Tablets

Tablets will replace PCs for many enterprise users

Bill Detwiler outlines factors that are both driving forward and holding back widespread tablet adoption in the enterprise.

At TechRepublic Live 2011, I discussed the forces driving the enterprise adoption of tablets. In my presentation, "Tablets: Accelerating IT Consumerization," I walked attendees through the history of tablets, IT's initial reluctance to see them as anything but a consumer toy, and ways to successfully navigate the tablet flood.

TechRepublic members remain divided on the tablet's usefulness, but the number of those who believe the devices are merely a passing fad is falling. Nearly 40 percent of respondents to an April, 2011 poll think tablets are the future, and 32 percent were on the fence. Only 28 percent felt that tablets were a fad.

Adoption drivers

When it comes to the drivers behind tablet adoption, I outlined four factors:

  • Increased processing power
  • Growing storage capacity
  • The Cloud
  • IT consumerization

Advances in mobile processors and GPUs haven't put tablets on par with PCs yet. But quad-core mobile processors, such as the Nvidia Tegra 3 (Kal-El), will go along way to close the performance gap. Along with significant improvements in processing power, tablets' storage capacity is also growing. It won't be long before 128GB and 256GB tablets are commonplace. The Cloud is also changing how people work with their devices. For example, online storage services can take the place of large, local hard drives. As more "tasks" are handled in the cloud, traditional PCs, with their focus on local computing, become less necessary for the average user.

Adoption barriers

Despite the factors pushing tablet adoption, device manufactures must still overcome several obstacles before tablets can replace PCs. I cited the following four:

  • Price
  • Limited peripheral support
  • Lack of standards
  • Incompatible software ecosystems

As tablet manufacturers such as HP and RIM have discovered, price matters. Entry-level corporate desktops run about $500--the same price as most 10" tablets. With the exception of Apple's iPad, retail consumers and IT pros aren't convinced they should spend the same amount for a tablet that they would for an average PC. Why? Because, they still don't believe tablets are as "powerful" as PCs. And honestly, they're right. But as I point out above, this is changing.

The enterprise adoption of tablets is also hampered by a lack of universal support for peripherals (keyboard, mouse, and printers). Sure, many tablets support some of these devices, but the level of peripheral standardization in tablets isn't the same as it is the PC market. Along these same lines, the current crop of tablets lack standards when it comes to ports and connectors.

Lastly, there's a dramatic difference in tablet software ecosystems. Apple's App Store is the oldest and most fully developed. The Android Market is growing rapidly. And, Microsoft will be shipping Windows 8 with an integrated "Windows Store". While not a complete roadblock (Macs can't natively run Windows software), this software segmentation may restrict app creation as developers pick and choose which platforms to build on. HTML5 however, may be one way around this barrier.

It doesn't really matter what the "box" looks like

Ultimately, most users don't really care what their computing device looks. Sure, some users are more style-conscious than others, but most just want a device that makes their jobs (and lives) easier. Within five years, I believe many office workspaces will consist of a docking station, keyboard, mouse or trackpad, and large monitor(s).  Each morning, you'll come in, place your tablet in the dock, and turn on the monitor. You'll still use the keyboard, mouse, and monitor for creating content, but you'll actually be doing it on a tablet (or maybe even a smarthphone).

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

116 comments
lppsguay
lppsguay

Bill: Good article - tablets are coming, but, I suspect adaptation will be very slow in the mainstream (traditional) business world. Most corporate users need the ability to perform data input, currently not a tablet strength. Even simple tasks like responding to emails needs to be user-friendly, simple, quick, and expressive. Until a viable keyboard alternative (say maybe speech recognition) is available on tablets, laptops will remain the business mobile device of choice. Software is an issue on two fronts: Many businesses use mission critical proprietary software. I can't picture using a tablet to run the 15 year old application I had to have on the corporate laptop. And licensing requirements normally limits employees to one device per user. Tablets only work if they completely replace the PC (or laptop). Personal devices at work will be a hot topic for a long time. Besides the licensing issues, corporate security, uniformity of devices and control of data argues against personal devices in the workplace. As a user, not sure I want to give IT (and thus the corporation) access to my personal device. No win for both sides, at least under the current standards and practices most businesses follow. Cost is another factor. As long as a tablet costs more than a laptop and remains less flexible to the corporate mission, the laptop wins. A tablet is easier to travel with, but, again, most corporations put user comfort far down the list when it comes to device selection. Corporate inertia (already mentioned) and the conservative culture means very slow adaptation in any business where IT is a tool of the business and not the basis of the business.

nws
nws

tablets are fine for meetings...try typing a report with graphs on one. If one is in retail review PCI and SoKs regs.

Paul R.A.
Paul R.A.

I'm in R&D, tablets won;t work, will need a docking station to match up with keyboard and mouse, still have to load exceed, full office(not the 365) citrix et, couple of other items to support oracle. sorry tablets are toys yet. and our company went big time Microsoft in the last 3 years. -with all the frequent breakdowns patches and extra features you expect from MS. the only ones I see playing with tablets are the board wonks- new toys. not even IT is trying them out

squirrelpie0
squirrelpie0

My take on the 'flavour of the preceding comments. Tablets have exploded onto the IT scene. They are here. A massive and growing number of the population are using them. Certainly IT professionals have very real concerns about their networks and security, but these ever newer and expanding devices are a growing fact of life. They have propelled Apple to the largest corporation in the world At some point all 'corporate IT systems' interface with the public and setting ones organization up as a medieval castle complete with moats wont work. It didn't work to keep the hoards at bay a few hundred years ago and it won't work now. You will embrace and learn how to use and control the new technology or you will perish. Pulling up the drawbridge and manning the turrets will not work! IT pros come down from your ivory towers and smell the coffee- even if it is laced with arsenic.

realvarezm
realvarezm

I know that tablets are the hot stuff now but i think is a trend that eventually will settle in its own niche and as a complement of laptops and mobile phones (this i think will be the true winners) tablets like the name suggest are dorky as in too big for a true moblie device and to small for a confortable and ergonomic workstation like a 15" laptop. Marketing industry loves them just to put an example. Theres another aspect the accesories like printers, projectors and so are not that plenty right kow and with the wide range of formats and desing i dont think they will be in at least 3 years. Thats my humble opinion. Cheers!

tonycopp
tonycopp

GUI icons without knowledge of source (aggregator sites vs URL visible) is completely inviting abuse. Twenty EuroBankers can sit in a big conference listening to the new deal, sign-in their unique and highly-secure log-ins, and see data that may be unique to their hole-card belief yet not quite the same to their neighbor state or co-worker.

richslab
richslab

People said that laptops would kill the PC. Now it's tablets. What has actually happened is that they've coexisted and I expect the same will happen with tablets. Until the day they truly have the same power and it doesn't matter anymore they'll each have their place in the computing arsenal.

mhoff1387
mhoff1387

In my experience, I have met very, very few people that are able to function better with a tablet than a desktop or laptop. One person that has become more productive is my fiance's dad, who manages a body shop. He can take his tablet outside with him to inspect needed bodywork, take pictures, make notes, and write up the quote right in front of the customer without having to go back and forth to his PC. A blue collar guy has become more effective with a tablet. Now let's take a look at all the white collar workers that "demanded" a tablet to increase productivity. I was forced to blow through $10,000 of my IT budget to purchase iPads for the senior exec staff, and not one of them has been able to use it effectively. I don't know how many times I've been told that they'll send me a spreadsheet once they get back to their laptops...THEN WHY DID I BUY YOU A TABLET!? Every time a tablet starts acting weird, its because it was used for something not related to work. When I try to find evidence of actual work getting done, I can't find it. As far as I'm concerned, tablets are still status symbols in board meetings. Disclaimer: I own a tablet. I snagged a Touchpad for $99 during the fire-sale. It's fantastic as an e-reader, web browser, and play toy. I do not pretend to be more productive because I have one.

M Wagner
M Wagner

"Portable" personal computers have been around since before the IBM PC but the "Compaq Portable" (1983) - affectionately called a "luggable" - really started the revolution so many years ago. By the late 1980's, Toshiba was selling "laptops" which still required plug-in power. By the 1990's battery-powered laptops were widely available but still quite expensive. During the first decade of the new century notebooks had become the new standard in low-cost high-performance. Though the term "tablet" was associated with with high-end PCs for most of the decade - until the Apple iPad came along. All that said, the tablet is really just the new "thin client" ... a portable device intended to deliver content from the clouds via this applications.

mbaker2311
mbaker2311

The future is a tablet coming in and docking to act like a PC? Why take the risk? Ah, but you can work from home, too? They've invented that device already, and it is wide spread use. It's called the laptop. Honestly, this thing where technophiles look at products is amazing. If I had a dime for every "X will take over the PC" article, I could retire. Look at the way real people use a computer. They do it for work. Every enterprise locks down the desktop (PC or laptop,) gets rid of Solitaire, throttles the web to business sites... why? They don't want people playing, they want them working. Nothing a tablet does allows you to WORK more, which is the only reason a CFO would allow the purchase.

JJFitz
JJFitz

The new wave of Apple and Android tablets need account profiles and security levels. I want to be able to hand over my tablet to another user and know that they cannot read my email, access my local storage, and install apps on my device under my account.

cb366374
cb366374

Everyone seems to be debating the performance benefits of tablets and desktops. I think those are pretty obvious and will never change. Smaller components will always be more expensive. The real question is how much computing will be done locally in 5 years. Most hard drives can be replaced by cloud storage, so who cares if I have 500GB on my tablet? What if the processing is also being done remotely? I'm curious to see if wireless connectivity can catch up and make cloud computing a serious threat to every computer hardware component. I think that would make the biggest impact in the success of the tablet. Until then, PCs will always provide more bang for your buck.

Nashphil
Nashphil

Your last statement describing the future office space.... You just described the Motorola Atrix, especially if you think of it and the power it will have in a couple of generations. I'm impressed by it's muti-use format and I don't even own one. It's usefulness leaves the iPhone in the dirt. Home - TV, Phone, Internet, Wifi printing Office- All office apps, wifi or networked printers and the cloud for storage and backup. Car - Radio, Phone and GPS. even Videos for the back seats Apps - Whatever Android has and the future sees for it

DHOLYER
DHOLYER

As these new forms of Display devices are created, first as just lines of LCD text, now whole screens. All they are is a display device. The PAD is no computer, some have tried to make full fledged PC computers out of them, i.e. HP. It will be years before they are ever able to mussle up the power of a 60's main frame as Desktops did back in the late 80's. To have the power of a Cray One super computer, I have close to that with what I use now a Quad Core AMD 64 running at 3 gigahertz. And it's ATI 2560x1600 max screen is as good as most 70's film studios did (i.e Star Wars). I-MAX is still beyond most these days. In time things will get there, I started out with a Atari 800 in 1980 and that was a 8bit computer with a 352x240x256 colors and 4 8bit sound channels into one mono audio out. Compared to my now 7.1Dolby surround sound in 32bits per channel. and all for under $400 two months ago, and with a newly added Sound Blater PCIx card and a $600 e-SATA 8Tera RAID external Hard drive to add to it's internal 1Tera boot drive. With taxes added it is still under $1,200, some tablet systems are near that cost. And that is not even going into Cloud memory or storage space that may make tablets equall to 1980's PC's.

annamulvenna
annamulvenna

I work at a software company who produce solutions to connect remote workers (inspectors, case workers, repairs operatives) to the back office on mobile devices. Tablets are really popular with a lot of our customers. As a device, they seem to be quite a good balance between Smartphones and laptops or PCs for field workers. This type of worker doesn't always need all the functionality that comes from a PC but it can be awkward using a Smartphone due to their size. Obviously there are down falls and they aren't for everyone, as described in this article "Why iPads May Fall Flat for PC Users" http://www.zdnet.co.uk/news/mobile-working/2011/08/07/why-ipads-may-fall-flat-for-pc-users-40093564/ But on the other hand there are... "The 7 Reasons Field Workers Need Tablets" http://fieldmobilitysolutions.com/?p=325

coldbrew
coldbrew

I never saw the real need for a tablet until I got back on the road. We do a lot of onsite client work. I am using my iphone now for notes and what not but it sure would be nice to have a tablet. I am seriusly considering it. I agree with everything though, when I am at my desk, I am on my trusty old desktop/laptop.

netwidget
netwidget

I'm sitting here in my hotel room reading and now responding to this blog from my iPad. It truly amazes me just how short sighted people can be. Over 25 years in the computer and tech industry I have heard the same crap regarding each new device. My laptop is sitting 3 feet away on the desk but I prefer to sit here on the couch and type on my iPad. I spent the whole day in meetings with a Fortune 10 client and other consultants. Of the 35 people in the room half had laptops in their bags, one had pulled his out and had it opened but rarely used it. By contrast there were 4 people with tablets, three iPads and one Acer running Android. All of the tablet owners had theirs out and where using it to some degree during the meetings. The analogy of the tortoise and the hare comes to mind. All the 'hares' were sleeping away in their bags while the tortoises were methodically gaining ground answering emails, taking notes, viewing presentation diagrams. To be fair I saw 2 smart phones being used (but I would wager for quick email or text responses only). I use all main OS's out there and love my Linux terminal and the keyboard so I get it. And when I need to be at the terminal nothing replaces a keyboard and a nice screen. But most of my day I don't need that. I would argue that most people don't. But people adapt. My 15 yr. old daughter can T9 on her regular cell phone faster than I can type. People adapt and developers who know their users will adapt their apps to leverage these people's needs. Forget 5 years, I am aware of apps that will be designed to remove the need for the keyboard much. I don't care how fast you can type on the fastest computer and best keypad, you will always still be 10 million times slower than the computer's ability to respond to you. So what If my iPad is only 7 million times faster than me it is still laughable to need a faster tablet for average use. What really counts is that I am using the tablet more often than my laptop; race won, because the hare never woke up from the bag. Everyone I know that has one uses it and loves it. I have already found 10 uses in my business with my company where the tablet could save the company days of lost productivity. And forget the idea that these will be 'personal' tablets, they will be company issued tables and will remain secure (to the greatest degree possible) by only accessing company enterprise data in the cloud. Well this is getting long and i'll shut up now, by shut up I will stop tapping away on the screen keyboard because I forgot to bring my standard iMac mini bluetooth keyboard to connect to it to type just a little faster, although it wasn't too bad.

wolfshades
wolfshades

I attended an IBM seminar where one of the topics for discussion was: how to provide a logical and well-managed "bring your own device" dynamic in the enterprise. They were willing to talk about this, primarily because they've decided to adopt it for themselves. The "bring your own device" (BYOD) deal certainly has problems, mostly involving security, but as anyone who has been in IT for a while will tell you: there is no such thing as an unsolvable IT problem. The solution may take time, and certainly money, but it can be found. IBM I believe hoped to pioneer the effort, at least as it pertains to BYOD. The advantages are attractive: the company is off the hook for purchasing the devices; and employee engagement increases, because they can use the device that meets their own requirements. Additionally, the economic footprint for the company can actually be decreased, as the focus starts to move away from the traditional office, to more accommodating venues, such as the home or coffee shop or library. Obviously this doesn't work for all office functions, but it does meet the need of many. My group looks at IT trends in order to predict future requirements for our staff. Long before the iPad made its debut, we already were predicting a move away from desktop PCs to smaller and smaller form factor computing - chiefly laptops and nettops. Tablets, and in particular, the iPad which has lead the pack, has exposed users to an experience which is quickly moving away from "cool nice-to-haves" to "must haves". They want the instant-on feature. The want increased mobility, with less weight, and they don't want to have to find a power outlet in order to work. Tablets are the future. I agree with Bill on this. My curiosity is now around: what's the next step in this evolution?

Al_nyc
Al_nyc

I think the lack of a keyboard will not make this happen. While Bill is right that tablets will get more powerful, desktops will also get more powerful at the same pace so they will always be able to do more. If you are in an office all day, a tablet gives you little to no benefit over a desktop.

jdaughtry
jdaughtry

Many of these articles sound as though they assume that mobile professionals are the only ones using computers in the work environment. While they make up a sizable proportion, I believe the majority of users are just "plain old workers" who really need a device of modest power but outfitted with a keyboard and a mouse, and with a wired connection to the corporate LAN. All of them, whether mobile or not, need to fit into some homogeneous managed environment. At one time, that meant CICS and 3270 workstations. Now it mostly means Windows and Active Directory. The next paradigm is IMHO amorphous and won't be ubiquitous for another 20 years. I'm betting on something more like CICS/3270 - central processing with local display.

mwclarke1
mwclarke1

OK, maybe that is not quite correct, but the majority use outside corporate use is multimedia, game, fun, toy.... Limited corporate usage, maybe some use in certain sell organizations to be more mobile, maybe IT/Tech support, and/or field support using specific applications, great usage for other mobile apps for medical, law enforcement, etc. Need more power, better battery life, better accessory support, etc before becoming a more serious device Great for corporate executives that really do nothing but e-mail anyway, check stock prices, really do no real work, they hand all that off to the admins, they are the ones that need several devices, desktops for all the office work, mobile platform to keep track of what the boss whats on the go. :-) 95 percent of the work force sitting at desks are going to need just a desktop for years to come, for most that do not travel I would not let them have anything else, data not leaving the site with the employee is more secure. ergonomics pay a big part in having to type stuff in to a computer all day long, only going to be at a properly equipped desktop. For the traveler, many still require/need/like the laptop or a netbook at a minimum due to the need to type stuff in reports, excel, etc. Many corporate apps still hard client based and does not work on mobile platforms at this time. Most people these days sees something they think is the best thing since banana pudding and think everyone else will be the same way. That is way most people fail at starting their own business, they think they have the next great idea, no one else thinks so. Many like their iPAD's, most people do not still own one.

Stephen Wheeler
Stephen Wheeler

Sorry to join this debate so late but I had to give my two penneth. I see a lot of people posting and talking about the usual concerns that come with any new technology: - Security (particularly of data) - Connectivity (networks, peripherals, mobility, cloud ... ) - Utility (how useful is a tablet in any specific situation) - Application (uses of computing, professions differ, job roles) - Legacy systems (software copyright, Windows, installed base, data formats, cost of ownership ... ) - Costs (avoiding spend duplication, investment cycle, sweating assets ... ) - No-one is in place to upset the market leader (e.g. Microsoft) To that I would add: - Personnel - personal, professional and corporate investment in skills - Cost of switching outweighed by costs of sticking - Resistance to change - Senior Management inability to understand ICT To be sure, the list of reasons why tablets may not be adopted wholesale tomorrow looks long, tough and impressive. Even so tablets will replace desktops and laptops in the vast majority of cases. I can say this with confidence because I'm old enough to remember the transition Mainframe to PC. I once worked for an IT Director who thought PCs would never amount to anything - they were toys. PCs, to him, were a major security threat, and they diluted spend on the mainframe which had cost so much - and in which the organisation had invested so much time and effort getting the core D/B and applications right. They allowed data to proliferate uncontrolled - much better to have a word processor on a mini and give people terminals. PCs required re-training, and users would never accept them because the learning curve was too steep. PCs were underpowered, their applications were too limited, and they couldn't connect to the IBM network. PC printers were expensive and greater numbers of printers was leading to rising support costs and lower quality printing. IBM are the market leader, they say PCs are only good for a tiny minority of specialist tasks - the mainframe is still where it's at. You name it - he had a gripe. With the benefit of hindsight; Complete hooey. Bill is therefore right, up to a point. Tablets are clearly the last part in the corporate puzzle - replacing paper notebooks, day files and desktop items like calendars is the last barrier to the paperless office for many organizations. Tablets fill that gap. Maybe not in your organization, or in your job - but for the majority. Combining the smartphone tablet and desktop-dock (with separate screen) gives at least three screens. This will make it possible for most information workers to have a scratch pad, a day-file or a desktop decoration open, alongside the work surface simultaneously - if desired. Hot-desking is a hot issue - there are big bucks to be saved here. I work in the information industries and I hot desk every day. My 'phone and laptop come with me everywhere. Having the ability to wirelessly connect a tablet to all the devices in any office, and to charge on the desktop without a cable while using a quality keyboard, pointer and screen - with more screens - will improve my productivity. If I am a corporate employee, the business accepting my personal tablet (perhaps with a annual allowance to cover 'for business purpose uses') will actually reduce the ICT spend - and keeping corporate data in the cloud will mean even my old boss will be happy with security. Sure there are firewall issues, but it's not like this is rocket science any more. VPNs are yesterdays technology challenge - nothing new to see here, move along. Accepting tablets is also the way to accept larger numbers of contractors with ease. This is in line with changing working patterns for more flexibility. Again, you and your organisation may not be affected - but billions are, get over it. That just leaves the timescale. Bill is right: Standards are the biggest barrier to tablet adoption. Until we see better Bluetooth and other wireless technology support, until we see a universal wireless charging standard (think toothbrush), until we see a standard tablet user interface (HTML5?) adoption will be slow and piecemeal. Once IBM slipped up and handed Microsoft a licence to print operating system money, and Compaq broke IBM's grip on the corporate PC hardware market, and Ethernet became a twisted-pair standard, there was no holding the PC. The same will happen to the tablet. Apple are showing the way. But, like IBM DOS, IBM PC secret and copyrighted BIOS chips and IBM Token Ring LANs, Apple's proprietary systems and intellectual property aggression are holding back innovation. But the information wants to be free.

geoffejohnson
geoffejohnson

I've been in and around IT for over 30 years. Could I remind everyone that this not the first time that tablets have been hailed as the yellow brick road to a bright new future. I reckon we've been here at least twice in the last decade. What's different this time? In a word: Apple. Had this been at the start of my IT career the word would have been: IBM. Let us not suppose that the "flavour of the decade" IT company will completely overtake the corporate market. Even IT managers and directors have learnt from history. The real problem is that the power of the IT department is being eroded by corporate users who "know better"... or are they simply dedicated followers of fashion (with apologies to Ray Davies). Don't get me wrong: the iPad is a great piece of design (it does after all come from Apple), the tablet is a great idea (I was all in favour the first time around), BUT it can never be all things to all men. Let's keep a sense of perspective please and not be taken in my IT industry hype. If you want to know why, just ask any IT manager of the 1970/80s who listened too much to the best marketing company of all time: our old friends IBM.

Loggies
Loggies

The great god Apple hath decreed: "There will be tablets and their name shalt be iPad." However, lo and behold, the iPad has spawned more tablet devices using different names and sizes. A new religion bloomed forth: "Tablet mania". It was fed and prohesied by a great prophet called Media Disciples gathered in awe and saw the future: "Tablets everywhere". They resolved that this vision will be shouted from the radios and the TV's and the blogs and promoted in the Clouds regardless of how imperfect it may be. The disciples spaketh thus: "We will MAKE it work, whether it is practical or not, We will drive square pegs in round holes and round pegs in square holes and prove that it can fit everywhere even though the pipes leaketh and the data escapeth and have to be rounded up and coerced by peripheral devices.

maszsam
maszsam

No company in their right mind is going to let company business out of the door. If they do, except for key personal, they might as well just throw all the other controls out the window with it. Ditto, letting someone hook anything into their intranet on any old computer. Lots of places have a "plug in your thumb drive and get fired" type policy. Why virtual anything? Use Linux and go with a web based local cloud. Yeah I know: cost. Have been called to more than one company where great stuff was going on like as recently as last year doing payroll on an apple II or complaining about how they were having problems networking their 1995 DOS version of Peach Tree with win98, win2000, and XP. Docking station? By the time you get all the gear blah, blah, cheaper and easier to just get a $230 AMD pc workstation that will kick its butt. On the other hand, I can see me opening a 300k record, 50 column, multi-worksheet spread sheet on a 9" screen, and them maybe doing a little data analysis with no key board. Or maybe busting open a non-liner video editing program and putting an add together. Okay maybe not. So tablets are useless for accounting, graphics, development, engineering... what are they good for again? Well what about part pullers in a manufacturing, retail, company with a web driven inventory control system. Then again I've seen where in these situations people with head sets relayed the information back to the office where people who type 70wpm input the info. But if you work for Jack In The Box, then I can see a touch screen working out for you. Taking notes away from your computer? On a smart phone? Still faster to use pen and paper. 0 boot time, ready to go in under 1 second and w-a-y faster than one finger typing. Sad but true. Been waiting for something to replace pen and paper but not yet. I suppose it depends on what you are doing.

mwharper1970
mwharper1970

Your way off the mark comparing a $500 tablet to a $500 desktop. At least compare apples to apples and look at the avg price for a business class laptop compared to a tablet and you will see about a $400-$500 difference. I think tablets replacing laptops is much closer than you think. From a consumer standpoint, I am one app away from ditching my windows laptop in lieu of a tablet and I think I could probably get by without the app in question. From a corporate standpoint, my company is already looking to replace several sales rep laptops with tablets. This is where Microsoft could actually catch up, but they best not wait for windows 8 to make the journey because they will once again be behind the gun. A simple rep session to our terminal servers and we now have fully functional windows systems on tablets. If the tablet is windows based, then even better because sales reps generally use web based apps, windows drivers for printing, email and MS Office apps, all of which can be served up in a terminal session and makes supporting those reps even easier, all they need is a connection to the Internet and they are up and running. I think we are only a year or two away from seeing much wider corporate adoption. Android won't be contender on my network, too many secuirity holes and no governance on the app store will keep android from making it too far, so it will come down to windows and iOS based tablets.

TsarNikky
TsarNikky

Regardless of how one wants to slice and dice, tablets can't handle data entry intensive tasks. Tapping a screen with one or two fingers doesn't cut it (no pun intended). If one adds some kind of external keyboard to gain touch typing functionality---you now have a two-piece laptop. So, while tablets may take over a few of the tasks now done by laptops; laptops and desktops will remain the major form factors for many years. (Microsoft...take note when you seem to be so gaga on the Metro interface for Windows-8; with nothing being said about any improvements to the traditional desktop interface.)

jgordes
jgordes

Think back a bit, we saw it first in Star Trek: The Next Generation and then even more in the follow-on, Star Trek: Deep Space 9. AND what Amazon has just done to lower the cost by ensuring the continuity of it sales and "byting" some of the initial cost will see other whole new economic models evolve -- as will the storage and peripherals.

john.ammon
john.ammon

Tablets will never replace computers across the whole company. They will be useful for managers who need email and simple web searching only. For designers, engineers, scientist, programmers and others needing power, multiple screens and software (apps are not software) they will continue to need and demand the right equipment. Any excutive who would think that they can replace all the computers in their company with tablets needs to go back to business school.

sdusa
sdusa

The device you are going to plug in is not going to be your tablet. It is going to be your phone. The future in in personal computing is something like Motorola Atrix. And about 90% of the populace can do their work on an older pentium machine which your current smartphone will pass in power soon. Of course there are going to be power users, but they are a minority. The processors for phones and tablets will soon be as powerful as the ones you find in today's desktops.

DHOLYER
DHOLYER

I do agree that computing power needs to be improved, storage is solved by having a nice cloud at home to store all your stuff (i.e. Books, photos, music and videos). And the speed of your cloud access depends on your wireless link. Also the display quality needs to be maxed out like as good as the quality of printed displays. Like 4 times better than 300dpi and in both additive and subtractive primary color, also known as 6 color 36or48 bit. My HDTV has it and it looks great, I'll never go back to 24bit color.

tech_ed
tech_ed

Since the tablet cannot be upgraded, once it's utility is diminished, it is thrown away! Much like a Prius's battery, the only thing you can do with an old tablet is melt it down for it's metals... And it saddens me to think that tablets will be replacing computers...especially when you consider that a tablet is nothing more than a consumer device...it is not designed to produce content, only to consume it...this means that people will become more consumers than producers and this is bad for the economy..

wade.staddon
wade.staddon

A lot of the reactionary comments to this piece give me the feeling I've fallen into a technological version of Jurassic Park. I thought IT was about change and greater efficiency, not maintaining the status quo. And BTW, anyone who designs a presumedly critical manufacturing system expected to last 20 years but that depends on an operating system close to three generations old is short sighted at best.

jonf
jonf

I have seen nobody be more productive on a tablet. Tablets slow everyone down at least 1/2 speed in our environment and are mistake prone. You cannot beat traditional keyboard and mouse input. Not yet anyway. For AutoCAD and other design apps, tablets are non starters. Until we are connected to our devices by brainwaves, I don't see tablets being more productive than desktops or laptops.

sys-eng
sys-eng

Tablets may replace desktop and laptop PC's in enterprise soon but it will not be by user choice. It will only happen by corporate mandate. There is a big compromise to be made and most people will not like it initially. It is much like music. Most music today is played from MP3 file format which grossly reduces the quality of the music but makes the file size very small. People who listen to the MP3 music do not complain because they do not know what they are missing. One day, it may be that way with the tablets. Heck, most PC users believe their LCD monitor with its TN panel looks very good until they see a monitor with an IPS panel and their jaw drops open. Yes, ignorance is bliss.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

is that most corporate computer users aren't road warriors. They're not salaried; they put in eight hours and don't perform company work when they leave the building. They rarely go to meetings, with Fortune 500 clients or anyone else. Most of what they do does require a keyboard and a large monitor. I'm not saying there isn't a place for tablets in the corporate workplace. However, for the next several years they'll be the solution of choice only for select employees such as yourself.

Stephen Wheeler
Stephen Wheeler

You're making the mistake of thinking that computing will be the same in the future, and that more power is actually needed for most applications. These are assumptions. The future will be very different.

Stephen Wheeler
Stephen Wheeler

Mobile Professionals are the biggest, and fastest growing, sector. You won't find that in any statistics because it's simply true of all professions. Plain old workers (as you call them) are increasingly being employed in more creative ways (to get more productivity out of them). That means they switch offices during the week (hot desk), get out and work with customers more (mobile and / or hot desk), use customers' or intermediaries networks to connect (hot desk / mobile / VPN), work from home more (mobile / VPN), work from third party workspaces more (mobile / VPN) and work in the cloud more (mobile / VPN). The desktop is simply dead in such an environment. Any company that mothballs an employee's desk while they're on maternity leave / on long term sick leave / at college / on a business trip by 2015 will be taxing itself at an unsustainable rate. Desks assigned to individuals are a symptom of a dinosaur corporation. Wired networking is living on borrowed time. Wired offices will still be required and the RJ45 isn't going to be made redundant any time soon - it will take a considerable time for building infrastructure to become redundant. But wireless technologies are on the march.

grvolz
grvolz

I am wondering how much eye strain with the small screens and how much RSI with the small keyboards for typing. We could always try speech input and drive eneryone else in the office insane with the large background noise level - imagine a open building floor with 30 to 50 people.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

or the company you work for has a much larger IT budget per user.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

and sometimes the status quo is the best -current- option. Just because something new is available doesn't mandate implementation. For example, I have no reason to replace all our mechanical hard drives with solid state drives; the payoff just isn't there. Potential changes should be examined, and implemented if there's a benefit. Change for change's sake is a waste of resources.

mwharper1970
mwharper1970

Amen brother! Those of you in IT who fear or do not embrace change will be left by the wayside. Who wants to keep doing the same thing year after year anyway? Isn't that why most of joined IT in the first place? Those of us who can figure out the best way to leverage and embrace new technology will lead the change. Those of you who thought that COBOL programming would last forever and those silly new things called .NET and JAVA were just a passing fad can certainly see the error of their ways.

tsidio
tsidio

It is human nature (and human folly) to resist change. "Change is the only constant in this universe!"???Tony Sidio Earl Nightengale said that most people tiptoe through life hoping to somehow make it safely to death. Sounds like a reasonable description of Enterprise IT to me. Think about it. Their job is to protect data, provide access and keep things running smoothly, (among other responsibilities). How can they do that if things keep changing? Change is their nemesis, their worst nightmare. Why are we surprised when they put on their blinders and rose-colored glasses and insist that the new technology won???t work in their environments. It is much easier to dismiss new technology than analyze it and peek into the future to see how it will evolve and change the way they do things. The blinders and rose-colored glasses do not prevent change. They only prevent those who use them from seeing, understanding and accepting it.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

Now, if you're talking about sitting at a desktop all day doing your pc-happy thing, then maybe you are right. However, not all computer users work that way all the time. How does a tablet slow down productivity in a business meeting where presentations are made, notes are taken, documents are shared, etc. A lot of those laptop users are wasting the majority of their hardware's capability and hiding behind that screen, maybe with some little video or something going on in the corner where it's easily hidden from sight if the boss happens to walk behind you. The laptop has actually hurt productivity in that example because you're no longer part of a team, but rather a bunch of individuals hiding yourselves from your compatriots. A tablet, on the other hand, allows for document reading, quick and dirty notation, presentation (and projection of such) and so many more things without hiding the attendant from fellow employees. Yes, I'll agree that you can't really do serious designing on a tablet very easily, but did you know there IS an AutoCAD app for the iPad? It lets the AutoCad file be viewed, rotated, compared and annotated without having to drag the contractor into the office to look at a display and is easier to carry and display on-site than a laptop. In fact, tablets are already being used for exactly that kind of purpose--so they're aiding productivity, not slowing it down. Whether a product helps or hinders really depends on how it's being used, not necessarily on what it is by itself.

Stephen Wheeler
Stephen Wheeler

I agree. Tablets will prove that being even more mobile than a laptop - and not getting a screen between you and the rest of the meeting - will prove a bigger sell than better keyboard, screen or whatever. That's why they will be mandated.

wolfshades
wolfshades

Your phrase "most corporate computer users aren't road warriors" presumes there are two employee profiles: people confined to the office and road warriors. There is at least one other: remote workers. People who don't come into the office, but work from home, or the coffee shop. I'll bet there's more. Many (most?) workers in my building can work from anywhere. Many choose to work from the office. Down the road, we have a telecenter, where employees are pretty much tied to their desks. (Who therefore don't even need laptops) "Most" is in the eye of the beholder, I'd say. For those who are mobile - for whatever reason - I'm certain the tablet will be the desired tool of the future.

sdusa
sdusa

The poer race ceased to matter when we got rid of the Mhz-Ghz race... Most of the users do not need super-duper poweful desktops, most of them can do their work with a pentium class machine. Which at this time the latest mobile procesors are more powerful. NVidia just came out with a five core mobile processor. Soon your phone will have as much computing power as your desktop. But do you actually need that? Most of your work will be done in the smoke (err.. cloud)...

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

There's a new variety of RSI nicknamed 'Blackberry thumb'.

Loggies
Loggies

"Resistance to change" has been used and abused ever since the industrial revolution...usually by somebody with an agenda. Anybody who does not agree with the change advocate is per definition narrow minded and resistant to change. However, resistance to change, per se, is a myth. People do not resist change...they resist decay. If change represent an improvement most people accept it enthusiastically. If it does not, people push back. "Change" has no mystical quality that makes it "good". Given this debate: Tablets have an application for which they are suitable. They are however not the universal replacement that its touted to be. Use it where it works and use desktops/notebooks/etc where they are better

wolfshades
wolfshades

I'm with you on this one. When it comes right down to it, I prefer to at least have a keyboard handy. So until tablets evolve to the point where this requirement is accommodated, I pretty much need a laptop. However, there are occasions when I'm out and need to check in with work, without setting up, finding an outlet and waiting for The Beast to power up - and for that, the iPad seems to work well. Same thing goes for meetings too. In a recent work conference, I brought the iPad and a BT keyboard. Didn't miss the laptop at all.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I'd forgotten the remote worker category entirely. If I were in that group, I'd prefer to work from home on a full-sized monitor and keyboard resting on a desk, but those are just my preferences. I have to be in a location I associate with working, whether a cube or a home office. I can't focus on work if I'm regularly changing locations (coffee shop, airport, library). Obviously others can, but I'll bet most of the 'work from home' types would also prefer at least a monitor and keyboard hooked to their laptop.

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