iPad 2 shortages delay paperless meetings

European companies, including at least one Swiss multinational, are being forced to delay a move to paperless board meetings because of the shortage of Apple’s recently launched iPad 2 tablet device.

Company secretaries in Europe and elsewhere quickly embraced the original iPad and a specialised iPad app called Boardbooks from Diligent, a New Zealand-based software developer, as a money and time-saving alternative to sending out bulky packages of board papers to directors each month.

Many companies, however, had been waiting for the upgraded iPad 2, which became available in Europe on March 25 in limited quantities, before making the switch.

Now, with Apple restricting the purchase of iPad 2 devices to two per customer because of component and product shortages, some companies have had to put their iPad plans on hold.

“In the UK the only tablet businesses want to view their board papers on right now is the iPad 2,” says Simon Small, Diligent Boardbooks’ managing director for licensing in Europe.

“Almost all of large organisations are now requesting their board papers on the iPad. The big problem Apple faces in the short term is meeting enterprise demand for the devices,” he said.

Apple, which has not explained the cause of the shortages, said: “Demand for the next generation iPad 2 has been amazing. We are working hard to get iPad 2 into the hands of every customer who wants one as quickly as possible.”

Current tablet users of Diligent’s iPad app and web portal in the UK include Premier Farnell and Brit Insurance.

Most companies waiting for iPad 2 devices do not want to be identified. But Mr Small says the problem is widespread and affecting companies big and small. The Swiss multinational, which declined to be identified but which is listed in the US, is trying to obtain 18 iPads for board members.

A UK-based global energy company is waiting for an order it put in on the day the iPad 2 went on sale. The company held its first paperless board meeting last week with directors using laptops.

“We have approximately 10 clients in Europe and Africa, who need around 200 iPad2s for board meetings coming up in the next month,” says Mr Small.

Other companies are trying to meet their requirements for iPads to give to their board directors by buying them “in one’s and two’s” in the US and having travelling executives bring them back to Europe.

Apple, which sold 15m of the first generation iPads, appears to have been taken by surprise by the strong corporate demand for the latest model despite estimates that companies will buy as much as 50 times as many tablets in 2011 as they did last year.

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