The Complicated Nature of Tablet Devices in the Enterprise

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The Role of Tablets in the Enterprise

Tablets may one day soon take their place alongside PCs and smartphones as standard-issue IT equipment.

There's a lot of debate these days about the impact tablet devices will have in corporate environments given the dependence that many people already have on other forms of computing, such as the notebook or the smartphone.

Some would argue that tablet devices such as the Apple iPad, Motorola Xoom and the Dell Streak 7 are changing the way we work because people can now easily access enough information on a lightweight device to actually make a decision. In contrast, the screen on a smartphone is too small, while the average notebook takes too much time to fire up and doesn't offer the same simplified information navigation experience that can be had on a tablet device.

But others, most notably the folks at Dell, argue that tablet devices still have serious limitations when it comes to content creation or interacting with any type of application that has not been optimized for a touchscreen. In fact, Dell and Intel recently commissioned Forrester Consulting to research the attitude of IT executives relative to the impact of tablet devices in their enterprise.

The survey makes it pretty clear that, at least for the moment, IT executives see tablet devices as a companion device rather than a replacement for a PC. According to Paul D'Arcy, Dell executive director for larger enterprise marketing, the cost of delivering network services to these devices is also likely to have a negative impact on adoption. In fact, the cost of delivering network services is why so many IT organizations are investigating their bring-your-own-technology (BYOT) options because it pushes these costs on to the employee rather than the corporation.

D'Arcy also notes that from an enterprise perspective, the tablet PC market is still fairly fragmented, especially when you consider all the variations of the Google Android operating system that have been developed. That makes it difficult for IT organizations to establish a single standard for deploying enterprise applications on tablet devices.

There's no doubt that tablet devices will become a bigger factor in the enterprise. What's not clear is if and when they will ever get beyond the status of being seen as companion devices. Obviously, tablet devices will continue to evolve. It's just not clear if they will ever become the primary device in the enterprise or just our favorite toy for rapidly consuming information such as emails, videos and other data that doesn't require a whole lot of interaction.