RehabCare Group Inc., a private nursing specialist in St. Louis, has given out more than 8,000 iPod Touch devices to its therapists. (The Touch is an iPhone without the cellular transmitter, but it can still perform most of the functions via a Wi-Fi Internet signal.)
And when the therapists go home they're free to use the device however they like — to play games, send text messages, watch video or listen to music.
"With laptops we'd tell people, 'Don't take it home, don't let your kids play with it, don't download anything to it,' because as soon as they do it it's going to break, and they'll be calling the help desk the next day," said Dick Escue, the company's chief information officer.
"But now that we've adopted Apple, we tell people, 'Please take it home and put all your music and photos and e-mail on it,'" he said. "And it turns out that as a result they'll take better care of the device."
At the same time it is evangelizing about the business uses of the iPhone, Apple is positioning the iPad as a second corporate must-have.
At Hyatt Hotels, managers use iPads to showcase their hotels when they meet with customers looking to book parties or special events. If a bride wants to see photos of previous weddings the hotel has hosted, the Hyatt employee can use an iPad to thumb through dozens of images as well
as videos and information sheets.
In earlier times hotel sales staffers had to choose a specific set of photos for each meeting, have them printed and then put them in a leather-bound photo album, said John Prusnick, Hyatt's technology innovation director.
"Now they have a single, very light portable device that contains all of the images they could ever want," he said. "The iPad just seems to translate the experience better and helps us sell our hotels in a much sharper way."
Prusnick added that iPhones now account for 40% of Hyatt's mobile devices and are quickly catching up to standard-issue BlackBerrys.
But even with Apple's apparent advantage in hype and consumer popularity, the BlackBerry is "still the gold standard" for mobile smart phones, said Ashok Kumar, an analyst at Rodman & Renshaw.
Also, displacing an incumbent takes time, particularly in the slow-moving world of corporate IT. Companies are often contractually bound to telecommunications providers for long periods, and skittish about any major changes that could interfere with day-to-day operations.
"It's not the kind of thing that can happen overnight," Kumar said. Giving employees a completely different kind of mobile device is "much more of an open- heart surgery."
"So if it's a sunset for RIM, it's going to be a very long sunset."