Employees want tablets and this market has the feel of the late 80s when employees were demanding PCs. The difference is that this group is willing to buy them. However, unlike that period, there is no IBM holding down the business side of this and driving folks to DOS and Windows. Today, we just have Apple and Google. Apple hates IT with a passion and Google has apparently copied the mistakes made in Windows Vista with its Honeycomb Android offering. Interestingly, Lenovo's ThinkPad group, which came out of IBM, may have the answer.
Windows Vista and Google Honeycomb
I've been up to my armpits in a number of platform failures over the years. I can recall sitting down with the folks working on the Palm OS after that company split and explaining to them that they couldn't allow Sony to fail. They simply didn't get it. Sony failed with Palm and the Palm OS was eventually abandoned even by the Palm hardware folks who didn't survive independently either.
I think Honeycomb may be Google's Vista and it is time for that company to either step up, as Microsoft eventually did with Windows 7, or move on to something it can be successful at. If it doesn't, Windows 8, iOS, WebOS and proprietary platforms from folks like Motorola will displace it and showcase the company's failed experiment. Honeycomb is getting the same reputation that Vista had for similar reasons, but with the iPad trending like the iPod did, Android is no Windows.
The iPad Problem
The iPad clearly sets the bar with regard to tablets and since Android was late to the tablet market, Apple didn't just take share like it did during the Vista years, it effectively locked Google out of the market. Anecdotal information suggests that iPads are coming into companies in large numbers and are pretty much rolling over the objections of the IT organization even where security requirements are high, like in health care, because the users have more authority than IT has.
This is putting a lot of pressure on IT folks to find something that will either let them secure an iPad or replace it and they can't wait for the Windows 8 arrival next year because they need a solution today.
I got an updated briefing from Lenovo a few days ago on its Cloud Ready Client initiative and the company may have figured out the perfect answer. It has already leaked that is has a ThinkPad tablet running Honeycomb coming to market but, unlike the earlier vendors, the company is holding the product until Honeycomb is more complete and won't degrade the ThinkPad brand. Lenovo learned the Vista lesson and doesn't want to repeat it, so this tablet won't ship until it is ready. A few of us have seen it and <span><strong>it is arguably the most well-thought-out for business buyers so far</strong></span>.
But with employees demanding iPads, Lenovo is rolling out a secure, device-independent, cloud-based client architecture that could secure any tablet or smartphone running a browser and allows IT to better accept iPads without incurring added security risk. Granted, the more control Lenovo has over the hardware, the better the client will be able to balance local and remote resources, but it should at least function on any browser-based offering, including Apple's.
I think this is brilliant and it is very unusual for a hardware vendor to embrace a market opportunity that could actually benefit a competitor-Apple-more short term. But that is what should happen when a vendor that is late to market needs to address the real customer problem. It has to address the dominant product as well as its own and that dominant product is the iPad.
As you would expect, the Lenovo Cloud Ready Client provides better security over the data and better control over access (it can't add things that aren't on the device like biometric authentication, but it can handle multi-factor authentication). It can restrict by location and uses single sign-on. In addition, it can be optimized for the network, support multiple application delivery models and minimize the opportunity for malware contamination. It uses the Windows interface as the primary UI type because most existing desktop-focused applications are tied to Windows desktops.
Wrapping up: The Power of ThinkPad
If you were to survey analysts about what they carry, you'd likely find that about a fourth currently use Macs (way up from last decade), about a fourth use Dell computers and around one half use ThinkPads. Lenovo's ThinkPad remains the gold standard with regard to notebook computers this decade and if anyone is able to figure out how to make tablets work in the enterprise you'd think the ThinkPad group would be on the short list. The Lenovo Cloud Ready Client initiative is one of the most perfectly timed offerings I've seen in a long time, because, ready or not, tablets are coming in to business so you'd better find a way to get ready.
ThinkPad predates the iPad and Lenovo's current CMO is Apple-trained. If there is a company out there that can take the fight to Apple, it may be Lenovo. In any case, for IT folks looking for iPad help, Lenovo may be the only firm that has a solution.