iPad 2 Not an Enterprise Slam Dunk?

No one is claiming Apple can win 100 percent of the tablet market, but much of this week's coverage makes it sound like the company can come awfully close to near total domination.

About the most critical thing said among the flood of mostly gushing reports about Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPad 2 announcement earlier this week was that the changes in the new tablet weren't all that ground-breaking.

One example: "Simply put, iPad 2 may be more 1.5 to some folks, but it's more than enough to put the rivals to rest," said ZDNet columnist Larry Dignan.

More typical were comments like that of analyst Brian Marshall of Gleacher & Co, which the Mac Observer quoted as saying the changes Apple made with the iPad 2 are "nothing short of phenomenal."

And yesterday, Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps told Enterprise Mobile Today, why she thinks Apple will maintain a whopping 80 percent of the tablet market in 2011.

So, game over? Not so fast said analyst Jack Gold, one of the few to express disappointment that Apple didn't go far enough with the iPad 2, particularly when it comes to enterprise features.

"Apple to their credit forged a new marketplace because even though tablets have been out there for a long time, they made them easy to use, more functional and attractive," Gold, principal analyst at J.Gold Associates, told InternetNews.com as he elaborated on a research note he sent to clients this week.

"Up until now, enterprises have had the choice of iPad or nothing, but now the competitors are coming in with the opportunity to offer more of the features IT wants that Apple didn't include with the iPad 2," said Gold. "There's going to be real competition now." In his research Gold noted that Apple remains steadfast in its refusal to support Adobe's Flash. "This is a key differentiator for the Android (and PlayBook) camps that provide Flash support. Despite Apple's claims, Flash is and will be important on the Internet for many years to come," he said.

Gold also said he thinks competitors like Research in Motion's new Playbook, expected to be released next month will prove enticing to enterprise buyers because they can offer a much easier deployment scenario.

"Let's say, as a hypothetical, that Exxon or Bank of America wants to buy thousands of tablets," said Gold. "The IT guys at these kind of big companies that have BES [BlackBerry Enterprise Servers] realize how much easier RIM makes it to deploy new devices, it's an automated process. Support for Exchange doesn't do enough. The fact is it's not just the cost of the device, but the very real dollars it takes to deploy and manage these devices where companies like RIM have an edge."

But Gold concedes user demand could still give iPad an edge, especially if enterprises are willing to engage third party "enterprise enablers" such as Sybase, Zenprise, McAfee and MobileIron that offer the additional management and security features IT requires.

Gold also noted in his research note that "vanilla Android is even worse than iOS in enterprise manageability and security." But he also pointed out that iPad competitor Motorola with its Xoom tablet, recently acquired a small enterprise management software firm called 3LM to enhance its Android systems for enterprise manageability and security.

"Users may say they want an iPad, but in many cases, from an IT perspective, the Playbook or one of the new Android Honeycomb devices are going to win out," said Gold. "Let's not forget that the enterprise isn't Apple's first priority anyway. They have a corporate sales force and don't mind selling them, particularly in large volumes, but Apple's marching direction has always been on the consumer side."

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


Apple, tablets, Honeycomb, iPad 2, RIM Playbook