Like many of my colleagues and “mobilists” alike, I watched with interest when Apple recently unveiled its much-anticipated iPad mini. The rumor mill, as always, had it partially right (display size, A5 chip) and partially wrong (the lack of retina screen and sub-$300 price, most notably). One thing is certain: despite the lack of the long lines outside stores that have accompanied their product launches of the past, Apple has another hit on its hands. As proof, the company sold 3 million iPad minis in its opening weekend.
While the device certainly makes a great holiday gift, the jury is still out on the tablet’s impact on the enterprise. Speaking to PC Advisor, industry analysts like Frank Gillett of Forrester and Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates clearly think the more portable form factor, smaller price, and access to Apple’s vibrant app ecosystem will appeal to many businesses who have thus far held out on the tablet revolution. Others, like Zach Whittaker at ZDNet, think the device will be a bust and faces serious competition from Microsoft, who is investing heavily in the dedicated tablet sector within the booming tablet market.
One comment that caught my eye came from Chris Kozup at Aruba Networks. Speaking to CBR, Kozup says, “The mobile market is growing at breakneck speed and the majority of people are carrying more than one device around with them – and expecting to be able to connect in the workplace as standard.” From a business perspective, it might not matter if the iPad mini is “right” or “wrong” for the enterprise – the fact is there is now a cheaper, more accessible iPad out there that will only tempt consumers to add another device to their portfolio – and it’s a device they might well want to do work on. And if the iPad mini doesn’t appeal to them, one of the array of tablets launched over the past months – Kindle Fire HD, Nexus 7, Nexus 10, or Microsoft Surface, to name a few – inevitably will.
It’s counter-intuitive, but I think the onslaught of new tablet options may actually give IT departments a chance to turn back the tidal wave of BYOD. If IT departments proactively take this opportunity to look at what mobile projects they might leverage the new device options for, work with business units to make the devices and appropriate applications available, and use an appropriate technology for cross-device development, they can get out ahead of employee choices. Otherwise, IT risks employees bringing in the new devices through the doors on their own and putting the department on the defensive yet again. The clock is ticking on that window of opportunity, and IT departments have to act quickly now to make a case to the appropriate business units and development teams.
The iPad mini is an appealing tablet, and it fortifies what is already a watershed moment for BYOD and IT departments – they can either stem the tide now, or get ready to ride the wave for a long time with applications that are built to take advantage of ALL the leading tablets and smartphones on the market, not just one.