Markets are dynamic. Sales are driven by a number of factors—how long something has been available, competition from emerging technologies or approaches, the state of the macro economy, etc.—so they shift over time. Eventually, sectors fade away, become marginalized or triumph. And the process is never ending, so winners who become losers can rebound and reassert themselves later.
This historical process of push and pull is under way on two interrelated fronts: BYOD and tablets.
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) took the corporate world by storm. It was seen as organizations having their cake and eating it too: Companies could enjoy the benefits of advanced mobile telecommunications devices without actually buying them for employees.
Likewise, for a couple of years after the introduction of the iPad, tablets were the darling of the increasingly overlapping consumer and business communities. They expanded deeply into both the smartphone sector below and the notebook/laptop category above.
Both of these categories have experienced some fluctuation, though. In the case of BYOD, the reality is that its big benefit, which is saving capex on new devices, has been shown to be partially or completely neutralized by other costs and discomforts, including security concerns, the cost of stipends for higher-priced consumer data plans, and the need for organizations to support multiple operating systems and device specs.
The bottom line is that BYOD is and always will be a part of the telecommunications tool chest. It just isn’t the panacea some thought it would be. This week, Gartner released research that further clarifies the state of BYOD. According to Datamation, the firm says that BYOD makes sense only for tablets:
After some number crunching, Federica Troni, a Gartner research director, said that the math adds up for tablet "bring your own device" (BYOD) programs. "IT leaders can spend half a million dollars to buy and support 1,000 enterprise-owned tablets, while they can support 2,745 user-owned tablets with that same budget," she said in a statement.
So smartphone BYOD initiatives only work out financially if the organization provides owners only partial or no stipends. Gartner buttressed the claim with the fact that, this year, BYOD caused organizations to significantly increase spending on data device management, infrastructure expansion and file share and sync technologies.
That’s the good news for tablets. The bad news is that the sector is turning, and not in its favor. IDC reports that the worldwide tablet sector is experiencing a “massive deceleration” in sales. The firm says that tablets will grow only 7.2 percent this year after having grown 52.5 percent in 2013. The reason is clear:
At the core of this slowdown is the expectation that 2014 will represent the first full year of decline in Apple iPad shipments. Both the iPad and the overall market slowdown do not come as a surprise as device lifecycles for tablets have continued to lengthen, increasingly resembling those of PCs more than smartphones.
The slowing down of tablets will have a lot of reverberations across the corporate mobility landscape. A slideshow at eWeek points to the several reasons for the sales decrease, which include a rebound for notebooks, a possible opening for Windows-based machines, and more aggressive tablet initiatives in emerging markets.
Of course, the ebb and flow of business is inevitable. Currently, the flow is against BYOD and tablets (though, ironically, one of the rays of sunshine for BYOD is tablets). In the long run, the size of the niche each of these plays will be directly related to the value it brings versus the costs. That is as it should be. The easy days, however, are over.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.