Tablets in the office: Great for the boss, but what about the rest of us?

Most execs now own an iPad - but does that mean the rest of us will soon be carrying tablets too?

Senior business execs, not often known to be huge tech enthusiasts, seem to have fallen in love with at least one piece of hardware - the tablet.

More than three quarters of CxOs surveyed have one tablet computer, according to Frost & Sullivan's survey of European managers. One in five admit to owning two or more tablets, with iPads - unsurprisingly - the most commonly owned device.

Frost & Sullivan principal analyst Adrian Drozd told TechRepublic: "The rise of tablet ownership at the C-level has been rapid; for a device category that has only hit the mainstream in the past two years, the growth has been nothing short of phenomenal."

Drozd said tablet usage by execs is likely to increase, replacing both smartphones and laptops for a growing range applications.

In many organisations, Drozd said, company-owned tablets are being provided to CxO first to test the business value of wider deployment, and broader tablet adoption is likely, especially in areas where mobility is essential, such as healthcare, education and retail, with Drozd adding: "Tablets are likely to extend quickly into the sales functions of many organisations - the combination of power and portability being perfectly suited for conducting business on the move."

Laptops, and mobile phones before them, started out as heavily restricted perk, available only to senior execs. But eventually as prices came down, they became pervasive.

But I'm wondering if the same will occur with tablets.

It's true that adoption of new technology often starts with the most senior people in business and then spreads out. As such, the strong interest currently being shown by CxOs fits the standard model of how new technologies spread.

But an alternative view is that tablets have found their business niche as a handy device for execs who have to deal with lots of paper, and salespeople out doing presentations.

Tablets are brilliant devices for the consumption and display of information: in keeping with their consumer market origins, tablets are primarily for content consumption, not creation, at least right now. This may limit how much further they spread within enterprises.

In the past, CIOs could see the benefits of issuing phones or laptops to everyone, but they just couldn't afford it. I'm not sure that's the case with tablets.

This is the challenge for tablet vendors who want to crack the enterprise market: explaining why the devices are relevant to all workers, not just to senior managers and sales people.


Steve Ranger is the UK editor of TechRepublic, and has been writing about the impact of technology on people, business and culture for more than a decade. Before joining TechRepublic he was the editor of


At my work, changes are presently under way, because those at the top (elected officials at a state agency) want them. Tablets, and especially the iPad, are popular at the top, in the case of my agency, literally the people who get what they want, whether IT is behind them or not. I see this as being different from the smartphone spread, which had IT in right at the start. These people have money, and to a certain extent, they are drinking the Kool-Aid, and they simply don't care about any technical difficulties they present to IT. They want something, and they can stamp their little feet and hold their breath and get it. No, I am not annoyed about it, why do you ask? I find very little reason at my work for tablets. Most people are tied to desks because that is where the PC is that they know how to use (relatively speaking) and that allows them to do all their work...and they are the people who do the real work. At the top, you have a few figureheads, who don't really do much work, and therefore don't use their PCs, even when they are there. They just need to be able to check their email and read documents. They don't write documents, they have secretaries for that. They do exactly what people do at home with their tablets, and they are easier to carry, and they are hip. We haven't entered the Post-PC era, because most real work is done on PCs, but we are moving forward because people who have money can get the little work they do done on a tablet. Welcome to the future.


Really? "...wether IT is behind them or not"? Do you really get to say "well we're not behind this so...". Maybe I'm old school since I've always viewed IT as a SERVICE organization with CUSTOMERS I'm supposed to be supporting with an "okay - how can I MAKE this happen for the CUSTOMER" from a security and best practice approach. It's not about the device - it's about your ability to figure out a way to "make it happen". Priceless...


Sure, we can make it happen. How much time will it take researching and testing connectivity and security, and who's paying for any additional infrastructure will this device require? Will that time and money be useful supporting a large number of devices, or did we do all that for just one or two? How many different makes and models are we talking about, and will the solutions necessary for one apply to the others? And who's going to be doing the work we were dropped in order to jump out our @$$ because some CxO saw something shiny?


Dude - even if you are beaten down, understaffed or underfunded, you should avoid the glass half empty attitude. Your customer wants what he wants and must, therefore, provide the means for doing it if he wants it bad enough. So your job is to present the customer his options with a "let's explore the possibilities together" approach through formal, rigorous (written) cost/resource/feasibility analysis based, to a large degree, on the logistical issues you raised - keeping IT best practices security, sustainability, reliability etc. in mind. A lot of these shiny new boat rockers can be managed, once staged/deployed with centralized management tools - even policy enforcement. Investigate, formulate before hesitate.

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