One tablet a day is not enough for your business

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"Vive la revolution!" was a battle cry that King Louis XVI of France heard ad nauseam during the French Revolution in the late 1700s. People were tired of tyrannical rule and wanted freedom to create, live, and work. I utter this phrase now, not in solidarity with ancient Europeans but as a nod to what we are seeing in today's technology landscape. Companies of all sizes are seeing the value, and the necessity, of mobility and agility. During the infancy of the PC, we never imagined that the processing power of those first machines would be dwarfed by the handheld devices we use every day. While some organizations believe these devices are the chosen method of remote access for off-site workers, others believe the middle ground between the smartphone and the laptop is the future: the tablet.

The introduction and explosion of the tablet is primarily attributed to Steve Jobs who envisioned a portable, touch-enabled, user-friendly device. In response, the Apple team created the iPad, and consumers clamored over it. While tablet sales skyrocketed initially in the consumer market, business users were beginning to see the value as well. According to a study commissioned by the NPD Group, "of small and medium sized business in the US, 73% plan to buy tens of thousands of dollars worth of tablets in the next twelve months." (Hughes, 2011) Despite these findings, there is not universal agreement on the adoption curve of tablet devices in SMB organizations. According to InternetNews.com senior editor Sean Michael Kerner, "The tablet, in almost all the instances we found, is a third device. I'm not seeing this replacing either the smartphone or the PC in large numbers of organizations." (Kerner, 2011)

So how will SMB organization integrate tablets into their arsenal of technology? In my opinion, having a device that is light and portable screams mobility. I remember seeing a Verizon commercial featuring a company that had a project manager using a tablet at a job site, taking pictures, and creating designs on the fly. Other examples of early adopters can be found in the financial services and heath care industries. Doctors are now able to carry tablets while attending to patients and review images like MRIs or X-rays, medical or prescription history, and other pertinent information.

On the financial front, executives are using tablets for presentations and customer meetings rather than lugging notebooks around. It isn't a stretch to extrapolate tablet usage into other industries such as construction, building services and contractors, sales executives, off-site survey takers, or whatever else you can imagine.

Now that we've established how business will use tablets in their day-to-day operations, the next point to consider is what brand of tablet will be standard in the organization. Jobs gave Apple a massive leg up with the iPad, and since the initial launch, there has been slow progress from the competition to nip into that early advantage. The Android mobile operating system has finally made its presence in the marketplace, and the first notable combatant being the Motorola XOOM. Since then, many others have followed including the Samsung Galaxy and the Blackberry PlayBook. One notable name missing from this discussion is Microsoft. Ironically, back in 2003, Microsoft dismissed the tablet as a "niche technology" when pressed about business-wide adoption. Back then, the Windows XP tablet operating system was not touch-enabled and was just getting around to incorporating a "pen" interface. Also, the cost of the device was between $1,699 and $2,739 or $150 more than a comparable laptop. Microsoft concluded then that to drive business in the direction of the tablet may be foolish, and many hardware vendors agreed. Fast forward to the latter part of the decade and the ground-breaking rise of the iPad, and Microsoft was suddenly under the gun to make up ground and do it fast. In 2011, Microsoft released an early look at Windows 8 which shared many of the same features seen in Windows Phone 7 including the Metro interface. More importantly, Windows 8 is designed to be touch-enabled positioning it as an option for businesses that have standardized on Windows in their computing environment and prefer seamless user experience between desktop, laptop, and tablet. Once it's released in late 2012, it will be interesting to see what impact Windows 8 will have on the marketplace.

The reasonable price points of tablets today, coupled with consumer and business satisfaction, have given it unprecedented momentum. The Christmas shopping season of 2011 was explosive for tablet devices including the lower-cost Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook. Both of these devices were priced less than half of the cost of the iPad making them a better choice in a still-recovering economy. However, the Fire and the Nook don't really address business needs, and applications are important where SMB decision makers are concerned.

Even the iPad initially had trouble in this area despite a massive marketplace of cool apps. Citrix Systems came onto the scene with an add-on client for the iPad, allowing it to emulate the user desktop right down to open applications! There are new additions and applications available every day for business needs.

So does your business need the tablet? A careful analysis is required to make sure you're not throwing money into an open whirlpool from which you might never recover. With workers demanding a robust experience, more people working remotely, and the need for business agility, the tablet is becoming an option! I look back at "Star Trek" with Captain Kirk signing off on a pad-like device handed to him by a faithful yeoman. Who would have thought William Shatner's legendary character would be on the forefront of business mobility? I can only hope the next innovation is the transporter. I'd MUCH rather teleport to a Caribbean vacation than fly!

Works Cited

Hughes, N. (2011, December 29). Most Small & Medium Businesses Plan to Buy Apple iPads in Next 12 Months. Retrieved April 3, 2012, from Apple Insider: http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/11/12/29/most_smallmedium_business_plan_to_buy_apple_ipads_in_next_12_months.html

Kerner, S. M. (2011, May 18). Dell Reports Consumer Weakness. Retrieved March 14, 2012, from InternetNews.com: http://www.internetnews.com/bus-news/article.php/3933841/Dell+Reports+Consumer+Weakness.htm




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