The Emerging Class of Business 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.

The gradual emergence of tablets aimed at businesses is an important development. The transition is taking place on two fronts. On one hand, the features of the tablets available to employees are different than for folks using the devices privately. The other side of the coin is that the nature of the link to corporate networks will be different depending on whether it is a business- or consumer-oriented tablet.

Larry Walsh, the CEO and president of a business advisory service called The 2112 Group, notes at Channelnomics that a battle is ongoing for tablets in the enterprise. The iPad, of course, starts off in a strong position as consumers bring it to work in great numbers. Walsh notes that there are upstarts. Samsung, for instance, is directly addressing the enterprise with new tools and features for the Galaxy Tab. He mentions HP has made business sales of the TouchPad a channel priority and that Acer is seeing great interest for its tablets in certain verticals.

Walsh's conclusion - that vendors may get market share in the business sector if they play their cards right - is another reminder that much of the recent history of mobility is how best to play catch-up to Apple:

Unlikely is the chance that Apple will lose its 60-plus percent market share in tablets anytime soon. However, its apathy to the channel and feigned reticence to the enterprise may open an opportunity for other tablet vendors and their partners to create a productive niche market in business-class tablets with all the features, functionality and manageability enterprises have come to expect with their legacy infrastructures.

I've posted about this topic recently. It is important to note that the announcements are accelerating. In addition to the Galaxy Tab 10.1 update, Lenovo has released related tablets, one for business and one for consumers. The business device is the ThinkPad tablet, while consumers are being offered the IdeaPad K1. Both run Android 3.1, and have several features in common. They are highlighted in a PCWorld story on the launch. The key is the differences between the devices, which seem to focus on the capabilities given to IT departments:

But the business features set the ThinkPad Tablet apart from K1, said Dilip Bhatia, vice president of the ThinkPad business at Lenovo. The tablet can be remotely disabled by IT administrators if lost or stolen, and Lenovo has partnered with Computrace to protect data on the device. Other security features include layered data encryption and support for Cisco VPN (virtual private network) to securely access corporate networks.

Cisco's Cius - which is coming to Verizon this summer - is the most obvious example to date of a business-oriented tablet. In most cases, however, it's a tricky area to look at since any tablet can be used - and in many cases quite effectively - for business. Gradually, however, devices purposely built for corporate use will take hold as both their user-facing and backend features will convince decision makers to pay close attention to the distinction between the two device classes.

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