iPads have held their ground against challenges in the enterprise from Android tablets and Windows 8 tablets like the Surface RT. But Apple can still do more to maintain its lead in the mobile enterprise.
The Apple iPad has been a success story in the enterprise, flooding executive suites, knowledge-worker cubicles, field sales reps' carry-on luggage, even the factory floor. Now the iPad is under siege, as Android and Microsoft Surface tablets march on its turf.
[TABLET SMACKDOWN: iPad vs Surface RT in the enterprise]
But the resilient iPad is doing a good job fending off rivals.
A big part of the reason is that the competition-most notably, Microsoft Surface RT, which has been available since October 2012-has failed to deliver on the hype, according to CTO Aaron Freimark at services firm Tekserve, which helps Fortune 1000 companies adopt Apple products.
"A lot of companies were waiting on Surface to come out, hoping Microsoft would make things a lot simpler," Freimark recalls. "When they saw it, [their reaction] was kind of meh. This gave a green light to iPad projects that had been put on hold. We have seen quite a bit of business since then."
The Surface Pro hit the market on February 9 with mixed reviews. While the Surface Pro has great potential as a business device, it's questionable whether or not the suspiciously quiet about sales of the Surface Pro. In comparison, Apple regularly touts blockbuster first-week sales of a new iPad release.
Together, this means it's unlikely that the Surface Pro or the Surface RT will take significant market share from the iPad, at least not anytime soon.
The bigger threat to the iPad comes from Android tablets, yet the iPad appears to be staving off Android in the enterprise.
Mobile device management company Good Technology surveyed its enterprise customers, which include half of the Fortune 100, and found a clear preference for iOS devices. Collectively, iPhones and iPads accounted for 77 percent of all activations in the fourth quarter 2012, while Android activations dropped 6.3 percent, compared to the same quarter in 2011, to 22.7 percent.
Specifically, iPads continue to lead tablet activations with 93.2 percent. Android tablet activations rose slightly to 6.8 percent over the course of 2012. According to the survey, the most popular Android tablets are the Samsung Galaxy Tab followed by the Motorola Droid Xyboard, Samsung Galaxy Note, Asus Transformer, Kindle Fire and Motorola Xoom.
Slideshow: 15 Ways iPad Goes to Work
The iPad's success in the enterprise is good news for CIOs, too.
Apple has been steadily and quietly making the iPad more enterprise friendly. The iPad, along with Apple's walled-garden approach, is considered to be more secure than Android tablets.
However, Apple can make improvements for greater enterprise adoption, particularly in the areas of Apple IDs, Apple Configurator and app purchasing, Freimark says.
"If you look at what's in iOS 5 and iOS 6, you always see improvements that are really only geared toward business," Freimark says, "but they can do more."
Tom Kaneshige covers Apple, BYOD and Consumerization of IT for CIO.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn. Email Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org
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This story, "Apple iPads Get Green-Lit in the Enterprise After Surface Letdown" was originally published by CIO.