Unified Communications Nation

Jul 15 2010   10:49AM GMT

Enterprise pits iPad vs. laptop: Which one gets clobbered?

Jessica Scarpati Jessica Scarpati Profile: Jessica Scarpati

Image courtesy of Apple

A little skepticism is healthy, if not necessary to cut through all the marketing mush in the UC and collaboration markets.

The lukewarm reception I got from some users for this week’s story on the tablet computer’s role in a mobile UC strategy suggests that enterprises don’t want just another gadget. Mobility management issues aside, it’s got to do something existing devices don’t (or do it better). Apple and Cisco are marketing their tablets, the iPad and the Cius, as a perfect intermediary between smartphone and notebook.

Ironically, it seems like this is the main point of contention for some IT pros — the screen is too small, the device is too big, it tries to do too much, it doesn’t do enough. Whatever happened to the happy medium?

But not everyone is disenchanted. Telecommunications equipment vendor Tellabs has gone public with its iPad crush, and after talking to them for a little bit, it’s easy to see why. They’ve incorporated it into business processes (time to dust our old friend “communications-enabled business processes” off the shelf).

Tellabs is testing about 20 iPads before what CIO Jean Holley expects will be a widespread deployment across an array of business units — supply chain management, IT, corporate communications, and where ever else it proves useful. Their focus now is using it with the supply chain unit to process orders faster for Tellabs’ customers.

“[The use case] has got to really matter. It can’t just be a nice-to-have app. It’s got to have significance — where it’s going to matter to our customer base or something productivity-wise,” Holley told me. “We’re not looking to just deploy a cool tool [because it’s] neat. We’re really looking for it have a real business benefit, so that’s one of the criteria pieces that we’re looking for [in mobile apps]. If it can touch our customers, that’s No. 1. If it can touch across [Tellabs] and make us more productive, that’s No. 2.”

Check out this video they did putting an SAP transaction on an iPad app up against using the application on a laptop (the video is only about two minutes — and pretty entertaining). The user on the iPad completes the transaction almost three times faster (30 seconds vs. one minute and 22 seconds) than the user on the laptop.  You can hear the laptop user grumble about SAP being slow, though the referee is quick to point out that the iPad user was using the same system.

For the sake of objectivity, I asked Holley whether this is going to be a realistic expectation for users who don’t have prior experience using an iPad. Obviously this guy, who turns out to be an app developer in Tellabs’ IT organization, had plenty. The laptop user is more of a typical end user; he works in supply chain management, she said.

“We could flip [the users in] that video around and that iPad will absolutely still be faster,” she said. “We love this iPad because it’s easy to use that form-factor, it’s got a big screen, easy keyboard, it displays and navigates very easily…. It’s just a very easy-to-use device.”

This is all just ducky for operations, but does Tellabs see the iPad as part of its UC strategy? Absolutely, Holley said. Eventually, they plan to start using it for mobile video conferencing. Now, aside from the SAP app, they are only testing e-mail and Web browsing.

“Part of our unified communications strategy is mobility, so this makes our unified communications mobile,” she said. “We intend to put many more apps that can run on that device.”

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