The Apple iPad has been on the market for about 15 months now, long enough even for the second iteration (creatively called "iPad2"). From the first days of its release, there has been a buzz about what its place might be in the corporate environment. Just this last quarter I have seen articles about the iPad replacing flight manuals in Alaska Airlines cockpits, finding its way on to the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, and even into some hospital operating rooms. (Can you imagine a cardiologist searching for an app that does by-pass surgery??)
All of that is very interesting, but how will your company integrate the iPad into its own environment?
As you would expect, the answers to that question will vary widely. But there are some specific integrations that will be common to the majority of companies embracing the iPad.
1. Email - A hallmark of the iPad is its wonderfully simple yet elegant email interface. Since most companies use Microsoft Exchange, your IT department will use the "Webmail" functionality to import messages directly into your mail application. Microsoft Webmail is the same tool that allows you to access your corporate email from any web browser. The downside for your information security team is that you will also be able to integrate your own personal email (GMail, Yahoo, POP, IMAP, etc) into your iPad without breaking a sweat.
2. Your own corporate desktop - There is a big trend today towards desktop virtualization. Without giving you a long, technical explanation, desktop virtualization is basically moving the processing and storage functions of a PC into a large server in your corporate data center. You still have a monitor, mouse, and keyboard, but you are connecting over the network to the data center for all of your dynamic computing.
There are a number of companies that create virutalization software, the most well known being Citrix and VMWare. Citrix has built an app (downloadable from the App Store) called "Citrix Receiver". This application takes your desktop image and puts it directly onto the iPad. You could literally be working on your office PC, pick up your iPad and log into Receiver, and watch your image disappear on PC and re-appear on your iPad exactly as you had left it.
If you don't have a virtualized desktop, you can use an application called "Log Me In - Ignition". It works very similar to Citrix Receiver but does not require any special changes within the data center.
3. Web Enabled Applications - If your company has created/deployed web based applications (you access them through a web browser), you'll have direct access to them through the Safari browser on the iPad.
4. App Store - Apple has recently started allowing companies to create applications that are specific to their own needs and store them within the App Store. If employees need the programs, they can pull them down directly from the there while non-authorized personnel will never even know they are there. As you might expect, the thought of putting corporate intellectual property on the App Store causes indigestion for more than a few IT professionals. But given that there was NO way to deploy internal content previously, this is a big step.
There are many other ways that the iPad is used in the corporate, military, and healthcare environments. The examples above should give you a good introduction of what your IT department is likely doing to make the device available to you.