Will Managed Services Providers Let Go of Their Apple iPads?

I hate to sound like a hype machine but the iPad is seemingly everywhere in the managed services market. Dave Sobel sounds addicted. Brett Martin is hooked. Scott Spiro is jazzed. And Michelle Nelson sat down with an iPad during recent testimony before Congress. Who are these people, what's their role in the managed services industry, and why are they all carrying iPads? Here are some thoughts.

First, a little background: When I purchased the iPad I hoped to use it as a lightweight blogging device. But I quickly discovered that I hated it for blogging. The reason: I typically drag-and-drop content between multiple windows, and the iPad doesn't easily support multitasking yet.

On the flip side, I quickly discovered that the iPad is the ultimate "content consumption" device. I use the iPad to read blogs, newspapers, Twitter feeds, videos.

I'm addicted. So is my family.

My four-year-old son insists that we read him bedtime stories ... on the iPad. My 9- and 11-year-old sons play games on the iPad. My wife checks email and connects with friends on the iPad. In a mere 30 days, the iPad became the most frequently used computing device in our house.

Apple has a hit on its hands. But the iPad is more than a consumer hit.

MSPs Meet the iPad

Everywhere I turn in the managed services market, I seem to see the iPad.

Check out this quick video of Michelle Nelson, CEO of Blue Strategy + Creative Intl., a new media company owned by Anexio, the Florida managed services provider. When Nelson recently testified before Congress about small business and the recession, Nelson came armed with notes and documents -- loaded on an iPad:

It's Getting Crowded In Here

Nelson isn't unique. When I check in with Scott Spiro, an MSP in California, the conversation turns to the latest iPad business apps.

When I chat with CompTIA veteran Brett Martin, co-host of the Channel Happy Hour podcast and president of Exigo Group, we somehow wind up on the topic of iPad. When I check to see what Evolve Technologies' Dave Sobel is up to, he's writing about his use of the iPhone and iPad for business.

And if you check the Apple Apps Store, you'll notice MSP- and IT-oriented applications like LogMeIn near the top of the iPad best seller list.

Just a Fad?

When the iPad launched, I wondered if sales would go from super-hot to non-existent. In short, I wondered if the iPad was just a passing fad, like the 1970's Pet Rock and CB Radio... or even the Apple Newton in the 1990s.

Instead, iPads apparently are outselling Macs. Why? I'll give you three short reasons.

1. Reputation: Apple has a reputation for delivering products that work. When the iPad launched, did any of us ask the following questions:
  • Is it buggy?
  • Is it secure?
  • Is it reliable?
  • Is it easy to use?
Nope. For better or for worse, most of us assume Apple products are well-designed and reliable, even 1.0 offerings. Instead of getting in our way, Apple's software and multi-touch user interface open doors to new applications.

2. Applications: The iPad means different things to different people. For my 4-year-old son, it's for storytelling and online farming games. For the MSPs above, it's a business productivity tool. In short, the iPad is the ultimate Long Tail device. With more than 200,000 applications, the iPad can be anything to anyone.

3. Word of Mouth: Great advertising and marketing only gets you so far. But word-of-mouth about the iPad is generating a buyer feeding frenzy.
  • My sister-in-law tried our iPad and purchased one three hours later.
  • Cisco CEO John Chambers got on-stage at Cisco Partner Summit, and said the iPad was the first Apple device he absolutely must have for business use.
  • My 15-year-old nephew tried our iPad and started saving for his own purchase.

Limitations? Absolutely

The iPad certainly isn't perfect. It isn't a replacement for a full-blown PC or full-blown laptop. For me, it's not really ideal for creating rich content like blogs and FastChat videos.

But I agree with reports that the iPad is starting to impact Netbook sales.

Why? On the one hand, I don't think iPads compete head-on with Netbooks. But on the other hand, businesses and consumers have limited funds. The more money people spend with Apple, the less disposable income they have for additional computing devices -- like a netbook.

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TAGS: Marketing
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