While tablets are gradually creeping into enterprises, few companies are making major rollouts of the touchscreen devices themselves, preferring to dish them out only to senior execs or salespeople who need to make a splash with presentations.
Right now the majority of tablets in business are being bought by the workers themselves, as CIOs remain reluctant to spend.
At the moment the vast vast majority of the tablets being used in business are iPads, as Android tablets and Windows 7 devices have made little impact. However, the slow adoption of tablets in business has lead some to wonder whether – with their historical investment in Microsoft on the desktop – CIOs are waiting for the tablet-friendly Windows 8, likely to arrive later this year, before starting larger tablet rollouts.
But when asked “Are you waiting for Windows 8 tablets to arrive before you roll out tablets in any significant numbers?”, members of silicon.com’s CIO Jury said waiting for Microsoft was not a factor. According to the CIOs spoken to by silicon.com, some are holding back on spending because of a lack of need for tablets at all, while other are embracing Apple’s iPad.
Martin Shaw, director of IT at TDX Group, said delays to corporate tablet rollouts are likely to be less about the hardware or operating system and more about “what real and meaningful benefit a tablet offers” that cannot be delivered via the smartphones and laptops employees currently have.
“I’ve yet to see that killer app which showcases the tablet and convinces CIOs to make that level of investment.”
Shaw said the best use of such devices might come with contextual computing, where applications present information based upon who is making the request and what device they are making the request from.
“For example many of us use the websites of research organisations as part of our day to day lives. When I make a request from my desktop PC or laptop it is likely I am consuming the information in order to include it within a report or something that I am creating, and so I would ideally like the content delivered in a way that allows me to cut and paste into my own documents. If however I am using a smartphone it is more likely I just need an answer or short response to a specific question and therefore the interface should reflect that – I really do not want to try and read a PDF on a three inch screen!”
For Derek Wilson, CIO at Origin Enterprises, the advent of a Windows 8 tablets holds out the prospect of tighter integration with Microsoft technologies such as Sharepoint and SQL Server based applications, but he said: “The business demand is such and the potential productivity benefits so apparent, that we cannot wait.” Wilson added: “That said, we are seeking to build any custom applications in HTML5 so they can be run across any tablet OS.”
Giles Jerrit, head of technology at global alternative investment manager Saguenay Strathmore Capital said that around 20 per cent of employees already have an iPad, either bought by the business or personal devices.
He said that initially the adoption of tablets was driven by users, with C-level executives wanting a better experience for access to email and internet while out of the office.
But he said: “We are now actively looking at restructuring our internal processes to embrace this new technology, and redesigning our systems to provide more of a SaaS offering to our ‘internal clients’, which will have knock-on benefits for our external ones and therefore our business.”
Jerrit added that business is changing, which means device requirements are changing too: “Business is more about collaboration with stakeholders, working better with your clients and their systems, or using a shared service in the cloud, rather than sitting behind your corporate firewall and sending out structured information, such as reports or a CSV. When a Windows 8 tablet turns up, designed to sit behind a corporate firewall, secured for the enterprise, will it be something the business still needs?”
Graham Yellowley, technology lead equities at LCH.Clearnet, said: “Tablets are the new PC” and as such are becoming the norm in organisations.
He continued: “With secure wireless access points deployed companies are allowing tablets to access the corporate network with employees using predominantly iPads. The Windows 8 tablets are not even a factor to take into consideration.”
However, not all CIOs questioned are seeing demand for tablet devices in the office. Ibukun Adebayo, director of information technology at Turning Point, said that – so far – there hasn’t been a spurt in employees using tablets on the network, but said: “A key consideration, before investing in any tablet from any vendor, will always be that of its compatibility with both bespoke and COTS applications within our network environment.”