Since the iPad was first introduced in 2010, we’ve witnessed explosive growth in the market for the first truly new piece of personal technology since the PC: the tablet computer. The industry has even coined the term “Post-PC Era” to note the decline in sales of traditional PCs in favor of new devices such as tablets and, to a lesser degree, smartphones and phablets. Dozens of manufacturers make dozens of sizes and shapes of tablets, but they all share the same common ground: they are touchscreen slates that don’t need a keyboard and mouse.
According to an IC Insights report, total shipments of personal computing systems (desktops, notebooks, tablets, and Internet/cloud units) are forecast to rise 12% in 2014 to 585 million units compared to 521 million in 2013. However, the market for standard PCs (desktops, notebooks) continues to be sluggish in 2014, causing IC Insights to forecast a 5% decline for these systems to 298 million this year. The gap is made up of Post-PC Era devices such as tablets, and the growth in tablets only increases as IC Insights forecasts out to 2017.
With the market for tablets and similar devices growing so aggressively, and software developers and accessory manufacturers coming up with increasingly creative ways to take advantage of the platform, we’ve only scratched the surface of what we can do with tablets. Where tablets were once seen as “consumption devices” (i.e. used to watch video, read books, play games, etc. – consume content), we have reaches a point where tablets have very real and measurable business benefits.
As noted in a recent Wall Street Journal article, a recent survey of 100 CIOs in the U.S. and Europe by Barclays PLC shows increased support for tablets, which in many cases are moving from limited trial rollouts to broader deployments. 97% of the respondents said they are interested in or are already supporting the use of tablets in the enterprise, either through BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) or COD (Company-Owned Device) initiatives. The survey found that PCs remain the lowest-rated spending priority among CIOs and tablet deployment was “key” within their organizations.
The Barclays survey also noted that Apple, with iOS and its iPad line, was clearly the preferred vendor among those surveyed, with Microsoft and its venerable Windows next, beating out Google’s Android.
Apple, with its iPad Air and iPad Mini product lines, are synonymous with tablets in the minds of many consumers. Apple was first to market with a truly innovative tablet design, and their early lead has given them the attention of consumers, business leaders, and software developers.
Apple has their eye on the business market to further strengthen their market position. We’ve written in the past about the use of an iPad for business, but the landscape – both in terms of hardware and apps, has changed much since we first wrote about the topic in late 2011. Apple’s recently-released iOS 8 operating system has in increased focus on the enterprise, with notable business-oriented features such as expanded data encryption, email encryption options, data management and content filtering, and new device management capabilities. Lesser-known business-oriented services offered by Apple include Volume Purchase Program (VPP), allowing businesses to buy and deploy apps, and the Device Enrollment Program (DEP), allowing businesses to pre-enroll devices with Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions at the time of purchase.
Apple is also capturing the attention of other key players in the technology industry. In July 2014, Apple announced that it would partner with IBM to develop business applications specifically for iPhones and iPads, and IBM also said it would sell Apple products with those built-in apps to clients around the globe.
While Apple’s iOS devices may have the mind-share of the world, Google’s Android operating system has the largest market share by a large margin. Android, unlike iOS, is licensed to third-party manufacturers such as Samsung, LG, Motorola, and many others who release their own devices in many shapes and sizes – and not only smartphones and tablets. Android powers wearables, TVs, and cars. Google’s recently launched Android One initiative promises to enable access to quality Android devices in emerging markets, opening up Android to potentially millions of new customers. With more market share comes more developers of apps, services, and accessories, and Google is playing the long-game with Android, making it the dominant operating system to make sure it gets the most attention.
Google (through partnerships), Samsung, and LG all make high-quality Android tablets. Each manufacturer puts their unique stamp on their tablet devices since the market for Android devices is more open than Apple and iOS. The Nexus 7, manufactured for Google by Asus, is a very popular low-cost 7” tablet running “pure Android” (i.e. no manufacturer customizations). Moving to a higher screen size, Samsung offers the Galaxy Tab S with a stunning 8.4” display and some Samsung-specific innovations in Android. If you’re really looking for a large screen, Samsung offers the Galaxy Note Pro with a massive 12.2” display and stylus for pen-based input.
Like Apple, Google is very focused on the business market. Google’s upcoming next release of Android, currently named “Android L” (Android releases have all been named after desserts or sweets, and the “L” name hasn’t been decided on yet) has a focus on business-oriented features, collectively dubbed “Android for Work.” Android devices will have the ability to partition personal data from work data, making it easier for businesses to monitor apps and data being used for work-related purposes and control what happens to that data. This is particularly valuable to businesses that have embraced BYOD, because now there can be an area for personal information and a completely separate, controlled, and managed area for business data on the same device. Android L will also have full-device encryption enabled by default, keeping both business and personal data safe.
While Microsoft is currently a lesser player in the explosive mobile market, they are actually one of the earliest players in the tablet market. Starting with Windows for Pen Computing for Windows 3.1 in 1991, Microsoft has been a proponent of tablet and pen-based computing for decades. Starting with Windows XP, Microsoft adopted the Microsoft Tablet PC name. Tablet support was added to both Home and Business versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7. Following Tablet PC, Microsoft announced the Ultra-mobile PC initiative in 2006 which brought Windows tablets to a smaller, touch-centric form factor.
Windows 8, which we have written about in detail, marked a major change in Microsoft’s approach to Windows and tablet computing. Windows 8 was the first major – and very ambitious – change to the Windows user interface (UI) since Windows 95 almost two decades earlier and was met with mixed reviews because it significantly changed the way we interact with our PCs. Traditional PC users complained – quite vocally – that Microsoft was forcing a mobile-first experience that they did not want and disrupting their ability to use their PCs. However, one thing was and is sure – Microsoft is fully committed to merging mobile and traditional PC computing, and Windows 8 was the first leap forward in that revolution.
Love it or hate it, Windows 8 is here to stay in one form or another. Microsoft’s next release of Windows, codenamed “Threshold,” and assumed to be Windows 9, is targeting at calming the problems introduced by Windows 8 in businesses, notably training costs by forcing a completely different interface on users (hint – the Start menu is coming back). Microsoft’s next version of its venerable Office suite, codenamed “Gemini,” is widely-rumored to be touch-first, making it much easier to use than traditional Office on a tablet.
While Microsoft is refining its approach to mobile, one thing is clear – the easiest integration of tablets into the business is through tablets based on Windows 8.1 Pro (not Windows RT, which is incompatible with standard PC software). Tablets based on Windows 8.1 Pro integrate into your business just as a desktop or notebook would, using the same software, same management tools, same security, etc. For all intents and purposes, they are PCs in a different size and shape. Many Windows tablets also help to bridge the notebook/tablet gap with familiar form factors that blend two designs, such at the Microsoft Suface Pro 3 and Dell Venue 11 Pro.
For more about the laptop versus tablet discussion, read our recent blog post on the topic.
Now that you know who the key market players are, the real question for your business is what do you want to do with your tablets? Picking a mobile operating system or tablet before you know what you want to do with it is a recipe for project failure. Carefully think about the following questions as you think about your tablet goals.
- Do you want to access files from your office file server from your tablet?
- Do you want to access your office PC from your tablet (e.g. remote desktop)?
- Do you want to be able to print from your tablet to your office printers?
- Do you want to access your entire office network (servers, PCs, printers, etc.) from your tablet over a Virtual Private Network (VPN)?
- Do you need access to specific line-of-business apps on your tablet?
- Will the tablet be owned and managed by the business (i.e. company-owned device)?
- If you decide to allow BYOD, what will happen to your business data if the employee no longer works for you?
- If a tablet is lost or stolen with your business data on it, what will you do?
The answers to these questions – and many others – will guide your decision about which mobile operating system and apps you need to succeed. We suggest starting with a pilot program (one or two devices) before embarking on any large-scale mobile deployment. This will prove the concept and work out any problems before you deploy on a larger scale.
Mobile projects can be complex, but can also have measurable ROI in terms of employee productivity, device cost savings, and many other areas. Colden Company has written extensively on integrating tablets, and mobile in general, into your business in the past. From BYOD, to mobile safety and security, to mobile security policies, to mobile strategy, we’ve covered it all. If you want to manage your mobile devices running iOS, Android, or Windows, we’ve discussed our Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution.
Bottom line – Colden Company has the experience to help you succeed with your tablet and mobile initiatives. Contact us at 888-600-4560, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Facebook or Twitter. We’ll get your message on our tablets!