Apple's New iPads: Built for the Enterprise

Apple's iPad announcement last week was good news for carriers looking to sell mobile services to enterprises, which will enjoy new security features that make the devices more business-ready.

But last week's iPad announcement was a bit of a puzzling yawner for Apple enthusiasts (like me) who pant and drool over every detail about new gear from Cupertino. The iPad Air 2 gets a speed bump and is a bit thinner than its predecessor. Both the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3 get support for Touch ID security and the new Apple Pay service. Nice, but not reasons for consumers to upgrade. (See iPad Air 2 Lets Users Switch Carriers Any Time.)

Touch ID support is the only new feature of the iPad mini 3 (well, it also now comes in gold, which its predecessors didn't, but oh, come on). It's otherwise the same machine as last year's model. And yet the new iPad mini has as starting price $100 higher than the previous model, which is still being sold.

That's why, when I ordered a new iPad mini last week, I went for last year's model, not this year's -- the configuration I wanted had a price differential of $150. I'm not willing to pay that much for Touch ID.

But I'm not the target customer for the new iPads; the target customers are business IT specialists. And those IT folks will love the new iPads, according to Charles Arthur, technology editor at The Guardian.

Enterprises frequently require their users to type in 10-digit passwords to access email and other enterprise apps. That's a pain for business users, who'll be happy to just tap with a finger to unlock their devices most of the time. It's less of a big deal for consumers, who use weaker four-digit passwords or none at all. Enterprises can also link Touch ID to custom enterprise apps -- use Touch ID once to unlock the device, and again to run a particular application, Arthur explains, commenting:

That’s certainly going to be important for Apple. With iPad sales having fallen year-on-year for the past nine months as the tablet market bifurcates, it needs to look to vertical markets and business for fresh growth where price isn’t so important.

Apple Pay, Apple's wireless payment system due to launch today, is the other big benefit for enterprises in the new iPads, says Arthur. Already supported in the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Touch ID support now brings Apple Pay to the iPad.

Android phones have had mobile payment for a long time, but it hasn't taken off, partly because retail points of payment don't support NFC payments. That's changing as a series of credit card attacks require US payment providers to support the "chip-and-pin" technology already standard in Europe (and Canada), Arthur notes, adding:

Apple executives have indicated to me that they think that their timing on this is just right -- and in business, it’s often timing that matters more than just technology.

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Also, mobile wallets require partnerships with big businesses, and Apple is brilliant at forging those kinds of partnerships. Apple has signed up more than 500 banks for Apple Pay, as well as major retailers such as Starbucks, PetSmart, Foot Locker, Walt Disney World, Duane Reade, Macy's, Walgreens, Petco, Whole Foods -- lots of big, recognizable names, probably including one or two that you shop at regularly. And Apple happens to own a big, successful retail chain in which to use Apple Pay -- its own Apple Stores, Arthur notes.

Mobile is a strong driver of demand for new carrier services by enterprise customers, who require more flexibility and coverage for mobile workers. Mobile also drives demand for SDN and NFV, as those technologies provide the agility enterprises need to provision services on the fly for new mobile applications. Carriers should be cheered by the new iPads, even though they won't run out and buy them for consumer use.

(And is that the UPS delivery I hear? No, darn it -- just my ears deceiving me cruelly.)

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to [email protected]

Kruz 10/22/2014 | 1:47:52 AM
Re: Sales down again I would say this was bound to happen, and not only due to a change in user behavior.Apple's pricing strategy is the direct reason why iPad sales are down. Pricing it high when cheaper alternatives exist and when a cheaper iPad Mini is released is not doing Apple good. The products are good, but far from being the premium devices they once were; competitors are releasing cheaper "as good" devices. By maintaining this strategy, Apple might keep profits somewhat high now, but will inevitably loose in market share on the longer run.

Mitch Wagner 10/21/2014 | 12:18:41 PM
Sales down again iPad sales declined again for the third straight quarter in quarterly earnings reported Monday. Tim Cook says it's just a "speed bump," noting that iPad sales for the first four years of its availability have been insane. 

The optimist would say that the iPad sales slowdown is really just sales finding their natural level after a burst of demand when they were first avaialble. That everybody who was going to get one now has, and the upgrade cycle is slower than phones, more resembling PCs. 

The pessimist would of course say that the iPad was a fad. 

My crystal ball says iPads and notebooks will eventually blur and converge into two-in-one devices. 
Mitch Wagner 10/21/2014 | 12:13:26 PM
Re: Ipad Mini The iPad mini will suit a category of users who want the additional screen space but don't want to carry around a phablet all the time.

There is no question the 6 Plus is popular. And that Asia loves phablets. But they're not for everyone.
Kruz 10/21/2014 | 3:36:53 AM
Ipad Mini with iphone plus being released, is there a real need for iPad Minis? Android phablets have heavily impacted tablets, especially in developing countries, where users go for the one device approach.
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