GCN LAB REVIEW

iPad: 10 reasons feds should be wary

Apple's new device might not be a fit

I’ve given 10 reasons (plus a bonus reason) why iPads would be good for government use. But everyone’s needs are different, and depending on what you do at work, an iPad might not be the thing. So here are 10 reasons why government employees might want to take a pass.

1. The biggest concern I have with the iPad is security. Adding more capabilities to what is essentially a mix between an iPhone and a laptop PC can be dangerous without addressing the security risks. For example, many people already know about the successful attempt to break into the unit via a command prompt. And I’m not saying it is easy to hack, but simply that this is a realistic and proven risk.

2. Another issue I have had with my iPad is Wi-Fi outside my home network, where I operate an Apple AirPort Extreme workstation. On the road or at other people’s offices or homes, I have a problem maintaining the connection after my unit goes to sleep. It’s more of a nuisance than a problem, but it's still a major concern for government workers who might not always have the luxury of working via an Apple router. Most feds will probably run into non-Apple routers, and the iPad seems to have trouble with them in certain situations.

3. My iPad is constantly dirty and smudged. Despite the fact that Apple put an anit-fingerprint coating on the iPad, the unit still gets ridiculously filmy. And if exposed to kids or pets, it only gets worse. But even with normal use, smudges get everywhere on the touch screen.

4. Federal workers, especially IT managers, might have trouble with the fact that there are so many consumer apps for the iPad that could compromise enterprise integrity – and some of those apps might be necessary. This equates to lost dollars and a lot of wasted time. You’ll likely need apps that are not standard out of the box just to get the iPad to do something as simple as print to your network, or any printer for that matter. The printing issue is a huge con that could have easily been avoided with a simple printer wizard and cable. Now feds will have to rely on third-party programs that are untested and likely not secure.

5. Another con for federal users is the upcoming need to add new software to fix problems such as the Wi-Fi bugginess. The iPad has hardly been out a couple of weeks, and there’s already a patch, which isn’t a good sign. Additionally, many of the other issues in this top 10 will have to be addressed in future patches, which can be annoying for the user and a nightmare for an IT administrator.

6. The iPad has applications that are unfamiliar to many users. It comes with improved versions of Apple Pages, Keynote and Numbers, which are part of its iWork suite. The problem is that despite their compatibility with Microsoft Office, most agencies and users aren’t familiar and don’t use these applications. Having used them before, I find them easy to use. However, I had colleagues with no background with these applications try them on the iPad, and they had difficulty getting used to a new computing interface while learning a new productivity software program.

7. The iPad's lack of a file explorer extends to Safari, the dependent Web browser. There’s no way to upload a picture, video or other document from within the browser, which is a huge con, especially if you’re as Internet-dependent as I am. I also found scrolling with Safari cumbersome because you have to press and hold your finger to the screen and then roll it down the bottom edge.

8. The last three cons to the iPad are going to require future patches for this technology to get past the early adopter phase, including No. 8: no multitasking. You never notice how much you multitask until you’re on a computer that doesn’t do it. It is the most frustrating feeling I’ve had concerning the iPad. It can’t do more than one thing at one time.

9. The last two areas of improvement hover around the Internet’s use of Flash and cloud computing. The lack of Flash support from the iPad can be a deal-breaker for a lot of people. This especially hit me hard because a lot of what I do involves interactive Flash-based Web tutorials. And go to most Web pages, and you will find a heavy use of Flash, thanks to its small footprint and ease of use. But you won’t see that with the iPad. For a device that’s supposed to be a great Web-browsing tool, that’s a huge negative. Flash-based Web pages and most sites that play video simply won’t work. And that cuts perhaps half the Internet off from iPad users right there.

10. Additionally, the lack of cloud computing support means that a proprietary network, such as a data center, or any Internet-based supplier of hosted services is incompatible with the iPad. Apparently Apple’s attempt at cloud computing is compatible with the iPad, but it’s seldom if ever used by the government.

About the Author

Carlos A. Soto is a former GCN Lab technology analyst.

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