Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Product Management - How to beat the iPad?

How to beat the iPad?

This has become a multi-billion dollar question. Several companies are spending billions of dollars to develop tablet computers that can beat iPad. But till date all these alternative offerings have fallen awfully short and iPad still rules the world.

I asked this question to myself, analyzed the issue in depth and found that iPad can be beaten & here is how to do it.

Apple's iPad is a torch bearer for the future of computing. Apple has indeed opened up the doors for the next computing revolution with its iconic iPad - the cloud computing. Ipad with iCloud is the future of computing, where you can store all your files on the cloud, do all the heavy computing on the cloud and use the tablet device as an input/output (I/O) device. The basic premise of iPad is that the user is almost always connected to the Internet, and without Internet the user has limited functionality for the tablet - viewing/editing/creating of documents and entertainment - listen to music or watch videos.

This essentially implies that the iPad is mearly an end user device - more like a dumb terminal type in the main frame era. (The main frame is replaced by the cloud)

Looking at the iPad in this format opens up a lot of opportunity for other players - like HP to develop solutions that can beat Apple in the tablet market as Apple & Android devices has several short comings when it comes to enterprise computing.

Virtual Desktop Initiative

You may have heard the term VDI or Virtual Desktop Initiative. VDI is an initiative to centralize all computing into the enterprise cloud and make all the end user devices a terminal to access all the applications. The users have to login to the enterprise cloud and then they will have their virtual desktop - i.e., applications that they need to do their job.

Till date all the VDI programs were centered around using the esisting desktops or laptops as the end user device. This option was expensive and gave a bad user experience. The corporate IT department still could not control all the data and could not ensure security, and the user had to use a mix of local applications and cloud applications to get the work done. This was not the right approach to begin with as there was no ROI for VDI. The customers still needed Office & Email applications on their local machines - plus the additional cost of desktop/laptop OS, and hardware ensured that this approach to VDI was an expensive & ineffective proposition.

With the tablet computers, VDI takes a completely different meaning & becomes a viable solution if implemented the right way.

This is where others have a chance to beat Apple. Essentially, Apple iPad is not designed for VDI and iPad is not geared for enterprise usage. Current iPad is designed as a consumer device.

So here are my thoughts on how to beat iPad.

1. Create a tablet with a strong built-in security systems.

All data stored in the tablet must be encrypted and connection to the enterprise system is always over invisible VPN. One can make the VPN connection invisible - by using user biometrics as user part authentication, and a private key authentication.

2. Create an enterprise software store portal.

All applications that run on the tablet has to come via the company's software store. Users can install generic general purpose applications - as long as it is pushed through the enterprise software store. Access to other open applications is not permitted. The enterprise software/App store can be a federated store - which integrates open app stores and enterprise app store.

3. Build software solutions on mobile Internet connectivity.

Today, most of the enterprise applications need to be accessed only through the corporate network. These non-web based applications must be rewritten or re-developed to be made accessable on the Internet, preferably through a dedicated apps. For example, the time sheet entry application should be an app on the tablet that uses the Internet/VPN to connect to the enterprise systems.

4. Build better Email client for the tablet

The current email clients on Apple or Andriod or Blackberry still falls short of Outlook or Lotus Notes in terms of functionality and user experience. The webmail interface of Outlook still falls short. Simply put, redesign and rebuild the Email client on the tablet to match or beat Outlook. The current Email clients are severly handicapped when it comes to dealing with attachments from cloud storage services. As users will have multiple cloud storage services, the email client should have capability to attach/link data from any of the cloud services or the local files on the user tablets.

5. Integrate the Office Desk Phone to the Tablet.

Today, employees have a cell phone and a desk phone. This can be replaced by a softphone on the tablet - which moves along with the user. This gives the mobility to the user without the use of cell phones, and empolyees can be connected via phone network.

6. Make Audio/Video Conference Calls & Virtual meetings as an integral part of Tablet.

Today's tablet devices have multiple cameras that can be used for video conferencing as well. To illustrate this problem, look at WebEx, to log into the meeting, I need to log into WebEx client on iPad or on the laptop, while audio conference is on the phone. This locks up both the phone and the Tablet/PC. If the audio conference part can be moved to Tablet, then it will be a big advantage. Video Conference is not very common today - mainly due to its appropriateness. However for company wide meetings, or all hands meetins etc, video conferencing - i.e., video broadcasting can be done through the tablet. In short, make the tablet device a unified communication device.

7. Make the tablets presentation friendly

Apple iPad is not really designed to making presentations, the connector to HDMI is not universal and is unique to Apple. Instead cut the wire and make it wireless connections to projectors - either via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to connect to LCD projectors or Flat Screen TVs

8. Develop a good Docking station

Apple iPad is not optimized for creating rich documents, spreadsheets or presentations. The touch screen user interface is good to browse, but not for extensive typing. There are few docking stations out there that extends the iPad with a keyboard, mouse & graphics tablet. This makes the device more user friendly to type without cramping your hands.

9. Make Databack up a thing of the past.

Since all the applications are designed to work on the cloud, all the user data stored locally on the iPad or tablet must be copied over to the cloud on the backgroud - without any user interaventions. Today there are few applications that do that on the background for the PC/laptops, the same must be implemented for iPads/Tablets. This will ensure that the users will never ever lose data - even if the device breaks down or gets stolen.

10. Enhance the Security.

If the device ever gets stolen or lost, the devices must get disabled & all local data is deleted by remote activation. As mentioned earlier - all the local data in the tablet, and all the communication between the tablet to Internet is always encrypted. But if the device is lost or stolen, then the device must have the capability to self-destruct all data/applications on the tablet when triggered. The triggers can be via Internet or on failed password/biometic access.

Closing Thoughts

The iPad/Tablet revolution is just starting. Apple has taken an early lead, but nibble competitors can beat Apple only if they cater to the enterprise needs - which Apple fails to do. Competition such as Andriod or HP or BlackBerry has to do quickly inorder to beat Apple in the game.

To win in the market place, one needs to integrate the tablets with VDI and create a strong business ecosystem - applications, security, communications & mobility.

If history is any indicator, Apple has in the past and even in the present has ignored the enterprise needs, and this creates an opening for competitor to sneak up from behind and win.

1 comment:

MPSchenck said...

As Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said during Apple’s latest earnings call earlier this week, “Today 86 percent of the Fortune 500 are deploying or testing iPad within their enterprises, up from 75 percent last quarter.