Will Lack of Exchange Support Doom the iPad?

I have been on an emotional roller coaster with my hopes, expectations and plans for the forthcoming Apple iPad.  At first, I got swept up in the Steve Jobs as a Mystical Shaman euphoria and thought this device would change the entire landscape of personal computing.  Once I came to and let my Apple hangover subside, I decided I was disappointed with some of the notable- and mind-boggling- omissions.  Like standard ports, a camera, etc.

ipad-300x195Meanwhile, in my never-ending pursuit of technological efficiency, I continue to struggle with my mobile game plan.  Historically, I carry my iPhone everywhere, and put together an impromptu toolbox when I travel.  Depending on the location, method of travel, length of stay, etc., I choose between my HP tablet (smaller, but less powerful), my HP laptop (sleek and powerful, but big and heavy) or my HP netbook (which I rarely use, but take on short trips sometimes out of charity).  Along with the selected computer, I take my USB wireless broadband card.  Since iPhones still can’t tether, I have to pay another $60 a month to ATT for this card.  Anyone see a connection there?

This approach works OK, particularly as I migrate more and more to the cloud.  But it would be nice to have less equipment, and to use the same devices everywhere.  There are still times when I have one device, but need something that is local on the other device.

So I started to wonder if the iPad might just be my mobile game plan in a box.  Much of the time, whatever laptop I’m lugging around has more horsepower than I need.  Maybe an iPad could replace all of my laptops, reduce my gear load and make me a consistent mobile user.  Yeah, that sounds good.


No, wrong.  The iPad is probably going to screw up my plan- and break my heart- due to three major issues.  Issues that will be the end of any hope on Apple’s part for corporate acceptance of the iPad.

What Good is It If We Can’t Read Our Email?

While I haven’t seen any final word on this, I am concerned that the iPad won’t support Microsoft Exchange.  Most companies use Exchange for their email, which means that, in some techy Groundhog Day twist, the very thing that kept business users from getting iPhones for so long will prevent us from effectively using iPads.

I hope- and Apple better hope- I’m wrong, and the iPad will support Exchange.  It’s one thing for non-corporate users, all of whom are going to carry some manner of cell phone, to spring for an ATT-subsidized iPhone.  A more expensive, non-subsidized tablet is another thing altogether.  The iPad needs the business community, or it will become nothing more than a better Kindle.

A secondary, but important, issue is what will corporate IT departments do to the iPad in the (misguided in my semi-humble opinion) name of security?  I had to battle with my company to get an hour password screen lock window on my iPhone (that I paid for).  Assuming the iPad does support Exchange, will business users  have to hobble their iPads just to read their mail?

I Want to Fracking Tether, and I Want to Do It Soon

It’s beyond absurd that U.S. iPhones still can’t tether- something my Blackberry did 3+ years ago.  It is unthinkable to expect those who already pay for an iPhone and a wireless broadband card to pay ATT yet another monthly fee to get 3G on our iPads (should I mention that the lack of a USB port makes it impossible to use said wireless card with an iPad?).

If I can get rid of my wireless card, and apply that cost to a data plan for an iPad, great.  But that will require Apple to include a tethering feature on the iPad.  And I haven’t heard anything that leads me to believe that’s in the works.

Which leads me to ask: who do they think is going to buy all these iPads they plan on selling?  Seriously.

And the Final, Word?

Lastly, the iPad needs to support the viewing and editing of Microsoft Word documents.  The business world is based on- and largely hostage to- Word.  For meaningful penetration into the corporate world, Word on the iPad is a mandatory requirement.

Maybe Apple will figure this out, maybe it will be Microsoft, or an app developer.  But someone better, and soon.

So Will I or Won’t I?

I don’t know.  If at least two of these three issues are addressed to my satisfaction, probably. Otherwise, I’ll probably wait for the iPad 2.0.

Or maybe I’ll get a Kindle.

Update 1:

John Welch, via PCWorld, says that, happily, iPads will have Exchange support.  According to sources, iPads will have the same Exchange-related features as the iPhone.  Kudos to Roberto Bonini for predicting this via Twitter.  John seems to be on my side of the iPad as a potential business tool debate, though he shares my concern over the lack of Flash, and my fear that IT directors will overstate the network-related issues.

As we learned today, the Flash thing  may be an unsolvable issue, given the Hobson’s choice between no Flash or no battery life.  All of this assumes, of course, that Apple is telling the truth.

6 thoughts on “Will Lack of Exchange Support Doom the iPad?

  1. I'm not really in the market for the iPad. I'm perfectly happy with my iPod Touch for now. But, I would not let lack of Outlook support be a negative mark for two reasons.1) When I'm on my iPod, I'm doing fun, recreation stuff and would prefer not to think about work.2) When I do have to think about work, I access my work email (Outlook) via a browser. I don't even have Outlook installed on my work laptop. We use the browser version for everything.I don't really think they are targeting business users. I do know they are interesting to people like my mom and mother-in-law who are both retired and have no interest in business use but would love a way to read books, use the internet on the couch, and update their Facebook status using the Wi-Fi in their houses.

  2. If I didn't have to work every day and had the $ to spare, I'd love an iPad, without Exchange or tethering.I just don't think enough people will shell out this kind of money for what would be a (perhaps) better iPhone and a (perhaps) more robust (or at least bigger) iPod Touch. That's why I think Apple needs the business user. If you can't get email via Exchange and you can't tether, business users would have to carry at least 3 devices.All of which means you may be right- Apple may not be targeting business users. But if that's right, the iPad will be a niche product, and I think Apple wants it to be an industry changing product.About the only good thing that may come out of this is free Kindles for Amazon Prime users (like me).

  3. But how many people do you think are going to buy this as 1. their only or main computer and 2. for use with business? I would venture to say this is the most personal of personal computer domains and the niche market it reaches will likely use their iPhone or Blackberry (or a laptop) to handle things the iPad won't do, particularly support for Exchange, which even some of my biggest clients get around by having their email forwarded to personal email accounts at home.Oh, and I read the other day Microsoft is working on an Office package for the iPad, so that should be along shortly.

  4. I don't think anybody who really uses a computer for anything more than light email and web browsing would buy it for their main computer (in no small part because of the Flash thing). But I think there are a lot of business users who could and might buy it as a laptop replacement, if it addresses the issues I discussed above. I just don't want to have to lug around a phone, a laptop and an iPad.Unlike many of my friends, I am still committed to desktop computers- primarily for dual monitors. So I have a couple of laptops I pick from for travel. I'd love to combine my travel gear into something with iPhone-like elegance, media capability AND (at least “enough”) laptop functionality to suit my limited needs.I don't generally create documents from scratch on a laptop. I just need to ability to view them, and make some edits.Now, if Google Docs were worth a crap, that would also solve this problem, but that's another story 🙂

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