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Why the iPad will kill the laptop

Apple just announced that they sold 3 million iPads in the first three months. At the SAPPHIREs in May the iPad was an ubiquitous tool that analysts, bloggers and customers used. At the Google I/O conference a month ago 12 out of 15 CIOs in an executive briefing had an iPad. I with my laptop felt like a “wall flower” amongst these cool guys (I need not mention that I kept my laptop in my bag, it was just too embarrassing; and yes, I own an iPhone for more than 3 years). The San Jose Mercury News had a report about a 90 year old lady in a Silicon Valley retirement home, who owned her first “computer” (she never even had a cell phone): it was of course an iPad, which she uses for reading books and newspapers (the first time for years that she has been able to read with her bad eyesight by just double-clicking on the page) and for creating limericks (in the first two weeks she wrote five). Parents with toddlers hanging around in cafés entertaining the children with iPads –or more precisely – 3 year olds navigating through the apps selecting by themselves train videos on youtube and little game apps.

If we believed analysts and techbloggers, then the iPad is as necessary as a rash on your butt. It’s “technically inferior” to a laptop or other not-yet-available-tablets/slates/what-ever-you-name-it (no USB, no camera, no whatsoever), the business model dubious (who wants to pay for content?) and to be honest Apple’s licensing models and control-mania quite frankly outrageous.

The analysts and tech-bloggers are totally right, but they also totally miss the point. A PC, Macbook or laptop is nothing else than a supercharged rocket where most folks just need a bike. A bike that’s cool looking, easy to use and learn and doing the stuff I need just perfectly fine.

Here’s the deal: I bet with you that in 5 years the iPad (and any knockoffs from other vendors) will be used by 75% of business users to do their work. And I have some good arguments why this will be so. When you analyze the tasks that a typical business user does today, then you’ll find the following:

  • Reading, writing & sending emails
  • Reading & writing documents
  • Preparing & presenting slides
  • Creating spreadsheets
  • Use web based business transaction
  • Surf the internet (only work-related, of course)
  • Play games (only during breaks, of course)
  • Watch videos (only inspiring corporate videos from the CEO, of course)

For these tasks you really don’t need a laptop. These tasks can be handled by a modern laptop without even getting the circuits warmed up. Sure: there are the folks who need to edit and number crunch video-files, compile source code and run multiple virtual sessions. But these power users are the exception. Today we give everybody a rocket. If this hasn’t convinced you, here is more:

  • The iPad is cheaper (compare a US$ 500 iPad to a US$ 1,000+ laptop)
  • There are no moving parts (that can get defect), which means maintenance is cheaper
  • Battery life on the iPad is just incredible (more than 10 hours watching videos, try that on your laptop)
  • Easy way of distributing, installing and upgrading apps
  • Laptop is bulky and heavy compared with an iPad

And don’t forget that the usability of the iPad is just outstanding. Intuitive, idiot-proof – sorry – user-friendly that even my three year old browses through YouTube and selects the train videos he wants to watch. And we are people who like to touch, not click with a mouse (and more often than not missing the click target). Even if you don’t like typing on a touchscreen, you can add a keyboard.

Test it yourself: take your laptop and pretend this is an iPad with keyboard. You type just as you are used to do it, and instead of grabbing the mouse, moving the pointer to the field or button you want to hit, you just touch the button on the screen. That’s much faster and way more intuitive.
For zooming-in just double-click or slide two fingers. And to browse through the pages and tab-strips just slide them left or right or up and down.

We are just at the beginning of how we interact more naturally with machines. And the iPad and the little brother ground breaker iPhone is a step in the right decision. Comparing it to the evolution of the iPhone in the past three years, the iPad will be such a mature thing in a short time, that all these critics today will be silenced then.

What does it mean for SAP? 75% of business users will be using iPad or similar devices in five years (remember: that was my bet). That means 75% of SAP systems will be accessed through iPads. You see the urgency? We better get going to adapt our apps to the iPad (and iPhone). And fast! And perhaps once in a lifetime we will have cool UIs. Imagine: SAP and cool UIs! In the past an oxymoron, in 2010 a synonym. I challenge you to prepare yourself for that revolution.

Note: I had a number of PDAs during the years, but the iPhone has proven to be the by far best device so far. Now the SAP (as well as corporate) culture has worshipped these phones with little keyboards that push each and every email on your device. That’s why broad ranks just haven’t realized the potential. The iPhone remained an exotic tool, while the users base just became larger and larger. The iPad now changed it. It is in the eyes of even the most addicted keyboard-phon-fans and it’s not going away.
A bunch of developers inside SAP just started a little iPhone/iPad developer group to get their hands dirty. Within a few weeks we’ve grown to a community of 200+ members from all over the globe with more than 60 discussion threads, dozens of local groups that formed teams, and we saw interest and got support from across all board areas with everyone trying to help us and if necessary circumventing official processes. The momentum is incredible and this kind of positive energy hasn’t been seen for many years.
Colleagues who visited SAPPHIRE this May just were astonished about the numbers of iPads and iPhone they saw in the hands of conference attendees.
So what I want to say is this: THIS is a big movement already rolling.

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  • it won’t kill it just like the PC didn’t kill the mainframe. it will open a new medium and for some uses it will be indispensable…i, too, am excited about anything apple…what a turnaround!
  • I would take on that bet, since I don’t believe the iPad will replace any device, let alone the laptop.

    Key thing is, Apple has intended the iPad to be a complementary device, not a replacement for anything.

    And yes, I can see many uses of iPads in a business environment, including SAP solutions (I’m thinking portals here) and I can’t wait to get my hands on one as soon as they hits the stores here in the Netherlands.

  • what a bet… in five years *lol* nobody remeber to this article in five years – you are a fanboy 😉 I think this pads could be an additional tool, but the can not replace a complex keyboard… can you fast typing with 10 fingers? If this tools can replace a classic keyboard for fast writing it could be replace the classic keyboard interfaces or all office assistants needs her own office to talk with her computers with voice commands 😉 Yes… you are a fanboy…
    • I see in the comments a lot of fixation on the keyboard. The iPad can be connected to an external keyboard, so that’s a non-issue in an office setting.
      BTW: I use a laptop, and still I have external keyboards at home and in the office. And nobody would argue against using laptops, because the keyboard there is also not ideal…
      • The keyboard is an antique input device. It’s loss is really not a big one. Everyone is just used to it.

        You don’t have to type on an iPad. Get Dragon Dictation for free and you can very accurately talk to your iPad and have it write down what you say.

        Mice and Keyboards are old tech. Gestures, touch screens, and voice recognition are the way forward.

        • I agree. I’ve seen reports about developments on touch screen technology that use some piezo-electrical effects to create a relief on the touchscreen, so that you can feel the stuff.

          Similar to this retina-glass for the new iPhone (who’s heard of that before and even wanted it?) we will definitely see a lot of innovation around that. Now that everybody is using it, we have totally different experiences and therefore innovation happening.
          And yes, why not voice recognition. The iPhone has it built in, not sure how many people are really using it already…

        • You mean keyboard is an antique input device and you can replace it with voice recognition and gestures?
          Please tell this an accountant, who has to post hundrets of entries every day. Please tell this a secretary who has to write letters and manage calendars. Plese tell this all the callcenter agents and the staff on this level …
          • Yes. My point exactly. In a few more years, there won’t be anything you can’t do without a keyboard and mouse.
            The challenge will be to get users to adopt the change. It won’t be a barrier of the technology.

            Keyboards and mice are bad for us anyway. That’s why things like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are so rampant. Gestures, face recognition, touch screens, and voice commands are much more natural motions for the human body.

          • I also bet against that.
            Voice recognition is nice. But imagine you are travelling by train and having to speak with your iPad. First of all you will disturb other people. Second, what about information that shouldn’t be heard by others? That can be information that are business relevant, but also personal information.
            I won’t speak an email by voice recognition to my girlfriend while 10 other people are hearing that with the highest interest.

            And in a meeting it isn’t that good, taking notes via voice recognition.

            Voice recognition is quite nice for the use at home on my couch.

            To sum up: I think the keyboard won’t be replaced this fast, because voice recognition ends up with some other boundaries.

  • I accept the bet, because I don’t belive that the iPad will replace devices with a keyboard. As long as somebody has to tell something, he needs to use a keyboard. To drill through the system an iPad will be enough.

    You say that 75% of the business users will use the iPad. What do you mean with business users? Management only?
    If 75% of the business users will use the iPad this does not mean that 75% of all SAP request will be through iPads!

    I think our focus is to much to the “management level”. We should think more about how to make better UIs for the “producing level”, that is where we can get more productive.

    • Business User: I am talking about managers, HR people, Sales rep, key account manager, controller, team assistants, purchasing, quality control, marketing etc. basically the whole range of employees of a company who today use laptops or desktops.
      Administrators, programmers and other heavy number crunchers will still need more powerful machines.
  • I agree, but I think the Apple soon will be just one of the vendors in this device class. iPad is just too expensive and with too much vendor lock-in.

    Pads will replace many laptops and netbooks – just because touchscreen devices are far more intuitive than mouse/touchpad devices. Maybe the next step to get rid of the keyboard is voice recognition.

    • Too expensive in comparison to what? A laptop? A desktop? Here the iPad is already cheaper and prices will fall once other vendors will enter the market (remember the iPhone history).

      But yes I agree with the rest…

  • if you wish, that all your employees watches you youtube or share photos with there friends, it will replace the business ours with privat ours at work… and what is with business system administration, what is with software distribution and maintenance by system administrators? I say, tools like Ipad can replace some parts of business but the can not replace other classic devices by a long sight. Not in the next five years, except in your business exists only web browsing and video watching… I aggree with the statement; make classic sap user interfaces more usable and more beautiful.
    • Browsing and watching videos cal all be done perfectly from a laptop as well, so that’s a non-issue.
      And a lot of companies already support the iPhone, and the iPad is basically just a big iPhone.

      However, I don’t see a use for a keyboard with the iPad, since you are constantly typing the keyboard and blocking the screen when pointing with your finger at the same time.

  • I think all of the comments about the iPad being for gaming or watching videos are shortsighted. And keyboards certainly exist for the iPad, they just have to be plugged in to be used. I think that keyboards and docks will be standard when an iPad is used at a desk, but when someone is mobile they will have the freedom to leave the keyboard at the desk. And people are not likely to be doing a lot of typing when mobile anyway. (But developers and system administrators and such certainly will remain with standard laptops – plus probably a mobile device in addition)

    My company has over 500 company-owned iPads already, in Corporate alone. Many of these iPad users are also SAP users. Mobile interfaces to interact with SAP aren’t there yet, so we are developing some of our own internally. We are still very, very early in the iPad’s lifecycle. I think that when the enterprise-class mobile software is available, iPad adoption will take off in business.

    But I also agree, Apple will be one of at least a few vendors in this area. They will likely remain the market leader, due to their commitment to design and interface, and I’m sure the prices will come down in time.


  • I’ve had a PDA for more than the past 10 years, back to a Palm IIIc, then just about every model between here and there. I now use an iPhone and recently got the iPad.

    Between my iPhone and iPad, I need my destkop computer for very little. As you say, 90% of my home usage is now on those two devices, and 90% of that usage is on my iPad.

    For work, I am in IT and really use the horsepower in my laptop. Actually it often gets topped out, and I wish I had a desktop. So for work, I would still need a traditional machine. But I do agree, that much of my work could be done on an iPad. I would only need the desktop/laptop for doing intensely CPU/Memory related tasks.

    Being in the BusinessObjects world, one major hurdle I see is with Xcelcius (Or Crystal Dashboard Presentation or whatever the name was just changed to). Xcelcius is heavily Flash, and the iPad will not support Flash. What, if any, is the strategy from SAP Labs to accommodate that shortcoming?

    • what is with power users und multi tasking? more sessions of an application etc.pp? I think for designers with an good interface such a tablet pc is a good idea
      • But how many power users are there? these are not the 75% that I am talking about.
        And the iOS 4.0 can do multitasking (it just came out this week) and looking at the evolution of the iPhone, we can expect a similar speed of evolution for the iPad.
        BTW: many powerusers already use iPads as well (together with their fast machines).
        • I agree with you, but the user interface of an ipad oder touchpad is not the answer to everything. It could be the horse power is great anough and the platform is independent and good dock stations exists… it can replace more pc’s … in all other cases it is a new nice tool but can not fully replace an PC. For example gamestations. PS3 or XBOX. We are fully dependent to Sony or Microsoft and we can not work between this platforms. If the platform problem exists furthermore in five yeras; some day the trend will go back to the root. For a lot of easy task it will be a good platform… for example for open web interfaces you can use the browser as interface. It depends on a good dock station platform to use it flexibly as mobile device and as desktop device.
      • I’m not hung up on multi-tasking at all. In fact, I seldom do it on my laptop.

        What I’m not sold on for work would be, creating, compiling and executing ETL jobs or large data extracts. Also, interacting with the UNIX servers I administer. My terminal won’t take input from a touch screen. Also concerned about the horsepower to compress or explode archive files for web applications. I’m just not sure how the iPad would handle something like that.

        • But Greg: you are a power user, a number cruncher. You will use an iPad for all the tasks that any other business user would do and you use a more powerfull machine for your number crunching stuff. But I bet with you that you will move your emailing, slide decks, etc to an iPad.
          When you walk in a meeting with your team, you won’t take with you the heavy number crunching tool.

          And BTW: who says that for doing ETL jobs you need such a powerful personal machine? Are you not starting and running these tasks on a cloud or a remote machine anyways? That’s what we do, and you can run a Citrix session on your iPad (ok, it’s not perfect yet, but it’ll become better in 5 years).

          • I do use my iPad for email, slide decks, internet, etc. I much prefer walking around with my iPad which lasts all day on one charge than my laptop which lasts about 2 hours.

            I don’t need to do ETL on my laptop, but sometimes I have to do some personal data analysis, so I use my laptop to do extracts directly to my hard drive.

  • I believe that when 3M was initially creating Post-It notes, they failed all of their tests because the sticky part wasn’t strong enough (compared to tape).  Then they realized that a stronger bonding agent (to quote Buzz Lightyear) wasn’t necessary.  Same thing with the iPad.

    I’ve had one since they came out and I enjoy it but can not imagine ever doing any meaningful work on it.  It’s great to waste time and check the occasional email, but real work?  Not for an SAP-focused guy like myself.


    • Nathan,

      i had my iPod in the drawer for two years before actually trying it and i have never stopped using it since. i quit Verizon after 10 years and can’t get enough of iPhone. it’s like drinking KoolAid every day…and no, it’s not a time waster especially when you can log through webgui, listen to iTunes lectures and podcasts, and check your account balances…i don’t expect too much configuration and development work done on it, but for pure web services consumption it’s a bullseye. u simply get ittouched.

    • “I’ve had one since they came out and I enjoy it but can not imagine ever doing any meaningful work on it. It’s great to waste time and check the occasional email, but real work? Not for an SAP-focused guy like myself”

      Which is exactly why new tools are required. If it is a device you like to use, and the apps are there for you to accomplish work with it, I think that’s a natural combination. Not for everyone, to be certain, but for many SAP users – inventory management personnel, ESS/MSS users, system administrators doing daily system health checks –  it would be a great device!


      • why stop there? to me, financial reporting and cash transactions are the ultimate goal…would have nothing to do with my being an accountant, sometimes…BTW, is this one of the longest threads or is it just me?
        • Alone the possibilities of navigating in BI reports, drilling downd, liscing around, etc with your fingertips (literally) and perhaps simulations by just moving key figures on that pie or bar chart just will be interesting to watch.

          I want my Minority Report BI app!

          • Blah Minority Report interface works great in the movie. Please go ahead and hold your arms stretched out in front of you for more than a minute.

            Thanks, but no thanks, Mark.

          • Well, I think you are limiting your fantasy for a new device to how I use my old devices today. And that’s a mistake.

            First when you use a white/chalkboard, that work very well (at least what I remember from school and university). Just replace it with such a Minority Report device.
            And secondly, if you place the device like a newspaper or piece of paper in front of you, it becomes a much more natural device than our laptops. Or are you reading newspapers and magazine with arms stretched out as well?

  • I have no technological arguments against any touch screen devices: iPod, iPad, etc. I cannot stand touching a screen with my “greasy” fingers.

    If a device doesn’t have a keyboard, I will always pass 😉

  • I dont believe in ‘killing’ basically I am a non-violent person 🙂
    So doubt iPad will kill the  laptop…  and who knows what Mr. Jobs has in store..;) next.. maybe a Voice Recognition (so no keyboard and dirty fingers 😉 to worry about)

    For sure its what most BU do…but if you analyze carefully the need to make sure they do it securely is also one of the prime concerns for a Business… unlike the case for people who use it for fun..
    For sure accessing securely over mobile networks is evolving and improving and will be ready for prime time in near future..

    Seems like we are going back to mainframe era in a way –that all the processing will be done on the backend but information will be accessed via mobile platforms but the need to make sure  to do it securely will be paramount with Businesses.

    Just my 2cents..


  • Oh, but I can’t, because the iPad is locked into Apple’s nice little developer monopoly. I can’t deploy across the business, I can’t develop an app for just my business…

    Yes the _tablet_ does look to be the way forward. For all reasons in the previous posts – but an iPad? Not for general business use – as soon as a decent alternative appears (later this year I think) running an OS that is more enterprise friendly (allowing application of enterprise wide policies)  then we will see business adoption. Until then, I wait for the headline that someone loses an iPad with some seriously confidential information on it   .
    I love the tool, but not for general business adoption just yet, in my opinion.

    • ” I can’t deploy across the business, I can’t develop an app for just my business…”

      Um, yes you can. We have developed and deployed many apps internal to my company. Others have as well.

    • While iPad is definitely the catch-phrase for this blog (and the iPad the only serious contender in this category available at the moment), I want to clarify that 75% of laptops/desktops for business users will be replaced within 5 years by devices from the iPad category.

      SAP’s task is to provide a platform and tools that allow to create device independent apps adapted for that category. Like SAP has done by supporting multiple operation systems, multiple databases, multiple UI technologies…

      • Yep.. agreed.. think this should actually fits well ‘Will Mobile Computing make the Desktop Computing Obsolete’..
        With the new Cisco Cius  seems like lot of things needs clarity on where we are heading..


      • i don’t see how SAP can go wrong by making the sapgui Apple compatible (on iPhone, iPad, and Mac). in my mind, it’s a natural progression to webdynpros.

        isn’t Apple the company that “leveraged” gui from Xerox and hasn’t SAP built on the code that IBM didn’t want (from Xerox)? both companies go back to the early 70s, taking totally opposite approaches, consumer vs corporate, but the trend definitely seems to be for both to meet.

        this is really exciting, especially after my getting connected to the backend through an app and via Safari and i’m ready to create tickets, left and right, just show me the best place to do that.

        despite all the excitement, i realize that this is not as simple as it seems, security, durability, and sourcing topping the list of risks.