Will The New Wave Of Prosumer Tablets Beat The iPad In The Enterprise?

Will The New Wave Of Prosumer Tablets Beat The iPad In The Enterprise?

Summary: The list of vendors preparing business-minded, consumer-lovable tablets includes HP, Samsung, and, it can be argued, Microsoft and the entire Windows 8 ecosystem. Whether they will succeed in knocking out the iPad is a much tougher call.


(Corrected 6 PM PT, August 21, with information provided by Avaya.) 

Consumer appeal has been the most important factor in the business tablet war to date. That's because the vast majority of tablets used for work - five-sixths, by one estimate - have been brought in by workers via their employers' Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs. It's why the iPad has dominated.

It's a simple equation, but it vexes the IT snobs and command-and-control traditionalists. How has this [UGH] gadget, with its va-va-va-voom looks infiltrated THEIR HOUSE so quickly?

Intellectually, they might understand that we're in an era of increasing Consumerization of IT (CoIT), and that they need to stop thinking that they get to call all the technology shots. But old habits die hard. So as a reminder, let's look at what happened to the 2011 wave of tablets that thought the pathway into organizations was via the IT manager, not the worker:

BlackBerry PlayBook - It came from IT favorite RIM and delivered the Canadian company's vaunted manageability and security. But delays by RIM to deliver its trademark e-mail experience on the PlayBook (and other apps), as well as cut the price to a competitive level, has hurt the popularity of the first iteration of this device.

Cisco Cius - Another vendor well-liked by IT, Cisco's entry featured some powerful videoconferencing, networking and security options. And its nod towards CoIT was to run the Cius on Android. But the tablet itself was homely and underpowered. And the options were pricey. Cisco stopped supporting the Cius less than a year after its launch.

Avaya Flare - With its $2,5001,999 list price tag and positioning as a "desktop video device" integrated with (Avaya) desk phones, Avaya couldn't have expected many consumers to buy the Flare. What it probably didn't expect was how few enterprises would. Avaya has since wised up, abandoningcontinues to offer its proprietary unified communications hardware, but I suspect the market is warmer to the Flare Experience unified communications apps (list price: $190/user) in favor of pushing Flare video apps running on iOS, Windows and (in 2013) Android.

Tablet War 2.0 - the Battlefield Shifts, Slightly

A new wave of tablets are set to hit the market and challenge the iPad in companies and other large organizations. The vendors behind them have learned their lessons: appealing to IT is not enough. They get that for the foreseeable future, there will be two channels into the enterprise - BYOD (employees buy and own) and IT (company buys and issues). To be successful, they need to cater equally to both.

At the same time, there is a growing realization that poorly-managed, overly-liberal BYOD programs can cost companies more than they save. These vendors are hoping that IT will start reasserting itself and restrict employees who wish to Bring Their Own tablets to a limited menu of IT-approved ones.

For instance, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 released earlier this month. It follows its successful, smaller predecessor which proved that millions of people dislike touchscreen keyboards enough to go stylus. Besides being excellent for artists (and Palm Pilot nostalgists), the Note 4G also suits field workers who must accurately fill out long forms or questionnaires while on the go.


Like this guy.

Credit: ShutterStock.com

For IT managers, the Samsung Note is like other recent Galaxy-class devices, running a more-manageable, secureable variant of Android through the Samsung Approved for the Enterprise (SAFE) technology. Features include on-device encryption, Cisco and Juniper VPN, Exchange ActiveSync and more. Also, it’s much easier to fix than an iPad!

SAP CIO Oliver Bussmann, who carries a Galaxy Note himself, says it's one of the most-requested Android devices at SAP. "I see more and more internal users, especially executives, going for the Note," he said.

Or take Hewlett-Packard, which strongly hinted last week that rumors that its coming Windows 8 tablet will be enterprise-oriented, with a stylus, enterprise dock and sunlight-viewable screen, are true. 451 Research's Chris Hazelton believes the HP tablet could even come with an optional semi-rugged to fully-rugged keyboard.

And then there's Microsoft, which IDC predicts will build 3 million Surface tablets running both Windows 8 and Windows RT, and other Windows 8 tablet vendors, including Asus (Tablet 600), Acer, Samsung (Series 5 & 7 Hybrid PCs), Dell (Latitude 10) and Lenovo (ThinkPad Tablet 2).

Arriving in late October, Windows 8 tablets may cost as little as $600 and $700, sport optional or integrated keyboards, be backwards compatible with existing Windows applications, and, crucially for IT pros, be compatible with Microsoft's stack of systems management software.

Not a Return to Days of Yore

Some hope that this will be the start of Microsoft's takeover of the tablet space, just as it slowly but eventually dominated the business PC space with Windows. Others hope this will be a re-ascendence of command-and-control IT, which favors corporate deployments and the standardization on a single platform, presumably Windows, for better management and control.

I think that ship has sailed.

Companies aren't going to dump iPads and Android tablets wholesale. These tablets have proven their usefulness in many companies under many different conditions, from sales enablement, field service, meetings, accelerating internal processes and more. Their devices too much of a bargain ($199 Nexus vs. a $700 Windows 8 tablet?) and the platforms just too rich with apps.


Credit: ShutterStock.com

Also, the growth of iPhones and Android smartphones at work continues unabated. Why would employees be content if they allowed to use iOS or Android with one kind of mobile device but banned with another? Rather than abandoning BYOD, companies will learn to use the right Mobile Device Management (MDM) software to create the right security policies and keep costs under control.

Don't get me wrong: Windows 8 tablets will certainly appeal to many consumers and companies. But I just don't think that most organizations will be willing to turn back the clock. Standardization is an unattainable utopia. The average enterprise already supports three or more mobile OSes.

Don't forget that Apple is upping its enterprise game. It revealed in an SEC filing this month that it plans to incorporate fingerprint sensor technology from its recent acquisition, AuthenTec, in its products as soon as possible. Presumably, that would mean embedding fingerprint sensors for secure authentication into the iPhone and/or iPad. This could smooth in-person retail payments made using wireless NFC (Near-Field Communications) technology, as well as "be handy in large business or government agencies where security is paramount," wrote CNET.

Apple - and Google, for that matter - also continue to open up more APIs to third-party MDM and MAM (Mobile Application Management) vendors so that they can continue to improve their security and manageability.

Bottom line: enterprises should not expect Windows 8 to herald a return to one platform uber alles (i.e. PCs AND tablets). Enterprises should expect to support iOS, Android and Windows 8 if they want to optimize worker performance - and morale.


I may never make it to American Idol, but you can help me get to South By SouthWest 2013. Please vote for my panel about enterprise mobile apps here, thanks! http://spr.ly/6013TbE1 

Topics: ÜberTech, Android, Apple, iPad, Microsoft, Mobile OS, Windows

Eric Lai

About Eric Lai

I have tracked technology for more than 15 years, as an award-winning journalist and now as in-house thought leader on the mobile enterprise for SAP. Follow me here at ÜberMobile as well as my even less-filtered musings on Twitter @ericylai

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  • Wait and see

    I don't think we'll know for a year whether Windows 8 tablet sales will come at the expense of Windows laptops, other tablets, or will represent essentially new business in "tabletizing" certain applications where no tablet had gone before. There will obviously be some of each, but only the second one -- replacing incoming iPads or Androids -- will be a significant growth driver. For that to occur it has to happen in large numbers, and we simply won't know for quite a while whether it's happening.

    Count me as one who will be surprised if Windows tablets take much of a bite out of Windows laptops in the enterprise. They will cost more, they will be slightly less functional, and while there is a lot of 'shiny object' hype going on, in the end most serious road warriors will either (a) go for the laptop, or (b) have the laptop rammed down their throat by the beancounters.

    There was Little Tiny Story the other day about IBM taking Good under its wing and apparently introducing Good to its friends. This could be IBM smelling lots of service revenue: "We'll come in and make all this stuff play together in a managed fashion." Anyone who responds to this by attempting to poke a technical hole or two in Good's product has never watched IBM do the Corporate Schmooze. Accenture is probably smelling the same bucks. Sales pitches that revolve around "you can't manage Android or iOS" will soon enough sound silly. So it'll be more of a free-for-all than anyone might think now.
    Robert Hahn
    • I think tabletizing where tablets havent gone before will end

      up being significantly bigger than replacing existing tablets, which are by and large not corporate yet. And anyone watching IBM or anyone else blabber on about good should be thinking gee I must have bought the wrong tablet. Buy W8 tablets, forget about expensive 3rd party security and management apps that fill gaps in the other os's. They are an added cost and servicing headache you dont need.
      Johnny Vegas
      • A decision has been made

        No one watches IBM blabber. They don't even see anybody from IBM. The IBM guys are out on the golf course. With the CEO.
        Robert Hahn
      • Win 8

        Win 8 is the solution for corporate environments. MS has always had the edge there offering great management options and lots of extensions for 3rd parties to improve where it falls short. This is the best and most cost effective way for businesses to add Tablets to the infrastructure. Win 8 tablets are essentially laptop replacements with the Intel version allowing backwards compatibility with X86 apps. Win 8 will make you mobile without any compromises. Let's keep the media toys at home and keep work, work!
  • Companies should be dumping ipad/android tablets wholesale.

    W8 tablets will give them all the benefits and more without the security and managability problems of ipad or the security and reliability problems of android. And yes there will be $200 W8 tablets at the low end of the hw spectrum like the nexus7. Existing tablets haven't proven their usefulness theyve proven their subpar adequateness. Thats something W8 tablets will alieviate. There is no right MDM for these exisitng byod devices, just expensive subpar third party bolt ons. And yes companies should also ban ios/android smartphones. Certainly right now they should not allow access to any corporate data or resources. When your employees android phone is pwnd do you want your sensitive corporate data published to the web for all to see? Soon there will be a viable alternative in WP8 that not only will be enterprise ready but also give your "consumerized" employees a much superior user experience compared to their outdated ios and unstable insecure android devices. They will be safer, more productive, and happier. Corporate lob app devs will also be much more productive building W8/WP8 apps. It's a win win win all the way around.
    Johnny Vegas
    • stop it -

      - you and loverock. I'm sick of reading these BS troll bait posts. I'm actually thinking of dumping zdnet as every article is filled with angry replies to this type of crap.
      • Y'know ...

        I find it interesting that @JohnnyVegas posts his prediction for the future of tablets and just because you disagree, you accuse him of posting troll bait ... which I think applies more to your comment than his.

        I for one also believe that the plethora of devices of various form factors and capabilities supporting WinRT and Windows8 will provide enterprises with viable, affordable, manageable, cost effective tablet / hybrid-laptop-tablet devices supporting a software platform that most enterprises are already pretty familiar with (Windows/.NET).

        Compared to the relatively unfamiliar iOS/'droid hardware, poor manageability, spotty security, unfamiliar dev' & deployment platform, etc., Windows8 will be highly attractive to many in the enterprise.

        As the author of this article points out: most tablets in the enterprise today are "brought from home" and are, frankly, primarily used to keep up to date with personal email, Facebook, Twitter, etc VERY few enterprises have or have-developed enterprise/LOB apps for current tablets.

        Enterprises will be able to kit-out staff (as necessary) with a Surface/Transformer type device rather than a laptop AND a tablet, resulting in considerable cost savings.

        Oh ... and FWIW, why should there be any major price differential between mid-range iOS/'droid tablets and WinRT tablets? They all have very similar innards. Expect WinRT devices to eventually span every price point and form factor and thus provide many enterprises with the ability to have their employees connected to the corporate information systems for a fraction of their normal cost (e.g. $500 rather than $900+).
        • Best of Both Worlds!

          That's right, bitty. And not just viable, affordable, manageable, and cost effective. Longer, lower, and wider, these tablets based on Microsoft Windows(tm) will span the globe, reach for the stars, and touch the sky... all while keeping their feet on the ground. If you want the whitest whites, the highest mileage, plus nutrition found only in pumpkins, get a Windows tablet today!

          To be safe, everyone should buy and install Microsoft Windows(tm).
          Robert Hahn
          • Windows tablet

            Your sarcasm was notable and funny. I will think about it when I buy my Win 8 tablet for business use and recommend it to others.
      • no anger, just advice. Better to do it right than do it over

        Dont want anyone else to jump on the corporate ipad regret train.
        Johnny Vegas
      • Wait...

        Who is the troll, here? Check out other comments... and retreat to your bridge.
      • See ya!

        Don't let the door hit you on the way out
        Loverock Davidson-
  • A toy is a toy

    So people with enough persistence, time and money and the ability to compromise extensively can use their toys at work.

    They are still toys. Luckily we now have an alternative - computers with a powerful OS that will integrate into the Windows environment no matter what platform you prefer with the next step in UI. Start wearing some fins King Canute, it's about to get real wet ;-)
    • To a point

      What nobody seems to look at in these stories are the legal implications, or to point out that the USA is very lax about data security, compared to other areas.

      As a user, I like the idea of BYOD, I generally have better hardware than my employer provides me with. On the other side, having worked in IT for decades, I also see the nightmares it can bring with it.

      I've asked several times, but got no answer, whether BYOD has any legal implications in America. Here, in Germany, the CEO and CIO are directly responsible for their company's data. That means they have to secure it and answer for any leaks. Letting employees use their own devices is a big problem.

      The company has no or limited control over security of the device. If it is a company tablet, the company can tell the employee, that their partner, children, friends etc. cannot use the device. If it is their own property, that is harder to do and hard to enforce.

      When hubby takes his iPad to work, saying "I have compnay e-mail on my iPad now, you and the kids can't use it any more," isn't going to cut it at home...

      E-Mail addresses and contact information is "personal" information and cannot be shared to anyone outside the company without getting written permission from each contact beforehand. That means that if you have 1,000 contacts in your Exchange account, you have to contact 1,000 people and tell them that you want to share your iPad with your wife and are they ok, that she can see their contact details.

      It sounds silly, and to a point is, but data protection, especially the protection of personal data is taken very seriously here.

      What if little Johnny starts playing with dad's iPad and "accidentally" starts sending out sensitive company information to random people in the contact app?
      • Eye. Mote.

        We're all hearing that song, and yes, there is merit to it. But it seems as if every day brings another story of two million accounts hacked and privacy records stolen, not from BYOD devices but from the crown-jewel production systems run by the IT departments. All this vaunted "data security" they want to impose and manage is rubbish.
        Robert Hahn
  • LoB

    The one thing that stops BYOD of any device you want is the number of custom LoB applications in a business.

    A tablet is very different to a smartphone in many respects. The smartphone is, generally, used for e-mail, contacts and communication with others - in the business sense. Somebody hoping to use a tablet instead of a laptop has to ensure that the apps they need are available.

    Okay, the basics, an office suite, e-mail program etc. are probably available in some form or another on most devices and compatible enough for the basics, allowing the user to read files on the move and compose basic documents on the move - due to the formatting shortcomings on most platforms, they will probably still need to "tidy up" the formatting on a "real" computer, before they can send it out, if it has anything other than the most basic of formatting.

    But what about the "real" LoB applications, those custom applications built up over the last couple of decades, which run on Windows or big iron? The millions invested in getting those programs mapped to processes and allowing the employee to work efficiently aren't going to magically re-write themselves into Objective-C...

    That probably means that Windows RT tablets will also be a non-starter. There are enough apps around which didn't like the move from Windows 9x to Windows XP, let alone a move to Windows 7! They had to be fettled and coerced into running under Windows XP and run in XP Mode under Windows 7, if you are lucky... Investing those millions again, to get a working system to work on non-standard hardware is going to be a nightmare for many companies.

    For newer companies or companies that haven't invested heavily in custom LoB solutions, this isn't going to be such a big problem. For older, more established companies, this could make BYOD of limited use.
    • How about the intel tablets with removable keyboards?

      I agree, WinRT is not going to be immediately practical for businesses that depend on existing custom-built applications.

      What's your opinion on the x86 compatible tablets?
  • Will The New Wave Of Prosumer Tablets Beat The iPad In The Enterprise?

    Yes especially if its the Microsoft Surface. Microsoft Windows was made for the business where iOS was not. The iPad king of the kill is coming down.
    Loverock Davidson-
  • Here are 100+ serious enterprise apps for iOS and Android

    @Loverock @Tom_McS @bitcrazed

    For all the doubters that there is a growing selection of enterprise - not productivity, but true enterprise - apps on these platforms, check out the SAP Mobile App Store, where there are 80+ iOS and 20+ Android apps.

    Areas include:
    sales enablement
    electronic medical records
    BI analytic dashboards
    IT management tools
    database administration
    HR/executive approvals

    There are obviously many more such apps at other App Stores, too...
    Eric Lai
    • @ Eric Lai

      Just to let you know and with no offense.

      What you wrote are not called enterprise applications. Real enterprise applications involve data flow across applications both in client-server scenarios and server-server like P2P scenarios.

      Just ask how much data is created, transported and processed inside a Walmart datawarehouse and how many such datamarts are needed for filling in the daily Walmart sales inventory information and how servers struggle to handle these chores. Your Oracle DB at 10 TB is probably maxed out on its thresholds. Your IBM Websphere transactional app server is busied and is about to crap out on exception. And your SQL-Server minidb server has not woken up yet from its last processing task.

      The iPad is not a server device. It is not even a client device if you look at the specs of its CPU. If you run an Informatica graph client app on it, it will probably crash before it loads the app into memory.

      Point being - please do not hype the iPad story beyond what it is - a shiny little toy that Appleites who never sat behind a $250 billion a year enterprise (excluding SMB) datacenter, think is the greatest thing created next to Jesus on planet Earth.