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Carrier CIOs Evaluate Business Potential of iPad 2

Top tech executives from five carriers across multiple lines of business spoke to Insurance & Technology this week about the enterprise potential of the new version of Apple's iPad.

Apple (Cupertino, Calif.) unveiled the new version of its iPad tablet computer March 2, with new features including front- and rear-facing cameras and a faster processor (the A5, replacing the original iPad's A4). Insurance & Technology caught up with several carrier CIOs to ask whether the new iPad made the device more attractive for enterprise use.

Judy Haddad, SVP and CIO, Patriot Risk Management (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Your company was an early adopter of the original iPad. How do the new features add to your strategy?

I think it fits a void that we were building toward anyway on the loss control/claims side. We had every intention of building our apps for the new one, utilizing the cameras and the speed and the fact that we can integrate sending things, including video and perhaps voice.

Are there features that still could be added that would expand the ways carriers could use the device?

Apple's a little short sighted in that you have to dock a iPad [with a computer running iTunes]. There's some thought that has to go toward making the iPad an independent device. I also wish that they would integrate the 3G with telecommunications, so if I am doing work I can answer a call.

Would these features be enough to fully supplant the PC model throughout an insurance enterprise?

I think we're a ways off from that. Our power users would require a bit of a transformation to us an iPad. You don't have a heavy-duty, power user app like an Excel. It's not fully transferable yet — but just like everybody thought Lotus was the best thing before Excel took over, better productivity tools could emerge [on the iPad].

Gerald Shields, CIO, Aflac (Columbus, Ga.)

Does the new iPad change the game in terms of how insurers could consider using the device in the enterprise?

No, most of the new features are more for the home user. Any improvement to performance does help some. We see both iPads as technology we will embrace.

Are there still features that non-Apple tablets have that Apple must bring to the iPad to make it more viable for enterprise apps?

The main thing that non-Apple tablets offer is extendability. The Apple architecture is really closed while other platforms are trying to be more open. Having to go through the iTunes store is another limitation. Some of the other platforms will eliminate that by allowing the tablet to simply connect to your PC and allow you to drag and drop to the tablet as another drive.

Graeme Boddy, VP and CIO, Builders Mutual Insurance Company (Raleigh, N.C.)

You have been outspoken in your view that a business-ready tablet could be a huge boon to the insurance industry. How close are we, now that these new iPad is available and competition in the space is heating up?

2011 is shaping up to be the war of the tablets. HP, Motorola and Apple all bring new hardware to the table. The new form appears to be seven- or 10-inch screens, front and back cameras, and dual processors. Unfortunately they are still not business ready. HP is simply too new, and with little market share or apps. The Xoom with its Android “Honeycomb” is buggy, and slows down under load. The iPad still does not have removable storage. [It] is much better that it was previously, but still is aimed at the individual consumer market. We are experimenting with dashboard and data visualization tools, but [it's] not yet as a tool I would put in field hands.

Daragh O'Sullivan, VP of life product development; and Peter Neville, director of illustration systems, John Hancock (Boston)

You recently released a tool for agents to create illustrations through the iPad. Do you think the new version of the device opens up more possibilities for business applications?

O'Sullivan: It would be kind of hard for us to envision how these kinds of features would work into our application or our business model and process. The great thing is, it's adding speed capabilities and, based on the price point, it looks like you're going to get more device for your dollar. That will push more people into saying, "This is something I'm going to use in my business."

Neville: People are beginning to use the iPad for this illustration purpose, and I think that as they do that they'll have the iPads, they'll think of other uses for them. But there still has to be wide adoption.

Jeff Weeks, CIO, PEMCO (Seattle)

Your company has a mature social media strategy — do you see something similar happening with another emerging technology, the tablet computer?

I think from my perspective it's getting closer to something that can be looked at as an enterprise tool, especially in the claims area. We haven't really considered it in terms of diving down, but that's more due to the fact that we have a lot of stuff on our plate, as opposed to lack of interest. Even 10 years ago we were looking at touchscreens and tablets so our adjusters could get more mobile. Something like the new iPad, that's more lightweight with a front and back camera, is getting closer for sure.

We consider it kind of a fait accompli that carriers will use these devices for consumer applications first. Why does it take so long for new technologies to be brought into the enterprise?

If you look at where these technologies started from, it's a lightweight operating system. There would have to be a lot more research from us on interacting with the other table-type operating systems. From my perspective, the first thought is consumer than inside applications. You put your applet out, and the competition is the browser. It's still considered more of an entertainment device.

Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, distribution, core systems, customer interaction, and risk ... View Full Bio

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