Separating Business and Consumer Tablets

Carl Weinschenk
Slide Show

The Role of Tablets in the Enterprise

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

To a great extent, the world of tablets - which is relatively young - is split between consumer- and business-oriented devices. Of course, the iPad, the big cheese in the category, straddles the two. It and the others, of course, often are used in both home and business, but they are more or less officially "aimed" at one sector or the other.

The two devices that essentially target the business side are Research In Motion's PlayBook and Cisco's Cius, which will hit Verizon later this summer. The others are trying to emulate the iPad.

The next step is a truly ecumenical machine that is aimed at both constituencies from the ground up. eWeek says that just such devices - indeed, three - are on tap from Lenovo. The IdeaPad P1 features a 1.5GHz Intel processor, and the IdeaPad K1 has a dual-core 1GHz processor from Nvidia. The third is the ThinkPad with a 10.1-inch screen device that also runs a dual-core 1GHz processor from Nvidia. All three use the Android operating system.

The writer discusses some of the consumer-focused features, and adds in the next paragraph:

But Lenovo's always had its center of gravity in the business realm, and its tablets' other features seem tailor-made for beleaguered IT administrators struggling to integrate the touch-screen devices more seamlessly into their company's daily workflow. The ThinkPad offers layered data security, for example, coupled with business partner solutions such as anti-theft software and Citrix's virtual application support.

It remains to be seen, of course, whether going after both groups will make the devices' intent too fuzzy or if it will successfully split the difference. In any case, the three are entering a tough market. Much has been written about the consumer-based devices - both with an Apple log and without.

The business market is not as crowded and may present a ripe opportunity. Research In Motion's PlayBook hasn't gotten rave reviews, and even had to stave off rumors of its demise. TechTree tracked it in this manner:

However, RIM has rubbished those allegations and has mentioned that the PlayBook is being rolled out to a new country every week, and there is no way the company is discontinuing the particular version of the QNX-based tablet. This pretty much falsifies the previous rumour since its coming straight from the horse's mouth. That being said, the PlayBook hasn't really impressed a lot of people around the world.

The story linked to a piece at the Economic Times that quoted the comments by RIM.

Meanwhile, the Cius isn't quoted here yet. At PCWorld, Melissa Perenson takes a look at the device, and starts by suggesting just for whom it is aimed:

Toss all preconceptions of the Cisco Cius out the door. This is not just another Android tablet. Instead, Cisco has taken great pains to position the Cius as a very different type of tablet, and one whose primary purpose lies less in competing head-to-head with the tablet masses, and more at changing how corporate America does business.

She then describes how it does this, which is by being heavy on video and the support capabilities that appeal to IT. It is intended, she writes, to be used with a "media station" docking port that is sold separately. The main point is that the Cius is more of a team player - the team being the backend of IT - than a stand-alone device.

It's interesting, at least to some extent, that the Cius is similar to the Google Chromebook in that it is a mobile device that is far more integrated into, and reliant upon, the network that lies beyond. At the end of the day, however, a huge issue going forward is whether end users - and remember, consumers and business users really are the same people - will want devices that are aimed for their work or their home.

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