Hardware

What good are tablets in the enterprise?

Donovan Colbert thinks that things are still sorting themselves out for tablets in the enterprise, but an argument could be made against tighter control by Google. Do you agree?

Many IT professionals are wondering how tablets are going to affect the enterprise. We’re all trying to work out if, when, and how these devices are going to impact our work. However, I'm not sure we're asking the right questions about these devices.

Patrick Gray recently argued that Google needs to more tightly control Android for tablet success. His article spent a lot of time talking about embedded Android on appliance-type devices and then veered back in the direction of tablets at the end. The case seemed inconclusive to me. Perhaps customized, purpose-driven appliances and tablets are the best answer.

I think his lack of a definite conclusion reflects the entire industry. We're all over the place trying to figuring out how to leverage mobile platforms. We're looking desperately for a use model, and the best I've been able to come up with for professional use, I tend to think of as "administrative." We're afraid if we don't innovate and implement this exciting new technology, our competitors will -- but don't worry, they're as uncertain about how to proceed as we are.

Tablets aren't really new. They're big PDAs. We do calendaring, note taking, alarms, and notifications on tablets -- but so could a PDA, all the way back to the Newton. We've been using this kind of touch-based organizer for over a decade at the executive level. They're coming into their own stride, but we still struggle with leveraging them for productivity.

Apple uses iPads as POS devices in their stores, which is amazing and revolutionary. However, stores were using PDAs with CF barcode scanners and Wi-Fi connections years ago. UPS and FedEx delivery use this kind of technology daily. They're not trading in their sturdy PDAs for modern tablets. The major excitement about tablets is that they've broken through to consumer interest, while PDAs had little consumer use.

For the enterprise, I see two major tablet applications:

  • Better mobile connectivity than PDAs. In particular, tablets are able to give a more feature-rich browsing experience and reasonable email communication. They also tend to work better with web apps like OWA than previous mobile devices.
  • Ability to design and deploy custom native apps.

This advantage remains impractical for the resources available to most SMBs, but large enterprises probably have deep enough pockets to deploy these kind of native OS and web-based app solutions.

The trouble seems to be one of convergence and transition. We're transitioning from a desktop OS, application-based, business productivity environment -- Office, Outlook, PowerPoint, and local applications running on a traditional PC. We use server-based back office, HR, and business processes platforms. Those are behind on developing meaningful mobile options, and they don't yet rival traditional desktop PC methods in features and convenience. The value add of having a mobile device is offset by the limitations, where it's an option.

Another driver is the convergence of cloud technologies and mobile devices. Public clouds make enterprises nervous, private clouds lose a lot of the supposed benefits of public clouds, and IT seems reluctant about adopting any cloud. But mobile devices are cloud pods. They're lightweight devices designed to buzz around the cloud -- gathering, creating, sharing, or moving information. Storing my private music and movies on the cloud is one thing, and storing my critical corporate IP there is another.

Google Now illustrates that we need to start rethinking how these devices add value to our enterprise. The personal digital assistant part of the PDA is becoming a reality with Now and Siri, but we're asked to place a lot of trust in allowing a cloud to collect meaningful information about us. Without that, we can't reap the benefits of these solutions.

This whole idea that the iPad is winning in the enterprise doesn't hold water in my experience. Like all of these devices, organizations are trying to shoehorn them into a productivity role with limited success. They tend to be cheaper and offer more power than PDAs just a decade ago, so they have more reach. They're not just executive toys. The iPad was first, so it has the highest profile. However, my co-worker's wife is a home care nurse, and she was assigned a Samsung Galaxy Tab by her employer.

The enterprise challenge is that these mobile consumer devices take away the granular control of a PC. In the example above, access to email and medical apps are ideally all the nurses would have. With traditional Windows, this was easily achieved by IT -- but that's not the case with Android or iOS.

An argument could be made against tighter control by Google. In fact, any Android tablet manufacturer could easily custom-skin Android for enterprise applications, creating one-off versions of Android designed to give access to a custom app, corporate email, and maybe a limited web browser -- no Doodle Jump, Words with Friends, developer mode, or side-loading. The open customization of Android is an advantage in the long run.

Ultimately, things are still sorting themselves out for tablets in the enterprise. It's still very difficult to see where these technologies might take us.

What are your thoughts about tablets in the enterprise? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.

About

Donovan Colbert has over 16 years of experience in the IT Industry. He's worked in help-desk, enterprise software support, systems administration and engineering, IT management, and is a regular contributor for TechRepublic. Currently, his profession...

37 comments
dcolbert
dcolbert

Last night I had a late night remote meeting outside of regular working hours. Rather than pull out my corporate laptop and hook it up to AC and my wireless or an ethernet connection - I installed WebEx for Android on my TF300 tablet. It worked pretty awesome, and added some enhancements because of touch screen pinch-to-zoom to the experience I would have had on a traditional PC. I was able to have it call me back at my number - it knew when I answered and requested me to enter my name - it knew when I was speaking on the phone. The integration was nice. It was reliable, it was fast. It can support video and VoIP over the device. A long meeting was not taxing on my battery life. This is a great mobility example of where a tablet can be superior to a traditional PC for a common enterprise application. But it is still an early-adopter sign of what is to come, I think. It isn't the kind of thing that is going to send companies scrambling to provide tablets for all of their employees.

zenpilgrim
zenpilgrim

In my previous life, I and my employer (insurance carrier) were early adopters of the MS Tablet PC by our field risk management consultants. Having the ability to operate with a stylus and ink to text conversion was necessary. But true acceptance by the users was never achieved. New insurance company, new hardware and the desire for tablets is being pushed by both management and field users. While I have been a proponent of the form factor for almost 20 years, I do not see any real business case for it at the moment on an enterprise level. Also there is the desire to have the tablet replace a users other hardware, such as a laptop, for expense controls. In a large insurance enterprise I see four basic user groups (not counting the admin/manager level) that might benefit from the tablet: Claims - field claims staff could use it for accessing files and notes while away from the office. Also could use it to complete claim forms, add to notes etc. But most insurers are not going to put this info truly in the cloud and I don't see downloading them that type of data to the tablet to allow it to work offline. Also, forms would need to be redesigned to best fit the tablet form factor - reduce the amount of narratives. Loss control/risk management consultants (my area of specialization) - this is an area with potential as much of what this job entails is the collecting of data about an insured, building, fleet, etc. but we have the same issue as claims with needing to access the system and input data. Consultants will frequently find themselves in areas where Wi-Fi and 3G/4G are not available which requires the ability to collect data in a disconnected mode. Also, a consultant has the responsibility to analyze and provide commentary on risk acceptability (usually requiring some extensive narrative) write letters, etc. A conversion over to a tablet for data entry would require the wholesale re-design of the current data forms. The tablet could be of use to those consultants who provide training to accounts and agents provided the apps are available to support the work (and I do see several apps for the iPad that would make this a reality). Premium audit - all the same issues as loss control/risk management with the added issue of needing to manipulate spreadsheets. Any real spreadsheet manipulation/editing requires a mouse - fingers or a rubber tipped stylus just won't cut it. Sales underwriters/marketing - this may be the easiest place to drop the tablet into the work process. The primary use is the delivery and presentation of product and account level info. These users will most often have access to Wi-Fi and 3G/4G at their point of contact with their customer. They should not require extensive data gathering during the call. As an individual productivity tool, I love my tablet (I use both my old Tablet PC and iPad) but it still requires me to have access to thinks like a keyboard. Not sure the tablet is really ready for the enterprise.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I thought the stockroom workers could search for parts locations, receive electronic pick lists, and enter inventory transactions into SAP on tablets. This would replace the employees traipsing back and forth 50 or 75 feet to enter transactions and pick up new printed pick lists. We outsourced the stockroom management a couple of months ago. I never got past the idea stage, and now it isn't my concern. We've discussed having product testers and final inspection using tablets to enter test and inspection results. That's dependent on someone converting our existing manual forms to a web-based application.

mark.cooper
mark.cooper

I'm the guy from Ohio that thinks our way of driving is normal. I don't mean to beat a dead horse here. But!!! My 4 year old W7 Pro laptop has the Microsoft SkyDrive app installed. One of my client's Acer Iconia Tab W500 has Windows 8 Release Preview and the SkyDrive app installed along with Office Pro Plus 2013 Preview installed, ...and they also have a box with Windows Server 2012 Datacenter Release Candidate installed along with the SkyDrive app installed and the Office Pro Plus 2013 Preview installed. My phone is a first generation Samsung Focus with Windows Phone 7.5 installed along with a 32 GB micro SD card installed. I've been taking the Iconia W500 out to other client offices while leaving my laptop connected to the Internet at my base client office (could be a tower at home, a virtual machine somewhere on the Internet, wherever). With W8 x86 on the tablet I've VPN'd and Remote Desktopped to various client servers while in the field. I've reached into my laptop, with all it's documentation for all my clients, via SkyDrive to retrieve various documents not on the tablet. My email is in sync between my laptop, my phone, the tablet, and the W2012 server. My documents are in sync between all the devices. I've pulled the tablet off its keyboard/dock to work on troubleshooting a wireless network at one client office...I really wouldn't want to use my laptop for this. But for a vehicle failure I would have gone to another client office today to upgrade antivirus on their system plus set up a website (I like Plone for a content management system). I also would have updated the subscription on their Unified Threat Management system, added a new email account to their system and edited several other email accounts. I would have been able to VPN/Remote Desktop to all my other clients if needed. This is all on a +-$500 tablet (with keyboard, my wireless mouse, and a stylus, all for input). I have full MS Office compatibility (on all devices). I have all native printer drivers installed for all my clients. I think as a consultant I have some pretty demanding needs. One client is a beta for an iPad app to connect to a program hosted by Rackspace. With the W8 tablet there is no need for a special app....the desktops and kiosks use IE7/8 to run the app. Another client ( a county transit agency) runs a MS SQL-based app on W7 boxes. It runs on my tablet. Another client has a court of common pleas app, again based on MS SQL Server. It runs on my tablet. With my W8 Release Preview tablet I can touch the surface with Metro-based apps. If needed, I can dive down to x86 programs to do real work.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

for a tablet in a business environment, but they are limited. 1. Where you have to take readable copies of a lot of texts out on site, eg load it up with tech manuals for your tech staff as an easy to carry reference source. - On a personal basis you can do the same with the library of books to read while in transit etc. 2. For the logistics staff to use while picking stock in the warehouse, and managing in the field deliveries, and noting stock levels for stocktakes or reorders. 3. Field sales staff if it's preloaded with simple to use order forms etc, can cut back on paperwork and simplify the transfer of the order into the system while being lighter to carry than a notebook. 4. A personal speech prompter. And that's about the extent of it's business uses.

mckinnej
mckinnej

I have just become a member of the tablet club with my purchase of a spiffy new Nexus 7. Quite frankly, I'm unimpressed. Not by the Nexus 7, but by tablets in general. I've been reading all the press here and on other tech sites extolling the virtues of tablets and mobile computing. IMHO the reality is not nearly as rosy as the picture the press is painting. Typing is a chore. Inputs have to be careful and deliberate. There is no hope of ever getting anywhere close to keyboard speed on these things. If you're going to say, "get a bluetooth keyboard", then you've missed the point of tablets entirely. Web browsing is painful. The web as we know it was not designed for these devices. While it might be getting better, it certainly has a long way to go. Also, Adobe was very premature in dropping Flash support. HTML5 isn't ready for prime time and only a fraction of websites actually use it. Flash is still a "must have". That's reality and reality is broken. I didn't buy it to be a game machine, but a coworker that I trust says they work well for that. Maybe I'll try one eventually. Google is no different than Apple in their environment lock-in. I was unable to do anything with the device without a Google account. I would like to see devices with some choice that doesn't involve rooting and hacking. I did find one thing in which the tablet excels at. It is an excellent e-reader. I can't say one bad thing about it in that regard except it seems like I bought a Ferrari to drive back and forth to Walmart. In other words, I have a lot of (excess) horsepower to accomplish a menial task. That's my take of the tablets. I'm pretty disappointed. They certainly don't live up to the hype. I'm still going to keep playing with it. Maybe it will grow on me. Now circling back to the point of this article, if a new, but optimistic user like me is having trouble using a tablet as a personal device, how on earth would it ever work at work? I can see them being useful with special applications to do special tasks, but general office work? Never. I'm convinced the tech press is way off base on these things. The comparison to PDAs has a similarity I don't think the author realized. I expect tablets will be right next to PDAs in the landfills in a few years.

TNT
TNT

In public speaking it is wonderful to have your slate device with you on stage. Not only does it contain your notes to help you stay on message, but through it you can control your PowerPoint presentation. It looks natural in your hands and doesn't distract the audience the way holding a laptop or even walking over to a laptop does. During Q&A sessions it allows the speaker to quickly access and share online resources that are pertinent to an attendees question. All of this could be done with other technology, but not in a way that is as natural or fluid for the speaker and as invisible to the listener.

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

Furthermore, I can't find a use scenario for them in our environment. Being just a small business, only 5 employees, there just is not anything I can think of that a tablet device, nor even a "smartphone", would do to enable any of us to be more proficient/efficient at our jobs. I've read many blogs, posts, etc. about use potential of mobile devices, but it does seem to me as if many of these uses are simply repeating what we can already do using any old PDA, or even some of the old order entry devices, such as a Telxon. I should point out that my business deals with a lot of confidential information, and as such I'm subject to HIPPA regulations. That trumps any need for "mobility" or even using most "cloud" services.

dcolbert
dcolbert

Is anyone out there using tablets in their environment in a way that they feel is truly innovative and is enabled by the unique form factor and features of mobileOS devices in a tablet design? Can the TR community come up with 5 unique use models that *only* a mobileOS tablet can deliver? I want to exclude convertibles that run IA/Windows. Or... all this potential, all these features, and is your organization using them solely as executive task-minders and digital notebooks, calendaring and contact management? Is it tablets that are the problem, or is IT just not figuring out how to leverage the capabilities to increase productivity?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I certainly don't think companies are going to scramble deploying these in addition to their users' current laptops.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

The possible uses you describe could be hosted in-house. That would remove the issues of cloud security and locally stored data. Tablets still may not fit your needs, but they don't require involvement by a third-party cloud provider.

dcolbert
dcolbert

1: You bought a particular tablet that sets a particular agenda, and a couple of your complaints about that - I've noticed myself, and are unique to your model. The account-required-to-activate thing is unique. Buy another tablet, you can skip the activation, side-load other markets (or even download .apk's directly), and never need anything to do with Google. It will limit your experience, but it is EASY to achieve. When I get my replacement Nexus 7 and have to reconfigure, I'll double check if it is possible with the Nexus - but I remember noticing this when I was going through my setup, too and thinking, "that is very Apple like". It isn't the ONLY time I made that observation with the Nexus 7, either - and that is a troubling direction for Google to take - something I plan on talking about more in the near future. 2: You bought a 7", consumer oriented, content consumption oriented device. You bought a Ferrari to rock-climb the Rubicon. Virtual keyboards are not my favorite. They're an obstacle, you're absolutely right. There are tablets with slider keyboards, tablets with keyboard docks, lots of alternatives for a tablet experience that also provides the performance of physical keyboard input. That is why I have a bulky Droid 4 rather than a svelte Android smart-phone with no physical keyboard. The bad news is... the Nex7 virtual keyboard is one of the best, most responsive virtual keyboards on any device - equal to the iPad at least, if not in design and aesthetics in responsiveness. I find myself using the Nexus 7 to type longer responses on G+ and other sites than I ever would with other devices with virtual keyboards. It is about as good as it gets, at the moment. But you can have the convenience and portability and touch screen advantages of a tablet and also a physical keyboard with only minor sacrifices and concessions - if that is your thing. It is rumored that a keyboard dock like the Transformer docks might come to the Nexus 7 - although I would imagine it would be a small and difficult to use little thing. Web browsing and the lack of flash... I get you... mobile browsing, even at its best, is still limited compared to the desktop version. That well goes a lot deeper than the things you've pointed out. I hate sites that won't render the Desktop Version of a site even when you set the mobile browser to request it, and I hate it when you can render the desktop version, but it doesn't work right. No tablet is immune to this - it is a developing technology. I agree about Flash. I had to pull out my TF300 tablet to show a person a website that required flash to view embedded videos after it failed on the Nexus 7. Hardware should not be able to prematurely obsolete technologies that are still widely deployed. But - that seems to be the reality. BUT - I've wrote a couple of articles where I had "discovery moments" and expanded the use of my tablet in new ways - not because they improved something, but because I realized, "I don't have to do this the way I always have with previous technologies". Like any new tool, you tend to use it like similar tools you have used in the past - even when there is maybe a better way to use it that you just haven't realized yet. Over the last two years, I've used a lot of these devices - and on several occasions I've had an epiphany where I've been fighting with the device, complaining that, "it doesn't do what I want it to do, what it should be SIMPLE to do", before I realized either: a: There is no NEED to do that anymore with this device, for one reason or another... b: There is a better way to do it, that I just hadn't thought about yet. Here I sound like the Linux or Mac change proponent - but it is true. Some of it is just inertia and habit. You're used to things happening a certain way, or having to go through a certain set of comfortable, familiar steps to reach a goal. Those things have probably just changed. If you can't adjust, you just prefer the traditional way - that is OK... but don't write it off until you've given this approach a chance. It *might* change your mind, and eventually going back to the old way may seem like a real chore. As for your final observations - I have no doubts that this will be their fate. This is a rapidly evolving, transitioning device category. Here is the thing... I want tablets for convergence, convenience and to lighten my gadget load. But I find I still need a laptop, I really like the 10" transformer format for some needs, and I prefer the 7" format for others... and I still have a smartphone that is a smaller version still. Managing all 3 plus a traditional OS is a pain. I see those coming together. I need *one* mobile device - and it needs to be nothing but a simple pager or pack-of-gum sized brick that can interface with I/O devices as necessary. My TV and remote when I'm on the couch, my dual screen 22" monitors, keyboard and mouse when I'm at the desk, my 10" clamshell screen when I need a laptop, the 10" display can detach when I want to read an eMagazine, my 7" touch screen is an interface when I want to read a paperback in bed. Maybe a foldable e-newspaper for the train-ride, or a pair of glasses with HUD for gaming. That *is* where this technology is headed. What we have right now are the 80s era 8 Bit PC versions of that end. It just seems super-fantastic now because it is NOW. They're going to look like dinosaurs in 5 or 10 years. But we have to go through this NOW to get THERE later.

dcolbert
dcolbert

And this is exactly what I'm looking for. But - this isn't going to affect "the enterprise" in a dramatic way in most organizations, especially SMBs. I can see larger organizations that are "campus based" and have a very tall hierarchy deploying tablets as standardized solutions to address a challenge like this. I can see a firm that is oriented towards presentations - education, seminars, and other visual-media activities driving adoption of tablets - in a way that could have a significant impact on that organization's IT policies. But for the bulk of workers in fields that require technology for their day-to-day use, and even at firms where these solutions might have widespread roll-out, it isn't going to be terribly disruptive for Enterprise planning and support as a whole. Right now enterprise tablet adoption seems to benefit very narrow industries and mostly as more convenient ways to do simple parts of the overall task that have always been part of the end goal. I think that is the surface I'm trying to scratch at with the direction of this piece. Tech journalism is one of those places where tablets caught on with a lot of excitement, and I think that isn't just because it is a nifty gadget and tech journalists tend to be gadget freaks. I think it is because tech journalists get some tangible benefits because they fit the same kind of profile of employee that we're discussing above. They tend to be mobile. They're doing trade shows, conferences, PR announcements and other industry events. They go to Vegas, they go to San Francisco, they go to Seattle and other technology hubs. They're road warriors who depend on technology to facilitate their end product. Their end product tends to be fairly simple to create in a technical sense. You don't *need* a lot of horsepower to be able to write and manipulate words and ideas. So tablets were eagerly embraced by the people who write tech news. They did the same thing with Twitter. It meant a lot to them, and they saw this huge potential - and business heard them raving about the benefits and got caught up in a frenzy of, "how do WE leverage those benefits to our advantage". That is something business in general is still struggling with, frankly. Those struggles tend to be over a lot of the same type of concerns. Security, control, need, and use models that are actually productivity enhancing. Tablets are great for journalists. They consolidate and offer most of the things that are necessary to get the job done. Maybe that is the best way to begin to define where tablets make sense for the enterprise - to determine and list what industries they are probably a logical fit for?

dcolbert
dcolbert

I find that industries subject to HIPPA are some of the most frequent early adopters of these technologies, because the Docs love their Apple gadgets and seem to have a desire to make their IT support figure out *some* sort of use-model for them.

dcolbert
dcolbert

But - will employees want IT to enable their personal tablets as BYOD solutions and is there a justified value in doing so?

dcolbert
dcolbert

So... a private cloud? I mean... the discussion around VPN below highlights the challenges here with mobile devices. You're trying to make the data and apps accessible while maximizing the benefits of mobile devices. That implies that you won't be accessing solely by WiFi - you'll be accessing by some sort of telco wireless solution. Two problems arise here: VPNs get abused for remote access. I see VPNs as way to securely extend WANs to machines that are logically a functional, remote part of a LAN. Using VPNs to make remote workers a part of a LAN is one thing - extending that to their multiple mobile devices is different. It becomes increasingly difficult to manage and secure and to determine what kind of access each device should be limited to. You end up with two scenarios... a "least restrictive" VPN policy where once you get in and authenticated, you've got "the keys to the kingdom" regardless of where or how you are connecting... or a more granular policy where you're managing multiple devices per user - for multiple users, on a case by case basis to make sure they have access only to what is logical for that VPN connection and device. What a nightmare - especially when less secure mobile devices that are easily lost could conceivably have WAN access to your internal network via VPN connection. Note that you've got your network engineering staff managing your resource accessibility security and permissions at this point - instead of your systems administration staff. You've fragmented your policy makers between two groups/departments that do not necessarily communicate well with one another - and this leads to problems where the end user can't access something because one side or the other has something broken, and you can't isolate the problem until you get the two different teams actually talking to one another. The problem there is that you've often got to have someone good on the OTHER side of one of the teams to think, "Hey, everything looks good on OUR side, but if someone on the OTHER side didn't set THIS right, that might cause this problem." It really complicates the whole process (or sacrifices best security practices) to use VPNs with mobile devices. Or you go the other way, and you make services and applications accessible through a public faced private cloud that has some sort of secure authentication layer between it but maintains the separation between the connecting mobile device and the internal LAN/WAN. In the process, you lose the benefits of a hosted cloud, where the vendor offers on the fly scalability and JIT, SaaS metering that means you're only paying for the resources that you consume. Instead, you've got to maintain the cloud, the scalability, the redundancy, yourself, out of your own budget. You've got all the overhead costs of any other on-site deployment with a private cloud solution - more if your executive staff has read about the benefits of "cloud deployments" and thinks that you should be able to offer the same benefits that a pooled and hosted cloud solution claims. And, you're probably paying extra for whatever it is that makes the resources, apps or data you want "cloud available", too. A private cloud has all the cost liabilities of a traditional model with many of the additional costs of a true cloud model, too. That is what I mean by transition and convergence... there are complimentary, dependent technologies that are also just developing that tablets and other mobile devices need to be a complete puzzle. It isn't just the devices that are going to enable tablet technology to penetrate the enterprise on a wide-scale. The infrastructure and connectivity have to change radically, too. Not to pat myself on the back, but this may be among the most insightful actual IT observations I have ever made on Tech Republic - and might make some disbelievers understand why I work in IT. Mark this moment. ;) Anyhow... this starts to explore the reasons why *I* am reluctant to embrace mobile devices like tablets in the Enterprise. What seems like a simple "BYOD" solution on the surface gets real complex and real involved really quickly - when you start talking about meaningful implementation in your environment.

zenpilgrim
zenpilgrim

Field staff such as claims adjusters and loss control consultants need access to the data when they can't access the data or apps be they in-house or in the cloud due to lack of connectivity. Hence the need to be able to work in a disconnected mode.

TNT
TNT

I know this thread is old, but if you're still looking for industries where tablets make sense I would start with these: • Education • Journalism • Churches • Outside Sales • Photography and graphic design/advertising (showing proofs/concepts to clients)

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

for the computer systems anyhow. The other health care professionals haven't really came onboard until the government provided the incentives! Many a doctor still has trouble practicing without a paper prescription pad! Even in pharmacy (my chosen field), for years the state boards have had a regulation on the books that if a pharmacy has electronic records, we also had to have a "hardcopy" to keep on file. It's been a slow process to effect change.

dcolbert
dcolbert

I suppose that meeting 1024 bit key security is just a matter of adding a patch where it isn't already available, no? Unless processing those kind of keys is just out of the question for some of the older hardware - in which case you've got a lifecycle issue - your hardware has fallen off the edge - get a new one. Cleaning and supporting BYOD solutions has been a challenge for me for the last 5 years in my current role. We had a very relaxed BYOD policy for remote workers prior to the tablet/mobile revolution - allowing remote workers to use their own desktop and laptop PCs when they worked from home. There were several problems that arose when they had to bring their machines in for troubleshooting or support. We've moved away from this model to a certain extent - but it still remains one of the thorns in my side - and it is a really good point you make.

dcolbert
dcolbert

But it is still the same net result, right - preferential distribution of tools to the workforce depending on a variety of factors outside of those that should be considered. Ultimately, case-by-case decisions seem to cause more harm to the company than good.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Mary just have inferior sales skills and may not know how to make her case. I suck at selling myself and my issues.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

heck, almost every year we read about some high paid exec getting kicked out because they brought in a wi-fi device of some sort that did NOT meet the corporate security policies and thus breeched the system's security. I can see some of this BYOD causing issues in that area, but (luckily) I'm now out of the environments where I have to worry about it. If it works for the company without causing any issues, well and good. Oh, another thing I just thought of, can all these BYODs meet the 1024 bit key security now that Microsoft is making that the mandatory minimum for security keys in their software? That might be the basis of a good article along these lines. Edit to add, how are the companies going to handle the cleaning of such devices when the person quits or upgrades and hands the existing unit over to one of their kids. After all, these are private property and the company has no power to demand access or doing things like a total cleansing.

dcolbert
dcolbert

I like Bob... his case is good. I don't like Mary, her case is bad. Not saying that I have any better ideas - but "plead your case" models seem prone to corruption to me. Having a hard policy defined is the way to go, in my book.

dcolbert
dcolbert

are the exception, not the rule.

zenpilgrim
zenpilgrim

We allow an employee to use the personal iPad or iPhone for company email provided they can make a business case with their manager and IT.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

due to the high security needs. The situation is such that NO wireless device is allowed near the network, let alone to connect to it. Even the notebooks if the organisation have to have the wi-fi disabled and locked down before anyone can have it to work with - after they justify the need.

dcolbert
dcolbert

I've mentioned the transition and convergence... and part of that is the architecture support to enable these to happen. All of the technologies needed to fully realize the promise of tablet computing for enterprise use aren't in place yet. That is delaying transition. I really dig the Nexus 7 - but the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 had one serious advantage - 4G connectivity. The problem is that it needs to be as inexpensive, unlimited and ubiquitous as traditional connectivity in order to become meaningful. The Nexus 7 is designed to *encourage* leveraging cloud technologies - but what good is a mobile device that requires the cloud when you don't have connectivity *to* that cloud? So Google has addressed this with clumsy work-arounds like offline cloud-apps and limited sync of last documents that were accessed, allowing users to manually pre-cache data (offline maps, "pinned" music and movies). These are inevitably unsatisfying and limited solutions. They offset the convenience by making the end user carefully consider and plan what they're going to need and when and where they're going to be "off-the-grid". In the meantime, even 3G or 4G connectivity is not dependable enough, is too expensive, and must be carefully managed for bandwidth consumption compared to traditional connectivity methods. So the Wireless Telcos are a big obstacle holding back the rampant adoption of tablets in the enterprise, right now. Effectively, tablet technology *connectivity* is at about the place where the internet was when dial-up modems were 33.6k... maybe not even quite there. The pipe, the availability of that pipe, is what limits the practical application of the device. It is one of the big bottlenecks slowing down adoption.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I missed the connectivity issue in your original post.

dcolbert
dcolbert

So now you're driving some sort of offline mode where critical data is stored locally on an inherently less secure mobile device - and has to be re-integrated back with the existing data stored on the LAN when the device returns to connectivity. This is a big enough challenge when you just have multiple people working individually in collaboration on a single dataset on a traditional network and look at the weird workarounds that exist for that, like file locking/read only mode access alerts and such. Even with that - I've seen roaming offline profiles cause problems anyhow in those scenarios. For example, two people are working in the same document, but one person is accessing their offline copy of the document. Person A, connected, opens the file, it isn't *locked* because there isn't a connection to person B. They make modifications, save the document and go on their way. Person B accesses their cached version offline, makes modifications, save the document, and later comes into the office. In the meantime, person A has gone offsite, opened the cached document and made changes as well. Person B comes in, their offline data syncs - their updates are captured. Person A comes back in, and their updates overwrite all of person Bs updates... then the nightly backup takes place. The next morning, person B connects, and all of their work is gone. Person A says, "everything I did, even after I left - is still there"... IT gets a call, looks at the backup, and only person A's data is on the backup... SNAFU. I mean, the second example is a risk with any mobile device, including laptops - and happens for sure. But a lot of time real "cloud" based devices only store the local copy cached until they can get it back to the server - so it is more likely that in the example above, person B won't have a persistent copy on their device... I think the difficulty writing and reading the above example shows why it is such a problematic thing to deliver in IT... offline documents lead to document loss - because the rules can't guarantee that it will always be the most current data that gets written when there is contention between two different examples of the same file or document.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

will be a good travel companion, but only after the idiots who design the current tablets accept they screwed the pooch and kill off their garbage proprietary layouts and set them up to render the books in plain basic html.

dcolbert
dcolbert

Not many of these actually qualify as actual "business workflow productivity tasks". Which seems to be a challenge for tablet adoption to me. From an IT enterprise support and adoption perspective, I just can't get too worked up about tablets. They're going to be mostly in training and education departments, A/V aids for HR, marketing and executive presentations. In these uses, tablets are little different than projectors and other AV technology that actually doesn't necessarily belong with traditional, back-office IT systems support. I mean, I know corporations try to shoe-horn ownership of this kind of equipment into a traditional IT infrastructure more and more frequently, "it plugs in, has lights and buttons, and hooks up to PC output... it should be IT supported!" But really the way I see tablets being adopted seems to be an extension of audio-visual support systems within an organization. Sound-boards and light-shows in conference rooms with high-impact presentations by people who give presentations for a living. Which is all important, but doesn't have a lot to do with enterprise IT engineering - or shouldn't, anyhow.

dcolbert
dcolbert

So aggressive about adopting shiny new gadgets yet so reluctant to change tried and true ways all at the same time. It is an exasperating field for an IT professional to work in.