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2012: The year of business tablet use

Apple’s iPad leads the expected boom of business tablet use this year. Enterprise iPad use is taking off because IT pros like the iPad’s security and management options.

More and more organizations are turning to the iPad to help employees work more efficiently and effectively.

Many companies have formally adopted business tablet use to control the influx of personal devices in the enterprise, and to bring the benefits of tablets -- mobility, flexibility and ease of use -- to more employees. And enterprise iPad use is leading the charge.

“A lot of the people are using them at home, and they want to use similar technology at work,” said Brian Katz, director of mobility engineering at Sanofi-Aventis, a pharmaceutical company.

Business tablet users flock to iPad

In TechTarget’s 2012 Global IT Priorities Survey, 34% of respondents said their company plans to implement the use of tablets in 2012 -- a significant increase from the previous year’s survey, where only 18% of respondents said their companies would be introducing tablets.

Not surprisingly, Apple’s iPad continues to be a runaway success. Despite competition from Android tablets, the Amazon Kindle Fire and the Barnes and Noble Nook Tablet, most consumers and businesses flock to enterprise iPad use.

“There are two players in the market,” said Wes Miller, a research analyst for Directions on Microsoft, a consulting firm based in Kirkland, Wash. “Apple owns the market, and Android has had some level of sales, but I wouldn’t call it a success by any means.”

Miller said he expects the iPad’s dominance to continue in 2012, because Apple offers the apps, entertainment and ease of use people like, plus a surprisingly robust set of management and security apps for IT professionals.

Business tablet use moves beyond BYOD

Most business tablet implementations begin as users start bringing personal devices to work.

“The user gets a new toy, sits there on their couch watching ‘Fear Factor’ or whatever and thinks, ‘Gosh, I wish I could do my work on this,’” said Ben Schorr, CEO of IT consulting firm Roland Schorr and Tower. 

The problem is, many users ask for business tablet support without thinking about how difficult that is for IT departments. For example, data encryption, blacklisting apps, remote wiping and enforcing passcodes is difficult to manage natively on the iPad -- most of those functions require third-party tools -- and it’s “non-existent with Android,” Miller said.

Because of these issues, organizations might want to shift this year from bring your own device (BYOD) programs to rolling out controlled tablet projects. Sanofi-Aventis is about to finish its iPad pilot program and move into the implementation phase, and employees are “clamoring for them,” Katz said.

Katz cited tablets’ ease of use, instant-on capabilities and portability as the main factors driving their enterprise surge.

Even organizations that stick with BYOD should be careful to not bite off more than they can chew. Limiting users’ device choices gives IT more control over management and security -- the two primary issues keeping reticent companies from jumping into the tablet fray, Schorr said.

“We’ll have to accept that a certain amount of consumerization is going to happen, but IT will have to pick one or two specific devices to dictate what end users can have,” he said.

Business tablet use cases

Tablets will be regular fixtures in the enterprise this year because they offer the same mobility as smartphones, but with bigger screens for checking email and browsing the Web, Schorr said. In TechTarget’s survey, 35.2% of respondents said their companies will implement a smartphone program this year -- barely up from 34.8% last year.

Employees also use tablets to stay connected to work while on the road and at home, for presentations, on sales calls and for other uses, Katz said. He cautioned that IT professionals should specify a tablet’s use cases before rolling them out to employees, so no one is under the illusion that a tablet is a laptop replacement. Schorr agreed that tablets won’t replace laptops or desktops anytime soon.

“Have you ever decided to sit down and tap on a tablet for two hours?” he asked. “It’s not a good experience.”

Tablets capabilities are slowly coming up to par with traditional office computers, however. With thousands of business apps and Bluetooth connectivity to printers, external keyboards and other devices, many IT pros view tablets as viable enterprise devices.

James Furbush is news writer for Email him here

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