Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Essence of an Effective Enterprise Tablet

Right now, there are more new tablets and smartphones prepped to hit the market than at any point in my recent memory. And one of the big points of contention I’m seeing is the “pro” version of some devices. Despite the huge surge in popularity of iOS and Android devices, the BlackBerry format remains a top seller, largely because of its enterprise uses and the fact that IT departments like how easy it is to set them up and provide support to hundreds or even thousands of users.

So, it’s no surprise that companies like HTC are aiming to release “Pro” versions of hot devices like the Droid smartphone. What does this have to do with tablet computers? More than many people think. For sure, mobile phones are by far the most universal technology being discussed today. In the United States for example there is nearly one mobile phone for every man, woman and child by volume.

So, with the surge of tablet computing in recent months heating up and with the enterprise uses of a tablet PC so obvious, it’s likely that we’ll see a wave of “Pro” devices hitting the market soon that are designed specifically for enterprise users. RIM has already started the process with their forthcoming PlayBook device – due out in Q1 or possible Q2 in 2011.

But, my question, and one that has been asked repeatedly of different smartphone brands is what kind of features does a device need to have for it to be considered “enterprise ready”?

Android and iOS devices are best known for their expansion abilities – they can grow based on the needs of the marketplace with new apps. However, Apple has a firm grip on its approval process and doesn’t necessarily provide the easiest platform for mass security measures or data sharing in a corporate environment. If a company wants to create their own, proprietary App for use on an iPad, they either need to jailbreak their devices or go through Apple’s approval process.

With Android, there are no issues with control, but security represents a major hole. There are many versions of Android out there right now and each of them has different features. Which one should IT choose and how can they secure it in a way that ensures long term data security?

So, RIM has the right idea – bring out a tablet that can compete on a field that current devices don’t have a handle on just yet. But, can a new OS on a new device from a company that has admittedly floundered quite a bit recently really pull it off?

Personally, I see massive potential in tablet computers as enterprise devices. With 4G networks and WiFi overlays becoming more common, and with more and more executives and businesspeople taking their work on the go, a device that can double as a PC in any situation is a gift and one that I’m sure thousands of companies are looking into. Of course, you can’t overlook the value of a Windows tablet – a familiar platform with dozens of security devices already devised for standard desktops.

What do you think? What format will eventually catch on most effectively in a corporate setting and what features will provide the “killer apps” for businesspeople on the go. Will there be a BlackBerry of tablets or will it continue to be a mishmash of multiple formats like the smartphone market that has developed in the last four years? 

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