Tablets in the Enterprise

Feature Story

Tablets in the Enterprise

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, IP Communications Magazines  |  April 01, 2011

This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY.

If you already have a tablet, you probably love the big screen and ease of use it delivers, not to mention the bragging rights you have as a result of owning the latest, greatest and most coveted consumer electronics device currently on the market. If you don’t have one, chances are good that you’re considering buying one, or at least dreaming about it. But while the tablet is definitely considered a fun new gadget, many users are enjoying this tool for a lot more than watching movies and playing games. Increasingly, the tablet is becoming an important tool for business.

John Herrema, senior vice president of corporate strategy technology at Good Technology (News - Alert), which provides medium and large enterprises with servers that enable secure access to messaging systems, address books, calendars, contacts, and the Internet, says in the fourth quarter more than 20 percent of his company’s activations were on iPads, up from zero in May of 2010.

“So enterprise end customers are rapidly embracing and adopting these devices,” he says, adding that one in four devices that Good currently activates are tablets. Next year, he adds, Good expects tablets to account for 30 percent of its activations.

 The Forecast

Whether the purchase is for personal, work or a combination of uses, tablets are seeing strong growth in sales.

About 10.3 million tablets flew off the shelves in the U.S. last year, according to Forrester (News - Alert) Research, which recently more than doubled its long-term sales forecast for these devices.

The firm now expects tablet sales of 24.1 million units this year. In the following four years Forrester Research says we should see somewhere in the neighborhood of 35.1 million, 39.8 million, 42.3 million and then 44 million units sold.

The Yankee Group predicts that the tablet market will reach $45.9 billion by 2014.

Goldman, meanwhile, expects tablets to grow 224 percent in 2011. That’s compared to a paltry 6 percent growth rate in the overall PC market, according to the company, which says that tablets are cannibalizing the notebook market.

It should come as no surprise that the iPad – the Apple device that resurrected the tablet and turned it into a mass market phenomenon – rules the roost. According to ABI Research (News - Alert), the iPad accounted for 4.2 million of the 4.5 million tablets in the third quarter of 2010. Reports indicate that the only other tablet on the market last year that rung up significant sales was the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

The Competition

Fast forward two quarters and a month and you can see that many consumer electronics companies have brought new tablets to market, or are readying to do so.

Research in Motion (News - Alert), which rocked the business communications market years ago with the introduction of the BlackBerry, now sells a line of tablets under the name PlayBook. And the company announced two new tablet models, supporting LTE and HSPA+ wireless broadband, in February at Mobile World Congress.

The products allow for real-time multitasking, offer symmetrical multiprocessing, support Adobe Flash and HD multimedia, and include advanced security features and out-of-the-box enterprise support.

"The BlackBerry PlayBook tablet is already being widely recognized for its superior performance, rich web experience, enterprise readiness and deep support for web standards and open development tools. We are now building on the BlackBerry PlayBook’s many advantages with support for additional 4G networks that will allow enhanced business opportunities for carriers and developers and unparalleled mobile experiences for users," said Mike Lazaridis, President and Co-CEO at Research in Motion.

The widely anticipated Xoom tablet from Motorola Mobility Inc. also has recently come onto the market. This is the first Android (News - Alert) tablet based on Google’s new Honeycomb operating system, which was designed specifically for tablet implementations.

The Xoom has been lauded for its very responsive touch screen and HDMI output for computer and TV viewing. Some have criticized the device, however, for its lack of support for Flash video, complicated user interface and the lack of strong apps for its OS.

Motorola Mobility had not released sales numbers for the device as of press time, but CEO Sanjay Jha was been quoted as saying that Xoom sales were off to a good start a week following the product’s release.

Meanwhile, Cisco Systems Inc., which doesn’t seem to overlook any opportunity on the communications solutions front, is planning to come out with a tablet as well.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Cisco announced plans for a 4G version of the Cisco Cius tablet for use on the Verizon Wireless LTE network. The new device, slated for availability starting this spring, seems to be squarely aimed at business users.

"Enterprises have come to know they can rely on Cisco and Verizon Wireless to put the business communication and collaboration tools they need in their hands,” says Janet Schijns, vice president of the business solutions group at Verizon Wireless. “Together we're taking the next step with the combination of the Cisco Cius mobile collaboration tablet and Verizon Wireless' 4G LTE network. Collaboration delivered over 4G LTE will be a whole new level of access for enterprise users."

Steve Slattery, vice president and general manager for the IP communications business unit at Cisco, adds: "Knowledge workers are no longer tethered to a desk, and they require mobile devices to enable communications, collaboration and a computing solution in a form factor that is sanctioned by the IT organization. The Cisco Cius, running on the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE network, addresses just that and is optimized to deliver a superior experience for business productivity."

Of course, this is just a small selection of the vendors and tablets now on the market.

The Applications

So exactly how are business people using tablets today, and how are they expected to leverage them in the future?

A ChangeWave survey of 1,641 business IT buyers indicates that 73 percent business users leverage their tablets to check e-mail and access the Internet. Forty six percent use them for sales support and 45 percent leverage tablets to do presentations for customers.

The survey goes on to say that 7 percent of those polled indicated their company provides workers with tablets; 14 percent of those surveyed planned to buy tablets during the first quarter of 2011; 78 percent of them planned to buy iPads, and of those that already had tablets; 82 percent of them own iPads.

It’s not surprising that most workers use tablets in the same way as they would use a laptop. But the touch screens, high-quality visual experiences and more user-friendly form factors of tablets also make them a nice match for use while presenting to potential clients on the floor of a trade show, while moving room to room within a hospital, or, really, anyplace where employees are on the move and need an easy to use and lightweight tool to enter and access information.

Some businesses also are considering leveraging tablets to heighten the experiences of their customers.

For example, Research in Motion has talked about the idea of a hotel providing PlayBooks to guests, so those customers won’t have to lug their laptops during their visits. At the same time, the tablet could serve as a means through which the hotel could provide information about its services to the guests.

In announcing the Cius/Verizon Wireless 4G news, Praveen Akkiraju, senior vice president and general manager at the service routing technology group at Cisco, discussed how the collaboration would enable enterprises and small and medium-sized businesses to create innovative services such as “next-generation video-enabled ATMs and shop-in-a-box retail solutions."


 The Challenges

Herrema of Good says that the smartphone got businesses thinking about new applications. With tablets, the desire to create new apps, including business-focused applications, is only accelerating.

The tablet, he says, is expected to spur the creation and adoption of more vertically-focused apps, such as nurse charting, pharmaceutical presentations for doctors and the like. Herrema goes on to say that while he doesn’t believe the tablet will necessarily replace the laptop, many workers may leave their laptops behind and carry just a tablet on their travels.

Because the tablet’s form factor is better suited for mobile use and for document review, he adds,  that heightens the need not just for security but also to understand the behavior of the apps themselves so end users don’t inadvertently create loss scenarios by using apps that can move data beyond the enterprise’s control.

“If you don’t have a strategy to specifically control that, data will move off into the wild,” he says, noting the need for application-level policy and controls.

Wilson Craig, director of marketing communications for Aruba Networks, adds that tablets are one of the main device types contributing to the bring-your-own-device trend that corporate network managers have to deal with today.

“Employee-owned devices gaining access to the corporate network present new security risks, and a potential network management and help desk burden that are difficult to quantify but clearly significant,” he says. “From help desks having to provide tech support for device-challenged users to IT departments facing employees connecting unauthenticated and unmanaged devices to the corporate network (thereby opening the corporate sensitive data to non-authorized sources) to the potential network traffic issues that can occur from employees using bandwidth heavy applications (video calling, etc…), IT has a whole new set of issues to address when these tablet devices go live on the network.“The point is that in order to make tablets (and other mobile devices) a useful tool for the enterprise, companies need to adjust their approach to network building a planning,” he says.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi


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