The launch of HP's TouchPad and the mixed reviews that followed has created an interesting face-off with Research in Motion's PlayBook to be a leading business tablet. While we can debate features, stability and operating systems, the larger question boils down to whether enterprises can choose what tablets their employees use.
In other words, the tablet wars in the enterprise really boil down to bring your own---also known as consumerization---versus a company choosing a device based on how it fits with its existing architecture or some other package deal.
A few weeks ago, I recapped the enterprise tablet market. In the consumer world, the tablet world is pretty easy to figure out. Apple's iPad rules and Android tablets will compete---especially Samsung's Galaxy Tab, which has a good mix of hardware and improved software. Why will Android tablets compete? There's a chunk of people that don't want to be in Apple's ecosystem.
The enterprise is more up for grabs. If it's a bring your own (BYO) world, Apple will enjoy a strong enterprise spot. In fact, Apple's iPad is already easy to find in corporate meetings.
However, enterprise IT has always had official channels and handed out devices based on the fit with existing architecture. In this scenario, it's not hard to see why RIM's PlayBook will sell. RIM's PlayBook will integrate nicely with the BlackBerry Enterprise Server and the bridge between the tablet and smartphone gives IT administrators a good amount of control.
On the other side of the equation, HP can bundle its TouchPad with other hardware---notably PCs---and use price and scale to drive adoption. Many companies may take a deal from HP.
In the end, the tablet space really boils down to consumerization vs. the old-school enterprise way of doing things. HP, RIM and Android tablets are really competing for most favored tablet status in corporations. Official enterprise support doesn't count as much as it used to, but it can't hurt. Enterprise support may be the primary reason that Microsoft will be able to arrive very late to the tablet party and still succeed.
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