At its recent developers conference, Google announced a new Android-based tablet. While this news was expected, the pricing of the tablet was a bit shocking. With Apple's new iPad starting at $499, Google's device pushes rapidly commoditizing hardware into nearly disposable pricing. Interestingly, Google also flagged the new device as part of the Nexus series, a title reserved for collaborations between Google and a given hardware manufacturer that supposedly represent a showcase for Google's Android OS.
There are plenty of cheap tablets on the market, but up to this point, they've been the purview of unknown hardware manufacturers with questionable quality or devices designed to sell content, like Amazon and Barnes and Noble's tablet offerings that are essentially subsidized devices that hide the underlying OS in order to sell books and movies.
Google's Nexus 7 tablet, however, includes a modern multi-core processor and places the Android OS' latest release, Jelly Bean, front and center. Additionally, it's built by well-known ASUS, and by all accounts, it feels of higher quality than the $199 price would lead you to believe. So, with a budget-friendly price tag, modern hardware, and the latest and greatest mobile OS from Google, should the Nexus 7 tablet make an appearance in the enterprise?
For larger companies, the $499 price of admission of an iPad is still relatively reasonable, but for smaller companies or tightly-budgeted tablet test deployments, ordering dozens or hundreds of iPads quickly adds up. Purchasing the Nexus 7 instantly cuts your hardware costs by 60%. However, there's more to the picture than hardware costs.
Unless your organization has made a significant commitment to iOS or Android, the Nexus 7 makes a great entrance into enterprise tablets. If your organization has been taking a cautious approach to mobile devices and gradually moving key applications and reporting tools to client-agnostic web portals, questions about iOS and Android are quickly moot, and the Nexus 7's compelling price looks even better.
Even if you're not ready to put a tablet in everyone's briefcase or handbag, the lower price point of the Nexus opens doors to previously unthinkable applications for tablets. Consider deploying a half-dozen Nexus tablets to your next board meeting, loaded with real-time financial reporting and copies of relevant presentations and supporting documentation. Google's video chat services might even make for a compelling video conferencing system, with a handful of Nexus 7s still likely cheaper than a true video conferencing solution and perhaps even more immediate and intimate since each participant is literally in the palm of each others' hands.
As I've repeatedly mentioned, critical to the success of any technology implementation, tablets included, is having a business problem that technology can help solve. Even if you're unclear on whether a tablet might solve a particular problem, as long as you're not investing in technology merely to join the latest enterprise bandwagon, there's no harm in throwing a tablet or two at the business problem, along with a small team of intelligent people, and seeing what comes out. Depending on how you've articulated and understood the problem, the Nexus 7 might be the $200 solution to a $50K problem — or a reckless waste of resources.
The Nexus price point pushes tablets further into the "why not" category, again assuming that you put them in the right hands, aimed squarely at a business problem tablets might solve. While the "feature porn" of the Nexus 7 is compelling, I see the push deeper into commodity price territory as far more exciting. It might be just the ticket to get more tablets into people's hands that will create a new process or tool worth far more than the price of admission.
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 over a decade providing strategy consulting services to Fortune 500 and 1000 companies. Patrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can follow his blog at www.itbswatch.com. All opinions are his and may not represent those of his employer.