MicroStrategy has iPads to spare

MicroStrategy has iPads to spare

Business intelligence company lends to customers for demonstrations

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,” MicroStrategy Australia and New Zealand vice-president, Patrick Elliott, said. “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 2000-strong international workforce with the devices.

Elliott said 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 claims the iPad is better at than a laptop.

“I don’t think we’ll get to 100 per cent 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 was 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 was likely that some staff would 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 said 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.

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