Assessing the corporate tablet field: Why the enterprise may be different

The enterprise tablet market has its own quirks that can open doors---and maybe market share---for Apple challengers such as HP, RIM, Samsung, Motorola and others.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

The tablet parade is kicking into high gear as HP's TouchPad becomes available for sale July 1. HP joins RIM, Motorola, Samsung and a bevy of others in a long line of companies trying to compete with Apple's iPad. What's the master plan for these rivals: Juice enterprise sales.

It's quite possible that tablet makers could fare well by becoming business players as Apple runs away with the consumer market. The consumer market is ruled by price and performance (and more the former). Given that most Apple rivals are pricing their tablets exactly the same as the iPad, it's going to be tough to win over customers.

In other words, rivals aren't telling us why their tablets are necessarily better than the iPad, which enjoys good word of mouth marketing.

The enterprise is a bit of a different story. In fact, the enterprise tablet market has its own quirks that can open doors---and maybe market share---for challengers. Simply put, the enterprise isn't going to sweat pricing differences as much. Why? There's volume discounting and bundles. For instance, HP could sell a slew of TouchPads in an enterprise PC deal. RIM can toss in PlayBooks with a smartphone or BlackBerry Enterprise Server upgrade. Motorola and Samsung could get their tablets to companies via carriers. Dell can move its Streak tablets via healthcare services deals with its Perot Systems unit.

Apple can---and does---play the corporate game to a degree, but isn't exactly known for its volume discounts. Apple also doesn't have an enterprise bundle to sell. Apple has a small enterprise swat team that targets verticals like legal and convinces them to go with the iPhone-iPad juggernaut.

But when push comes to shove, tablet challengers like HP are better equipped to sell you a tablet on the cheap and make up the different on services, maintenance or some other revenue stream.

Integration also matters for enterprises, which is why Microsoft can become a tablet player despite sitting out the first and second waves in the industry. If Microsoft can integrate with Office, SharePoint, SystemCenter and legacy apps better than any other tablet maker it has a good enterprise chance ahead.

If you assess the moving parts, Apple's enterprise tablet effort revolves around consumerization. Workers are bringing the iPad to the office and the C-suite has bought in. Apple on its earnings conference calls will highlight a bevy of companies piloting or deploying the iPad.

But consumerization only goes so far. The challengers' best shot will be the enterprise. In corporations, the tablet game is more about RIM vs. HP, Samsung vs. Motorola and Dell working the verticals.

With that backdrop out of the way, I created a crib sheet for the enterprise tablet field.

Apple's iPad. The iPad currently dominates the tablet market and has largely gained in the enterprise due to consumerization. And CIOs like the device and carry them around while leaving the laptops at home. Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said in April:

Employee demand for iPad in the corporate environment remains strong, and CIOs continue to embrace iPad in an unprecedented rate. In just over a year since its debut, 75% of the Fortune 500 are testing or deploying iPad within their enterprises. Some recent examples of enterprises that are deploying iPad include Fortune 500 companies such as Xerox, AutoNation, YUM! Brands, ADP, Boston Scientific, Estee Lauder, Disney, Stryker, Prudential Financial, Rite Aid, and USAA.

  • Strengths: Market share and consumerization.
  • Weaknesses: Apple isn't likely to cut deals and doesn't have an enterprise bundle opportunity beyond the iPhone.

RIM's PlayBook. On its latest earnings conference call, RIM executives touted a bevy of enterprise pilots. RIM is also tight with SAP, which happens to be mobile app happy. RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie said that the 7-inch PlayBook "is now in the hands of over 1,500 enterprise customers in progressive stages leading to full deployment." Cisco, Citrix, IBM, HP and SAP are integration partners and are planning joint sales efforts. Verizon will also sell the PlayBook into the enterprise.

  • Strengths: RIM can bundle the PlayBook with the BlackBerry and has an already established corporate base.
  • Weaknesses: Consumerization, Apple and Android are eating away at RIM's market share. Can RIM get corporate apps lined up for its QNX OS?

HP's TouchPad. The TouchPad will feature the WebOS and interact well with
HP's printers and PCs. Unlike the PlayBook, HP is going for a 10-inch screen, integration with Google Docs and Web-based services.
  • Strengths: HP can bundle the TouchPad in PC deals, layer the device into broader enterprise hardware packages and use its services unit to integrate the tablet.
  • Weaknesses: The WebOS is slick, but lacks the app numbers and developer base. It's unclear how the WebOS will work with apps from the likes of SAP and Oracle.
Samsung's Galaxy Tab. Samsung is building in support for Cisco's SSL VPN, managing devices via Exchange ActiveSync and encrypting hardware. Toss in partnerships with Polycom, Citrix, SAP and others and Samsung has some enterprise mojo.
  • Strengths: Samsung can deliver pallets of Galaxy Tabs at a discount. Samsung's Galaxy Tab is probably the best known Android tablet among consumers.
  • Weaknesses: Samsung doesn't have the enterprise sales and services arm that RIM and HP enjoy. Samsung would likely depend on carriers to distribute into the enterprise.

Motorola Xoom: The Xoom hit the market early and in many respects was unrefined. Motorola took the brunt of Android Honeycomb 3.0 glitches.

  • Strengths: Motorola has enterprise relationships.
  • Weaknesses: The Xoom took a beating out of the gate and that will affect perception.

Dell's Streak devices. Dell is pushing the Streak---5-inch and 7-inch tablets---into the healthcare industry.

  • Strengths: Dell can tack the Streak onto a broader stack of healthcare IT tools.
  • Weaknesses: Dell has been relatively quiet about its tablet plans.

The big wild-card for all of these enterprise players is Microsoft. As detailed before, Microsoft could develop a Windows 8 tablet that could leverage its existing base of enterprise wares. A lightweight tablet that leverages Office and PowerPoint well could be the killer app for businesses. If these Microsoft tablets are truly ready for prime-time, look for Dell to be a big ally.


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