First of all, let me say thanks to all you guys and girls for your comments on yesterday’s article. The comment thread is really informative and I got a chance to see the different points of view regarding the roles of business and IT.

Building on that, I wanted to discuss something else that I have heard about the iPad when speaking with Microsoft enthusiasts.

The phrase that is often bandied around by the media and Microsoft fans is “the iPad is a media consumption device”.

Sounds straightforward and on the most basic level, it’s true.

What’s more worrisome about that phrase is that it’s used to “attempt” to belittle the device and make it seem like it is much less than industrial strength. Note – I emphasize the word “attempt” because when a device sells 3 million units over a weekend, it’s really impossible to effectively belittle it.

“Media consumption” suggests that the strength of the device lies in it’s ability to display magazines, news and movies effectively. It speaks more to the iPad’s ability to effectively display “media” and not really “do work”.

In fact, I was at a conference where the guy next to me said (speaking about a Samsung Series 7 Windows 8 slate) that “don’t compare this to an iPad, it’s an Ultrabook without a keyboard”.

The underlying message was that the Samsung was more powerful and thus, more able to “do work” than an iPad.

I hope Microsoft is not thinking that way because therein lies the path to ruin.

To see the iPad as “just a media consumption device” shows a misunderstanding of the nature of application development for mobile products.

Let’s talk about application development for a second.

Let’s take an application we are all familiar with (Microsoft Excel) and use it in a simple example.

Let’s say a company is going to build a complex finance application based on Microsoft Excel for the Finance Department.

Let’s also say that this application’s requirements state that it should have access to 600 different Excel functions and macros for calculations.

Development of this application for the desktop and development of this application for tablets are totally separate and totally different events.

Desktop Development

When developing this application for use on a desktop PC, it’s safe to assume that since the user has Microsoft Excel on their desktop computer, the application will have access to the wide range of functions and formulas that Excel on the desktop provides.

It will also be safe to say that there are no battery constraints (it’s a desktop plugged in to the wall) or processor constraints (it’s a desktop) or screen constraints (they probably use a full size monitor) so the full functionality of Excel can be utilized.

Developing for this desktop application will reflect a wider range of test case scenarios because we have less technology restrictions and constraints.

Long story short, each (client) desktop user of this application will have access to a lot of functionality.

Mobile Development

When deploying or porting this app to mobile (a phone or a tablet), there are a bunch of constraints.

We have different (smaller) screen sizes to contend with, we have a weaker cpu, we have a shorter life battery to think about etc.

Developing for mobile devices requires a new way of thinking.

During the requirements phase, there will be a lot more discussions about exactly what is needed in the mobile version of the application.

Efforts will be made to narrow down the functions from all 600 functions to the most useful 60 needed for staff to do their jobs.

By definition, narrowing down functionality for mobile apps reflects the fact that businesses will not be looking for mobile apps to be FULLY replicate the full set of desktop application funtionality.

Rather, businesses will be looking for mobile applications to perform a subset of business functions very well.

So what could this scaled down mobile application look like?

I’ll use a couple of screenshots from a Mary Jo Foley story discussing Windows 8 business app concepts.

dynamics start page

dynamics start page


dynamics project approval

dynamics project approval

You have beautiful apps on mobile with limited functionality – which is just fine for the business.

Here is my point though.

The limited functionality requirements for mobile business apps will make the process of working very similar to media consumption.

You’ll have:

  • Rich colors
  • Web-based functionality
  • Finger swipes
  • Onscreen keyboard use
  • Limited Functionality
  • Intuitive functions

All the things that iPad users already do or are used to today.

Look at those screenshots above again.

Those screenshots look good on Metro but I can make the case that with Retina display on the iPad, they will look better.

Here’s the bottom line – the same attributes that make the iPad a fantastic way to read the New York Times will be the very same attributes that make the iPad a fantastic way to update a company’s Accounts Receivables.

Those iPads sneaking into the enterprise today will be able to prove their value as enterprise class devices tomorrow.

Microsoft know this – this is why a Windows Tablet strategy is mission critical.

The next time someone tells you that iPads are just media consumption devices, just chuckle.

You know better.

Once again, let me know what you think with the comments below.

Good, bad or ugly, I wanna hear what you think…

About the Author

Onuora Amobi is the Founder and VP of Digital Marketing at Learn About The Web Inc. Onuora has more than a decade of information security, project management and management consulting experience. He has specialized in the management and deployment of large scale ERP client/server systems.

In addition to being a former Microsoft MVP and the founder and editor of, he is the CEO of a Pasadena based online marketing education startup - Learn About The Web Inc. ( and The Redmond Cloud (

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  • Gianluca

    That is exactly how I think about it.

    • Onuora Amobi


  • Truestsoldjaz

    Windows 8 is a scalable OS. Whats to stop them from putting out tablets with better than iPad 3 display tech next year? Its not as Apple themselves makes that screen or owns that tech.

    • Onuora Amobi

      Nothing at all, the question is what would Apple’s screen look like then?

      • ECM2

        MOST business applications do not need the high-res screen of iPad3. Using a tiny 10″ tablet with very high res (e.g. to perform a spreadsheet or word processing task) is overkill and it can mean higher cost.  Developers have to update their apps to run well on high-res, less they appear pixelated, and data formats must be modified increasing their effective size. Increase size of apps and data files is not conducive for portability; it will only take more bandwidth and unnecessarily increase the overall cost. The sweet spot for 10″ tablet for MOST ROUTINE applications may be 1080p or less, but definitely lower than that of the new iPad. Having said this, it is different if a business plans to use larger tablets (say 24″) because then it will need the high-res. But then we ask, why do we need tablets for such a large screen when say a touch-screen PC may be the better option? Lastly, why would you give your employees an awesome tablet to consume media — so they can sneak up on you to watch YouTube, Hulu Plus, or Netflix on the job? 

        • Onuora Amobi

          Developers do not have to update their apps on the iPad unless they want to take advantage of upgraded Retina View. For standard business apps, they do not need the high res screen.

  • Djole94hns

    And you are “not” the Apple fanboy… Just kidding. But you must admit that iPad is really not a tablet to be taken seriously, none of tablets on the market today are. I see them as toys for rich people’s kids so they can update their Facebook status on a device that resembles a big-ass smartphone (that is how I explain about 80% of their 3 million units sold over a weekend). Both Android and iOS based tablets are actually enlarged and way over-powered smartphones. Android is a more open system, so if I had to choose I’d choose Android. But as you have written in one of your previous posts, Linux is too open and iOS is too closed, so it makes Windows a way to go. I’d rather prefer to see many if not all the functions I see on my Windows desktop on my Windows tablet, only touch-friendly, and with a stylus of course… So, my bets are on Windows, no matter what recepcion it recieves by today’s highschool (or midschool, or even preschool) kids.

    • Onuora Amobi

      I know I am sounding more like an Apple fan boy withy every article that I write but I swear I’m not. I just go where the technology leads…


      • Djole94hns

         I understand completely, but what do you think of my thoughts? That is my point of view about tablets, which is sad but true (at least where I come from).

        • Onuora Amobi

          I disagree with most of what you said but respect your right to say it. 🙂

          The jury is still out on what Windows 8 Tablets will support.

      • Djole94hns

         Yeah, and I almost forgot: not iOS nor Android support network connectivity (like Windows HomeGroup, or even basic Windows network discovery and sharing), at least not without additional software, while Windows has it integrated into the OS.

  • Paul Reichert

    You can’t simply use Metro style on an iPad. It looks really strange to have two different designs on one iPad. And you can get an overview about important information of many apps with live tiles.
    People will also be used to working with Windows 8 – on PCs and on tablets – and they will like it to use the same OS on these different devices.

    • Onuora Amobi

      Oh I wasn’t saying you would use a Metro style interface. Just that graphically rich apps work on both formats.

  • Richard Underwood

    One thing when looking at the iPad is it’s incompatibility with AD, so unless an enterprise is fully web enabled it is a standalone device. Of course this also applies to most mobile devices. No file sharing etc. One has to realise that the majority of companies are still using XP with server 2003. . The Windows Tablet is fully AD supportable thus much more valuable to the current environment.

    • Onuora Amobi

      We’ll soon find out more about how compatible with AD Windows 8 On Arm (WOA) tablets are.

      • Richard Underwood

        Although Arm supposedly won’t have AD capabilities it will have Remote Desktop capability. I really can’t see Microsoft forgetting their business customers. If so they deserve to fall by the wayside. However the Intel/AMD platforms will continue to provide AD support and likely will continue to be the main mobile device in the enterprise environment.

    • Onuora Amobi

      Not sure Windows 8 Tablets on ARM will be supported on AD. We’ll know more next month…

  • Joes

    ipads are useless tbh. 

    • Onuora Amobi

      I learned a lot from that comment.

  • Leigh Brooksbank

    I dont see that you can really argue the case that one is better than the other, bottom line is both products are tools to be applied to a role, different roles require different tools.
    For myself I am looking forward to the release of the windows 8 Tablet simply because it will allow me to condense my “tools” into a single product.
    As a service engineer I need a product that will grant me basic functions such as maintaining a customer service database, that is ideally simple and easily shareable with the windows based systems used in the showrooms. This would be used to capture and share information. To me ease of use and function are far more important than how graphically pleasing the display of this information is.
    It should also be capable of running the service tools I use with the products in the field (these tools only run on windows based systems).
    The way that I see iPads being sold, and the features that are improved upon on each subsequent new model dont really hold any relevance to the requirements for my use.

    Just to summarise personally I know very little about either product, I like to dabble and am currently running 8 on my service laptop but I see the windows 8 based tablets having the potential to be applied to very different use to the iPad and thus you cannot really compare the two products.

    • Onuora Amobi

      Interesting point of view…

  • ECM2

    Need some insights here. Why do you leave out Android in the fray? Google is trying to address its security issues. Most employees now own an Android phone (esp worldwide). What exactly can an average employee do with a $500 iPad that he/she can’t do with a $150 7″ Android tablet (assuming the security issues are solved… and they will be)? Is a $350 saving per employee not big of a deal for a company?

    • Onuora Amobi

      I leave Android out because Google hasn’t really pushed out a vision of what they want their tablets to do or to be.

      I may be wrong but I just haven’t seen that vision.

  • Rug Ratz

    I would be curious as to the applications coming out.  I work for a software company that makes client/server database applications.  The application goes on a client PC (or potentially tablet), then communicates to a common database (Oracle, MS SQL Server or Sybase) … for WAN distances, it uses internet connections to Citrix or Terminal Servers where the application is loaded and just needs users input for maintenance tracking.  Whether that input is via barcode interface devices, screen capture, keyboard or even speaking conversion to text, we see that future in more tablet and mobile devices as they become more and more popular.  I knew one Customer that had a desktop PC, but used a barcode scanner wand to input common words/actions via barcoded texts preprinted on protected paper faster than some people can type.  And voice recognition software is coming in leaps and bounds, that keyboard entry may be only needed in some extreme cases.

    • Onuora Amobi

      The barcode scanner wand story is pretty scary…

      • Rug Ratz

        Pardon my long-winded story, but my point was that input takes many forms in business and a tablet is becoming just another type of source input.  People that thought a tablet was only for personal media, can also use it for business input, just like many other devices also are used.  The walls are coming down on old mind concepts.  IF they can make the Windows tablet as “fun” as the Ipad, they have a shot at making it a dominant force in the business world.  But people are not going to spend $500 on an Ipad and then another $1000 on a Windows Tablet, if the Ipad does everything for both.  And it looks to becoming that way.  Microsoft is playing catch-up, but can they overtake Apple?  we’ll see …

  • Sbates1712

    another simpler idea for the sake of us everyday people as well as business people is have one simplied operating sytem but with individuality between the operators, which would make it easier on all the devices to be produced and manufaturers could get down to designing good products tailored to specific needs as well as our pockets. ok im a dreamer thats never gonna happen

    • Onuora Amobi

      Good luck with that…

  • Dazza

    Ipads may be able to display limited data as you state but as you also pointed out can only run a SUBSET of business functions. IE it is a display device for data created by more powerful means. This may be okay in some circumstances but having to run a limited application (App) simply because thats all it can run, isn’t a strong selling point for iPads (or any current tablets) for business.
    Small to medium business cannot afford to spend $1000 on a “Display” device, when for less money they can have a full computer.
    I have yet to see any Full business applications for the iPad, or other tablets.  I’ve seen subsets of programs that can display a bit of data, or link up to a real computer and transfer data, or link via the net to a server,  but not replace the need for external computers.
    The ipad, Android and even Windows 8 tablets will enhance some businesses data processing and display, but at this point can not replace business desktop computing. Windows 8 tablet MAY have the advantage of running desktop software? Will I be able to run my development system and database software on a Windows 8 tablet? Time will tell. I can on a cheap and nasty laptop with Windows 7.
    Like it or lump it, Windows has the majority of REAL software, especially for business and the enterprise, and it will be a long time before I can pick up any tablet and do my accounting, design, web development, data entry, media creation, programming, etc etc etc as easy as I can on a $500.00 desktop PC or laptop  running Windows! Cold hard fact!
    (Yes Macs are okay too IF you can afford them and find the software, and get them to talk to the network, and hookup to you peripherals and . . . . .)
    End of the day you can’t even setup an iPad without a real computer!

    • Onuora Amobi

      1 – Most mobile business apps will be focused subsets of functionality.
      2 – You can set up and iPad without using a computer.

      • Dazza

        We trialed an iPad 2 and HAD to install the itunes, on an old laptop and we HAD to connect to it, then connect to the net just to register and give apple fake user info and set up dummy accounts etc, and do a massive update before we could even try out the device. It was not able to do it without itunes  and an internet connection on a separate PC.  
        Maybe they’ve changed it with the new one but the Australian iPad is a brick when you buy it until Apple approves of you using it.
        Its still sitting in the dead tech cupboard as far as I know! (Unless the boss has borrowed it for his kids!) Too limited for office and field work. Not able to print easily and data entry was a joke, and apps relied on internet connections which is not reliable in many areas of Australia.
        The Acer (Android device) worked better due to its ability to connect easier with other devices and it open platform allowing easier app development without the extra expense of another Apple machine just to develop simple sub-apps with. 
        Now though, the Acer is used more as a transfer and display device for  now as we can simply plug in a usb thumb drive with info required BUT it too was near useless for any real data entry, processing, and real computer work. 
        Compaq $499.00 laptop works a treat. It has a keyboard, and USB ports and runs the full apps and links seamlessly with the server. Each vehicle runs a laptop, printer and can connect to the server when they want, but don’t need to be connected all the time. Saves connection costs and on hardware costs and more efficient. (Laptop and printer cost less than a basic ipad with 3G (The 4G isn’t compatable with Australian networks)
        In many fields it seems most businesses want more than a sub-device.

    • Assis Ngolo

      I’m a developer, web/graphic designer, hobbyist writer and entrepreneur, and trust me, I can do work on an iPad just fine. The secret? find your workflow, and set it up on the device, try applications that use services like dropbox, icloud, etc, get creative.And I’m not an apple fanboy, although I also have a mac, I use windows for all my more serious tasks (not cause macs can’t do it, but I’m just used to windows).But it seems like all Win8 advocates are trying to say this: Win8 tablets will run heavier, desktop grade applications and thus it’s an enterprise device.Because we can run the entire office suite…or visual studio, and develop on a 10″ screen or smaller? Seriously?We need to get rid of the concept that a tablet’s function is to replicate a PC. It is not, and it will not be in 2050 because as humans, we just don’t do that type of work on a screen that small, especially if it is a touch screen device, and if it has a keyboard, just get a netbook, it will be about the same size. IMHO, a netbook is the smallest device that should be used for full grade applications.A tablet is used for mobility, for tasks on the go, and at that time, server access or document editing is usually all that’s needed. Think about it, regardless of screen resolution, your hand fills the entire screen, would you want to develop your software on that? As a developer, I know that even on a full pc, sometimes I need more than 1 monitor. It figures that even if I managed to put a core i7 + NVidia on a tablet, I still would not want to run visual studio or MS word (as it exists now) on it and I would be upset if told that I had to use them.So, my point is, unlike PCs, tablet usability and usefulness are much more of a design issue, than a performance/turbocharging issue. They are supposed to be smart, semi-autonomous clients, not workstations or servers or mini PCs.

  • Daniel Gray

    In this I agree, I can see where a High Def picture would be useful in not only coding, but in getting detailed Autocad drawings so we can actually see what it would look like before it is installed. It would also give us a picture of what the machine would look like in the space we want to place it, thus allowing us to know if we need to move any duct work or electrical or water pipes to make sure no accidents happen. And it would also make it easier for us as we can show the intended operators exactly how the machine is going to run and what we expect of them (parts per minute ect)

    • Onuora Amobi

      Thats a great point. Autocad on Retina view would be sweet!

  • Ezekiel Carsella

    as a 12 year old who told his dad no to a new Ipad 2 which really is a media consumption device which any other kid recognizes especially when you consider the mass cost and Apple being forced to take out competitors with petty lawsuits this is just a passing fad and my prayers are for Windows 8 to take to the top. When i can not run sketch up or REAL word/office i am angry. also cant play most games and cant edit my own photos on sd card!!!! Expensive junk considering the 1GHZ processor compared to a 1.6GHZ processor on the average Win tablet. tell me Onura what your argument is?? 

    • Onuora Amobi

      Glad to see 12 year olds on the site as well. Your comment is appreciated.

  • Anubis

    If the article writer is suggesting what I think he’s suggesting, he’s wrong. If the iPad is not a media consumption device (it is), then it must be a media creation device, right? I don’t see any CAD applications, no IDE’s like Visual Studio, and no web builders like Adobe Dreamweaver. So what can it create? A few graphs? A highscore on Angry Birds? Saying an iPad is anything but a media consumption device is as preposterous as saying the Earth is flat