"It's not usually the role of the CEO to get directly involved in specific device decisions, but Apple's iPad is an exception," said Stephen Prentice, Gartner Fellow and vice president. "It is more than just the latest consumer gadget, and CEOs and business leaders should initiate a dialogue with their CIOs if they have not already done so."
Gartner believes that the iPad will "disrupt" technology use, as well as business models, in the corporate world. It has advised CEOs to ensure that the iPad is being "seriously evaluated" within their company.
At the very least, most companies should offer iPad support for a limited number of key users, the firm has advised. Now is the time, they said, to prepare a budgeted plan for widespread iPad support by mid 2011.
"Individuals are willing to buy these devices themselves, so enterprises must be ready to support them," Prentice said. "While some IT departments will say they are a 'Windows shop' and Apple does not support the enterprise, organizations need to recognize there are soft benefits in a device of this type in the quest to improve recruitment and retention. Technology is not always about productivity."
Gartner has also recommended CEOs talk with marketing and product development teams to detail how the iPad could be used not only by the company, but also by competitors. It noted that the iPad is a "valuable companion device" to notebook PCs that is likely to disrupt the business models and markets of many enterprises.
The firm noted that competitors, such as Research in Motion and Samsung, have announced their own competitors to the iPad. But Gartner believes that Apple has a head start and a competitive advantage, and that the iPad is "well ahead of the pack," Prentice said.
"While there are no certainties, the iPad looks set to become a market-disrupting device, like the iPod before it," Prentice said. "Even if you think it is just a passing fad, the cost of early action is low, while the price of delay may well be extremely high."
In August, The Wall Street Journal noted that corporate IT departments were relaxing their rules to allow Apple's iPad to find use at their companies. IT directors said they were willing to allow the iPad because it is based on the established iOS mobile operating system, and because the touchscreen tablet is relatively cheap and increases employee productivity.
In Apple's most recent earnings report, Chief Executive Steve Jobs highlighted the growth potential for the iPad in a market that is in its infancy. He and other executives noted they have been surprised, in particular, at how fast the iPad has been adopted in the corporate sector.
The company also revealed that more than 65 percent of companies on the Fortune 100 are already deploying or trying the iPad, including Procter & Gamble, Lowes, NBC Universal and Hyatt.
"We've got a tiger by the tail here, and this is a new model of computer which we've already got tens of millions of people trained on with the iPhone," Jobs said. "And that lends itself to lots of different aspects of life, both personal and business."