Like Macquarie University in Sydney, Western Australia’s Curtin University has also been swamped with iPads, with chief information officer Peter Nikoletatos yesterday stating between 300 and 400 of the tablets had made their way into university staff hands since Apple launched the iPad in Australia in May.
Some of the tablets have been paid for by staff out of their own wallet, while some have been purchased for the university, the CIO told journalists at Gartner’s annual Symposium event in Sydney yesterday. “At the moment it’s in the hundreds … three to four hundred staff have iPads at the moment,” he said. The university has published a working paper for the staff with details of applications that they might find useful.
The comments echo similar sentiments made by Macquarie University CIO Marc Bailey in late October. At the time, Bailey said the institution had initially been responding to staff requests for the tablet on an ad-hoc basis.
But the situation snowballed and it quickly had to develop a more standardised corporate approach. “It became pretty clear within weeks of launch that it was going to become huge,” he said.
By September, the university had developed what Bailey described as a “coordinated turnkey approach” to the situation, working closely with Apple to do so. Staff can now order iPads directly from Macquarie’s Information Technology Services division. If a tablet breaks, they send it back centrally for a replacement — the same as with most other organisational computing resources.
Corporate Express CIO Garry Whatley — also at the Gartner briefing — said his company was also running an iPad trial, although it only had about a dozen or so of the devices. “I’ve found I use very little paper these days — I take it into meetings,” he said. And the CIO has stopped reading printed magazines, preferring to consume the media through the iPad interface.
Nikoletatos — who waved around his own iPad during the presentation — said some of the benefits of the tablet were that it was highly transportable, lightweight, and information could be accessed in seconds. In general, he said, he was seeing a trend towards information and applications being delivered through the web browser platform. “We’re moving away from fat client applications — the browser will be king in five years’ time,” he said.
Adelaide University has taken the step of actually calling it quits with paper textbooks — the institution will hand out free iPads to students enrolling in a science degree in 2011, claiming the new Apple tablets will revolutionise the way science is taught.
Nikoletatos said Curtin would love to do that — although a discussion would be needed as to whether the cost of the tablets was included as part of the fees for the subjects. “If the government wants to provide them for it for free, then I’ll take that phone call,” he laughed.
But not all is perfectly rosy in the iPad world just yet. It has become common practice amongst executives in many industries to transfer files to their Dropbox cloud sharing account and then view the documents on the iPad. Nikoletatos said the university was mindful of the sort of data that could be moved into Dropbox and the sort that it shouldn’t.
“Security’s been one of our concerns,” agreed Whatley. However, the CIO noted most of the problems had been alleviated — iPads could be “remote killed” and virtual private networks used, for example.
In addition, Nikoletatos said that while Apple was “an extremely innovative company”, it was also “highly secretive”, noting nobody was quite sure when the company was planning to launch new products, and there had been “about nine different dates” guessed at for the next 4.2 version of the company’s iOS mobile platform, which is slated to add a number of enterprise manageability features.
In addition, Nikoletatos confirmed it wasn’t yet possible to retrieve applications from individuals’ personal iTunes accounts if they had been paid for from the university’s purse but then left. “At the end of the day, it’s an individual’s responsibility to return every asset,” he said.
In addition, although Curtin had successfully procured a corporate 3G data plan which included a “bucket” model for consuming mobile data, Nikoletatos said some configuration had had to be carried out to make sure the right Access Point Name (APN) identifier was being used.
Image credit: Apple