Vendors back in business with tablets
Is it asking the impossible for devices to please both users and IT departments?
Blogs | 24 Oct 2012 :
There seems to be a consensus emerging that the release of Windows 8 will help to kick-start the business tablet market for traditional PC vendors. HP has already announced its ElitePad 900, due to be released in January, which is aimed at business customers. The headline to the company announcement of the product made no bones about it: "HP Unveils a True Tablet for Business."
In that announcement, the company said the ElitePad (pictured) "delivers features to keep IT managers happy and touts a design that employees will crave". It's fair to say that this description will serve as the template for the slew of business tablets that we can expect over the next six to 12 months and beyond.
Personally, I'm a little bit sceptical about the whole ‘business tablet' thing. Think about it this way: what is the biggest selling tablet right now? No points for getting the answer, Apple's iPad. According to CEO Tim Cook, Apple has sold more than 100 million iPads to date. Yes, a lot of them have been sold to people who use them in their homes and for personal stuff, but a lot of them are also used by people for work as well. The same goes for Samsung's Galaxy tablet.
Now, as far as I'm aware, neither of those products are sold as business tablets. Most people who bought them didn't buy them specifically for work. They bought them because they wanted them.
The success of Apple and Samsung's tablets, as with the iPhone and Galaxy smartphones, is helping to spearhead the BYOD (bring your own device) trend. People are looking to use their personal devices at work and the pressure is coming onto the IT department - for those companies that have them - to incorporate those devices into the company infrastructure.
Now, I can see how IT departments might be much happier trying to incorporate a Windows device into its infrastructure but that's beside the point. BYOD means bring your own device. It does not mean ‘bring your own device so long as it's a Windows 8 business device' (BYODSLAIAW8BD). That would be missing the point entirely.
It's a little bit analogous to the BlackBerry story. Corporates liked the Blackberry because it was very strictly controlled and it was quite patently a business device. They weren't so keen when the iPhone and the Galaxy arrived because neither of them were ‘business' phones. We all know how that one turned out. Maybe we ought to bear that in mind when faced with people who believe business tablets will help to provide the best of both worlds by combining "the great style and user experience consumers demand with the features IT requires" (Todd Bradley, executive vice president, HP Printing & Personal Systems).
Of course, it may well be that businesses decide to give their employees business-approved tablets and smartphones but that would be slightly undermining the BYOD proposition. The same would be true if businesses dictated what devices employees could use for BYOD.
Don't get me wrong, I think there is a market for business tablets but I'm not sure it's as big as people believe it to be for the reason that they are counter-intuitive to the BYOD trend currently being driven by tablets and smartphones.
In that context, it's interesting to note Microsoft's Surface tablets are aimed at all types of users rather than focused on the business market. Microsoft took a big step producing its own tablet, running the risk of antagonising a lot of its longstanding PC partners in the process. When you take a risk like that, you don't aim for glorious failure, you aim for success and there's no doubt in my mind that Microsoft, the maker of Windows 8, realised the best path to success for a tablet is not to limit it as a business machine.