In a move that would have surprised even the most ardent fans of Apple a decade ago, the computing giant has become the darling of the enterprise landscape – and in a big way. Through the iPhone, and then the iPad, Apple has positioned its products as a staple item within the world of companies, from the Fortune 500 to startups, creating software custom-built for the touchscreen and enabling businesses to successfully use tablets for tasks previously assigned to a laptop.
And it isn't just Apple that is producing software for the 'new era' of enterprise. A whole host of software developers – from Microsoft to smaller companies – have built apps for the iPad, putting an end to the idea that the iPad is simply a content consumption device and opening the platform up to serious content creation.
Companies like the Omni Group have created high-end apps for the iOS platform, selling OmniFocus for $29.99 (£20.99). Speaking to Ben Thompson of the Stratechery blog, Omni Group founder Ken Case said that "the lesson I've drawn is that it's important for us to build higher-value apps" which will ultimately be aimed at businesses or those who use an iPad as a productivity tool, not just a device to waste time on.
While it is true that the iPad is still primarily a 'coffee table' device, used for more casual tasks such as browsing the web or reading, there is a contingent of users who are starting to replace their laptop with an iPad. MG Siegler, a partner at Google Ventures, has been vocal about his use of an iPad for writing, replacing his MacBook Pro.
Elsewhere, artists and designers have taken to using Paper by FiftyThree to draw, and a whole wave of executives are now giving PowerPoint presentations using an iPad, as opposed to a laptop. However, there are still some who are sceptical of whether the iPad can be used as a work device – and Apple may be about to prove them wrong.
The company that has been pursuing the 'work tablet' for the longest is, surprisingly, Microsoft. Having laid the foundations with the original Surface Pro, Microsoft has led the way for hybrid laptop/tablets, creating a 'slate' with the internals of a laptop. The very first Surface Pro was bulky, underpowered and suffered from a painfully short battery life, but as a proof-of-concept Microsoft succeeded in proving that it was at least partially possible to cram a laptop into the body of a tablet.
Fast forward to 2014 and we have the Surface Pro 3, the "tablet that can replace your laptop" as Microsoft's promotional materials proclaim. While this claim may not be entirely true (I, for one, still prefer the rigidity of having the screen attached to the keyboard by more than a magnet), Microsoft has made some significant improvements to the Surface Pro, creating a hybrid that could replace the most low-hanging functions of a tablet or laptop.