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Whether IT is ready or not, enterprise iPad apps are coming

Some skeptics say the device is unsuitable for use at large companies

Apple iPad developers have jumped to quickly adapt enterprise applications for the new device, even as some analysts and IT managers say they don’t find the iPad to be enterprise-ready.

Apple ‘s App Store today lists the top four iPad paid apps as related to “productivity” functions, including a word-processing app, a spreadsheet app and a presentation app built by Apple developers for $9.99 each.

Those Apple-built applications were long expected. But some third-party enterprise application developers have acted quickly to join the iPad gravy train with applications that are sometimes free, but will give iPad users an application to link back to corporate databases provided by those same third parties.

For example, an iPad app has been developed by Blackbaud Inc., which makes CRM software used by thousands of nonprofit organizations, said Blackbaud CTO Shaun Sullivan in an interview. Apple has not yet approved the Blackbaud iPad app for release on the App Store, but a similar Blackbaud Mobile app is already available for iPhone and Android phones for free, giving charities and other groups mobile access to precise data on donations and donors.

“We felt it was important to have a native iPad app as well,” Sullivan said. Blackbaud makes its money by selling organizations its specialized CRM back-office software, and expects that CRM vendors such as Salesforce.com will embrace the iPad as well. (Salesforce.com already has an iPhone app.)

In another example, MobileIron announced its Sentry App for iPad, which is now available for free in the App Store. It is designed for IT managers and workers to have a mobile command center on the iPad for monitoring and reacting to smartphones, including rogues, that access enterprise e-mail accounts. With the application on the iPad, an IT worker could identify and block access by a rogue device to corporate e-mail, the company said. As with Blackbaud, the Sentry App for iPad will work with MobileIron’s back-office software

Despite the rush to build iPad enterprise apps, some analysts have declared the iPad is not ready for enterprise use, partly because of security concerns.

Even so, those analysts recognize that the iPad will enter the enterprise through the consumer door, just as the iPhone did. As a result, enterprise application providers are trying to take advantage of the iPad popularity by building new iPad apps.

Gartner Inc. analyst Ken Dulaney said today there will clearly be some IT support for iPad applications “just because there is [worker] enthusiasm to support it.”

One IT manager for a large nonprofit group based in New York said he is taking a wait-and-see approach to the iPad for use in his organization. “Other than the ‘cool factor’ I don’t really see many enterprises uses for the iPad yet,” said the IT manager, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak for the organization or take a position on new products.

“I’m sure there will be some great apps developed for it, but I suspect it will be a while before it’s a must-have device … VPN support would be a major concern,” the IT manager said.

Dulaney said he expected some companies, such as Disney and Nike, will likely use the iPad to promote a high-tech image for their companies. By contrast, the nonprofit IT manager said because of the economy, “we are not spending as much on things just because they’re fun or cool.”