This article originally appeared in the October 2012 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY
The introduction of the iPad in 2010 has helped to accelerate the twin trends of consumerization of IT and BYOD. Over the past several years, companies have been struggling to solve a growing challenge: how to support tablets in a way that could make them not just a consumption device but also a productivity device while also maintaining security.
So when Microsoft (News - Alert) unveiled its much-anticipated Surface tablet this June, it was met with excitement but also guarded optimism. After all, other companies have launched ambitious offerings with the goal of displacing the iPad as the preferred tablet of employees and fallen well short. Cisco’s (News - Alert) tablet offering, the Cius, cost $750 dollars (nearly twice as much as an iPad) and was only available to enterprise customers through partner channels. Tepid sales led Cisco to pull the plug unceremoniously earlier this year. Similarly, the Avaya (News - Alert) Flare offered a tablet that could function as a unified communications interface. Adoption lagged behind expectations, leading Avaya to develop a Flare app for iPads – a recognition of the iPad’s dominance.
The overall message seems to be clear: Devices that try to focus exclusively on the enterprise without offering the same functionality or user experience as more consumer-targeted devices are facing an uphill battle. The reason is that iPads already manage to accomplish much of what these devices are attempting while fitting right into the BYOD mindset that has taken the IT world by storm. Consumers have developed an emotional attachment to their iPads, leaving companies to alter their whole IT strategy to support BYOD.
While the iPad is, inherently, a consumer-friendly device, it is not necessarily the most enterprise-friendly one. As Chris Murphy, editor of InformationWeek, put it: “iPads just don't work very well with a lot of legacy enterprise software.” And although it may be easy to use from a consumer perspective, the iPad can also cause all sort of headaches for IT professionals who are used to working with Windows-based systems, not iOS.
This integration might be the Surface’s most effective selling point. Surface has the potential to both give the employees what they want while also integrating seamlessly with existing Microsoft platforms. For those companies using Lync as their unified communications platform, it could also prove to be a major boon to productivity. The Surface, meanwhile, comes with that Microsoft infrastructure, as well as highly-coveted compatibility with MS Office and two cameras optimized for Skype (News - Alert).
Consumers aren’t going to let go of their preferred devices just because a company champions another product, particularly if that product is inferior. However, recent history has shown that convenience and functionality are powerful incentives for adoption. If you doubt me, think about how many photos you’ve taken on your digital camera this month compared with your smartphone.
It’s this promise that keeps executives looking for a device that can satisfy the needs of the enterprise and the consumer. Time will tell if the Surface is the one they’ve been waiting for.
Mike Sheridan is executive vice president of worldwide sales with Aspect (www.aspect.com).
Edited by Brooke Neuman