way to interact with existing systems in tablet mode. Although I don't expect it, I'd rather see Apple do some things to support the Windows interface on an iPad.

Got any more gripes and suggestions for the iPad? Let us know in the comments below.

Posted by Doug Barney on 01/04/2012 at 1:19 PM


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