Tablets

A look back at tablets in 2012

Patrick Gray provides a recap of tablets in the enterprise in 2012. How do you think tablets will perform in 2013?

If 2011 was the "Year of the Tablet," 2012 was the year tablets moved from geeks' backpacks and coffee shops into the enterprise. While tablets were a unique and somewhat rare site in the halls of the average company last year, they're now fairly commonplace, and bringing a personal tablet to work is no longer a major endeavor.

Similarly, the market for the devices themselves has matured. Where 2011 saw new players emerge and just as suddenly exit the tablet market (the HP TouchPad was on the market for a mere 49 days), 2012 saw the major players grow more deeply entrenched. The major upstart of 2012 was Microsoft, the company that pioneered tablet computing a decade ago and then seemingly lost its way.

Let's review some of the major trends and their impact on the enterprise.

The market thins

Whereas 2011 saw new tablets in new outlets, ranging from online stalwarts to the corner drugstore, 2012 saw deeper entrenchment of Apple and the major Google partners. Even with the latter's OS being available to essentially anyone, companies like Dell exited the Android tablet market in search of greener pastures and presumably less-crowded markets. Despite a consolidation of partners, Android finally began hitting its stride on tablets, growing increasingly capable and stable and offering a viable alternative to iOS.

Perhaps the most interesting development on the hardware front was the emergence of Amazon as a tablet player in late 2011. The company that dominated online retail provided consumers with a low-cost device in a smaller form factor than most competitors, essentially using content sales to subsidize part of the cost of the tablet. The device took off with consumers and arguably helped create the market for smaller tablets in the 7-inch range.

With Amazon's heavily modified Android tablets making waves, Google and Apple certainly didn't sit out the rise of the smaller tablet, with Google firing the first shot with the high-quality and well-priced Nexus 7. Apple had a flurry of product releases in 2012 as well, none unexpected, with the iPad gaining a high-resolution Retina display and the much-anticipated iPad mini making its appearance. In a major sign of the growing maturity of the market, the Apple products were essentially refreshes of the original iPad rather than major innovations, with specs like speed and screen resolution headlining the debut of each release.

The surprise of 2012

This brings us to the other much-anticipated tablet-related event of 2012: Microsoft's full-scale reentry into the tablet market. While tablet and touch-centric features in the Windows 8 OS were expected and obvious, Microsoft building its own hardware was not. I've spent time with Microsoft's Surface RT tablet, and oddly, the software stalwart seems to have hit the hardware out of the park, yet it struggled on the software front.

While Microsoft is still an entrenched enterprise player, Windows 8, the RT edition, and the Microsoft tablet all represent untried commodities that will have an uphill battle gaining traction in the enterprise. While IT staff might feel comfortable with Microsoft, in many companies, IT is no longer in complete control of IT spending, especially around highly personal and mobile devices like tablets. Microsoft is going to have a tough time selling a VP of Marketing on Surface when he or she looks at the mature app market, large user base, and proven OS of an iOS or Android device.

Wrapping it all together

The big challenge for IT leaders in 2013 is largely the same as 2012: How do I manage a variety of diverse devices and get my enterprise applications to work with this hodgepodge of platforms? Where managing tablets in the enterprise has evolved is that many IT leaders are moving beyond the vision of "one tablet to rule them all." Many companies are allowing end-user supported BYOD initiatives and divisional or job role-based standards that access a limited portfolio of applications rather than attempting to enforce a single device or OS and migrate applications in what remains an uncertain environment.

What do you think 2013 holds for tablets in the enterprise? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.

About

Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. He has spent ...

15 comments
Nashphil
Nashphil

Thinbooks that are Inkable, 10 point touch, light, 12in or larger screen, long battery life and a real HD, are the Future. Why buy a tablet and laptop computer? When the new thinbooks do it Both? I foresee this also as Win 8 pushing iPad OS b/c it really runs on both tablets apps and real software. In 2yrs, the Smart app makers will have their apps selling to all OS's anyways so, that just leaves the hardware to make a difference. Why sacrifice when you can have it all?

faithingod1970
faithingod1970

It seems to me that tablets are more and more popular for their size and laptop versatility. I think that they are going to be more and more included in tech used by companies. I would ask those who use them which is faster, more secure, and more reliable.

BentLightyear
BentLightyear

I'm very happy to see Microsoft weighing in to the tablet market, but they've copied Apple just a little too much with their prices. I'm hoping that, after they've recovered their start-up costs, they'll sell us a decent tablet for under $200. There's little reason why they should cost more than twice that. Microsoft could bury Apple's tablet sales if they play the price card and I strongly hope they will. Meanwhile, I'll make do with my Pandigital Planet and hope for better days. As a developer, I'll never give up my PC; but tablets are definitely fun! Also, Windows 8 and the concept of a cross-platform OS rules!!

Lawrence Garvin
Lawrence Garvin

I thought that Apple was, and will be, much more of a significant impact than the article granted credit to, but maybe downplaying Apple was because it is so obvious of an impact. Whether Amazon deserves any "tablet" credit may be arguable. In its infancy, Amazon merely provided an eReader, which then evolved into a richer Color LCD User Interface, that supported web access and apps. Whether the Fire HD can truly be considered a tablet OS is probably a question for further discusion, and whether the Fire HD can provide any useful contribution to the workplace (other than consuming literature) is another question. (Btw, I have a Fire, and I use it daily, but I've never considered it suitable as a workplace BYOD device.) The impact of Microsoft, if any, remains to be seen. Better availability of Win8Pro tablets will tell that whole story, and we may not have sufficient information until later this quarter. Having said all of that, I do agree that one of the challenges for IT in 2013 will be addressing the issue of managing the diversity of devices – not just tablets, but also a half dozen mobile phone OS choices as well. The real problem for IT, however, is that none of the devices available today (save a few sporadic instances of Win8Pro/CloverTrail tablets already available) are actually [i]manageable[/i] devices.

BigD21489
BigD21489

I'm an IT guy, and I still haven't tried a tablet. My brother had an iPad, and exchanged it for an Android, but I've never thoroughly used one. I do plan to get my hands on one soon, and start familiarizing myself with all the software, and troubleshooting procedure. What do you guys think I should start with?

Regulus
Regulus

I'm still waiting for (Tech Republic) to do a relatively comprehensive comparison chart for the general Tablet area. What tablets are better (or intended) for what purposes? What range of features (both software & hardware) do they support. I think that we all know that prices range greatly, even for the same product, but a general 'guesstimate' might be nice. Really, really, really needed this before the holiday discount season. That's why I didn't get anything. It's about time to start getting something put together. Industry obfuscation makes selection very difficult.

BillGates_z
BillGates_z

For the majority, tablets will boost productivity watching cat videos on youtube and prowling facebook.

ScotCan
ScotCan

We have been working with the PlayBook transferring technical issues between remote work places both as CAD renderings and via video chat. At $149.99 it's a significant cost savings where time and journeys are concerned for a small investment. Please give it some credit as well.

ScotCan
ScotCan

My associates and I don't have time to twiddle our thumbs and wait for something as described to happen. We use the technologies as tools to get things done....we are not philosophers. It is a given that other devices will emerge...if we can use them as tools we'll do so....just now the PlayBook serves a purpose so we use it.

ScotCan
ScotCan

Using these devices for Liaison Engineering clarification is proving invaluable. Yes, Liaison Engineers use 26 inch screens in the office, but out in the shop there is a need for a small and portable device. Smart phones are too small, and, laptops are too big...the 7 Inch Playbook is proving to be just right and at $149.99...the right price. As a tool for Liaison Engineering purposes the PlayBook is surprisingly versatile...for example the camera facility with its zoom can go from the big picture to a local detailed nonconformance snapping screen shots on the way...this greatly enhances the quality of the written nonconformance documentation...WYSIWYG.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

the industry standards that allow cross platform - or do you mean cross toy / appliance, which is where Win 8 is aimed.

Chilidog67
Chilidog67

I've have to support a number of iPads and a couple of Androids (Galaxy Tab and Nexus). I got the iPad first because that's what I had to do most support for, but I bought a Nexus later too.

ScotCan
ScotCan

Short answer...the BlackBerry PlayBook. Almost 2 for the price of 1 Pad.

jred
jred

Realistically, tablets satisfy 90% or more of what users actually need. Add in a bluetooth keyboard for occasional data entry, and the number goes up. Yes, cat videos and facebook. Don't forget twitter, pinterest, and reddit. A little skype, occasionally email. That's it. That's the target market. Tablets work great for this. Even in my company, which is a technology company, most of our users work remotely via terminal servers. Do they need a high end PC/laptop for that? No! Our most prolific coder just went to Europe on vacation and said they rarely pulled their fullsize laptop out of the case. VPN and RDP into the server, they were good to go. Tablets are much more than oversized phone. When you stop looking at the restrictions and start looking at the possibilities, you'll be amazed at what you can do.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

a tablet would do for half my playtime only. However, none of my computer games would show worth a damn on any tablet on the market, but then I don't play those little hand held games either.