Want an iPad? Borrow one from MicroStrategy


Software giants like IBM and Microsoft might shortly find themselves starting to lose staff to their much smaller business intelligence rival MicroStrategy. The reason? The company is swamped with Apple iPads, according to the chief of its Australian division — and it’s lending them to customers for demos.

“The iPad has really taken us like a wave,” said MicroStrategy Australia and New Zealand vice president Patrick Elliott in an interview last week. “In just over two months, we’ve already got more iPads in Australia than we do employees.”

The trend is being mirrored globally in the business intelligence software vendor’s operations — over the past two months the company has outfitted more than half of its total 2,000-strong international workforce with the devices.

Elliott says the company is using the iPad for a variety of purposes. For starters its staff are increasingly using the hyped Apple tablet as a laptop replacement. Much of the work that its staff members do is involved in consuming information through a screen, rather than creating it — a function Elliott says the iPad is better at than a laptop.

“I don’t think we’ll get to 100 percent replacement, but in terms of utilisation, I think the iPads are being used already more than laptops, in most cases, especially for the sales force, who are always on the road,” he said, noting the reaction from staff has been “euphoric”.

The company is also using the tablet for demonstration purposes, with its sales team taking iPads out on the road with its business intelligence software loaded. The tools have been rewritten to run on the Apple tablet.

Ellliott said it’s even common for MicroStrategy to loan the devices to customers to assist with their evaluation of MicroStrategy’s solutions. “We’ll walk in and show them that it’s loaded, and we’ll say: ‘Well, by the way, if you want to keep this for a week, you can’,” he said. MicroStrategy can even pre-load the customer’s own data onto the tablet as part of the demo.

“They’re incredulous.”

The executive said staff at some customers get jealous if they find out their colleagues have been loaned an iPad to trial while they haven’t.

Over time, the MicroStrategy chief said it’s likely that some staff will truly replace their laptops and desktop machines with iPads — especially as more functionality is built into the devices around content creation rather than just consumption.

He also believes the onset of tablet devices will delay the need to upgrade laptops. Most businesses in Australia use a three to five year refresh cycle for their desktop PC equipment, but Elliott believes this could extend out as the iPad is used more and more.

MicroStrategy isn’t the only large software company to be rolling out iPads to staff. Much larger rival SAP in September said it would be deploying some 17,000 iPads to staff globally, while in Australia education departments around the nation are known to be deploying the tablet in trials.

Video credit: Delimiter


  1. I wonder if they read Alan Kohlers experiences trying to use the iPad as a laptop replacement before diving in headlong: http://abcaustralia.com/news/stories/2010/08/02/2970512.htm – Alan also notes the difficultly in using this tablet for content creation (vs. consumption). I bet staff would have been ‘euphoric’ if they’d been given a Nintendo Wii in the months after it’s launch too. It would be interesting to check back in two years and see just where the iPad (or it’s next gen competitors) ends up being used routinely and where the laptop has found it’s way back into their workflows.

    • Personally I have been very surprised over the past few months to witness the intense corporate interest in the iPad. I certainly don’t think it’s a laptop replacement yet — although with a decent Bluetooth keyboard, mouse and stand it certainly could become one for many users — however, I do think many people are viewing it as a replacement for paper — for scrawling notes etc. And as a platform for quickly demoing something in a meeting on the web, it’s unsurpassed.

  2. I agree with the sentiment, and my experience bears this out. Actually in terms of content creation, this device is no slouch. I create and deliver presentations from it all the time, and have used the Pages (word processor) and Numbers (spreadsheet) apps superficially.

    When I travel, I really don’t need my laptop any more for anything less taxing than video editing, and I rarely edit video on the road. There is a lot to be said for 12 hours battery life, instant on, and ubiquitous connectivity.

    If I had a bluetooth keyboard, I think my content creation (blogs, emails, docs, spreadsheets) would increase even more.

    I can easily see a future where orgs have some form of terminal services in the cloud for processor intensive tasks (compiling, video rendering etc) and to support a “windows” desktop, and then cheap iPads for their staff. This would totally replace the need for PC upgrades at all.

    Interesting strategy

    • I agree, and this is what is driving me to look at an iPad purchase as well — the fact that businesses seem to be adopting the device in droves rather quickly. It’s something I hadn’t expected.

      One thing does worry me about the iPad, though. You still can’t install your own applications on it. It is a locked down platform tied to the App Store. For this reason, I don’t see it as a worthy laptop successor. It’s simply not open enough. Having said that, the next generation of Android tablets will likely replicate all of the iPad functionality in a much more open platform — so that is likely to be the killer platform.

      • Renai, although not widely known, there is the ability to install content on the ipad without going through the appstore. Basically you can drag and drop files, photos, presentations, etc… to I-tunes and then whilst connected (wired) to the Ipad, perform a synchronisation. We have loaded our Ipads with Sales presentations, Videos and client case studies in this manner.

        • Ah, interesting — I had assumed you could do something similar, but I wasn’t sure of the exact mechanics of it. Can you do something similar with enterprise apps though? Or do they still have to go through the App Store?

  3. @Patrick: I think Renai was referring to software, not content. You can install your own software on the iPad if you: a) Pay Apple for keys so you can deploy in-house apps b) Put your app on the App Store [no always possible] c) Jailbreak the device. So it can be done, but they go out of their way to make it difficult.

    @Renai: On Android tablets – I agree that because these will be more flexible, they may become the platform of choice in the longer term, but I wouldn’t count on it for the first generation of Android tablets. Google has stated that Android 2.2 isn’t ready for tablets, yet manufacturers are barging on ahead nonetheless. We will have to wait for Android 3.0, and for third party developers to get their act together on the platform before the Android tablets will be slick enough to properly compete with the iPad. But I’d love to be proved wrong.

    • Well the jury is still out on the Android tablets — hard to tell at this stage. The entry of the Galaxy Tab into the Australian market will probably be one of the first benchmarks there. But I am pretty optimistic about them — as I am about the potential for a Windows Phone 7 tablet. The WP7 interface is stellar, and I think it would translate well into the tablet form factor.

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