Tablets are no longer the preserve of consumers now that Gartner has revealed its potential business uses
Despite tablets being what some feel is a consumer-orientated form factor, analyst house Gartner has revealed the top commercial business applications for iPads and their kin.
Speaking at the company’s Symposium/ITxpo 2011 on Australia’s Gold Coast, Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst David Willis pointed out that business applications for the Apple iPad and other tablet devices are now moving beyond personal productivity tools, towards serious and secure enterprise applications that support major business initiatives.
“Now, major software vendors are taking the tablet seriously and embracing the market, following where users want to take the platform,” said Willis. “As media tablets become more common in business, ERP, CRM and other business application vendors are looking to sell tablet versions of their software, but they will not all be equally usable or functional.”
Willis cautioned against using the tablet simply to mimic existing desktop or browser applications. “Success lies in how the vendor re-factors the apps in a meaningful way, rather than just duplicating the traditional desktop or browser experience,” he said. “Businesses also need to understand the difference between an enterprise and a consumer application, and have a decision framework to select them.”
There is little doubt that the tablet computer, a form factor that was considered by many as obsolete before the arrival of the Apple iPad, is now a widely sought-after device. Like the smartphone trend before it, tablets are starting to work their way into the corporate workplace. Earlier this week, for example, it was revealed that the Apple iPhone is now the most popular business smartphone, after overtaking RIM’s BlackBerry.
According to Gartner’s latest forecast, worldwide media tablet sales will total 63.6 million units in 2011, a 261.4 percent increase from 2010 sales of 17.6 million units. No-one is predicting a slowdown in demand, with media tablet sales expected to “continue to experience strong growth through to the end of 2015 when sales are forecast to reach 326.3 million units,” Gartner has claimed.
“By 2016, more than 900 million tablets will be in the hands of users,” Willis said. “As more consumers buy them, they then tend to bring them to the workplace and use them for their jobs – often led by executives.”
According to Willis, management teams are finding legitimate business uses for tablets (and presumably ditching the laptop), as CEOs often prefer tablets for distributing material for board of directors meetings. He also pointed out that salesmen are using tablets for client-facing situations, and marketers are designing campaigns on them.
This is because people and workers are increasingly relying on their smartphones, and now tablets, for business use.
Combined sales of tablets and smartphones will be 44 percent bigger than the PC market in 2011, according to Gartner predictions. By the end of 2014, the installed base of devices based on mobile operating systems – such as Apple iOS, Google Android and Microsoft Windows 8 – will exceed the total installed base of all PC based systems.
Meanwhile Gartner revealed what it considers to be the Top 10 commercial business application categories for tablet devices:
- Sales automation systems for customer collateral, sales presentations, and ordering systems
- Business intelligence: analytical and performance applications with management dashboards
- Containerised email to separate corporate messaging environments from personal email
- Collaboration applications for meetings
- File utilities for sharing and document distribution
- General corporate/government enterprise applications for CRM, ERP, SCM and messaging
- Medical support systems for doctors, nurses, and physical therapists
- Hosted virtual desktop agents to provide secure remote operations of traditional desktop applications and environments
- Social networking applications with intelligent business insight
- Board books for secure document and report distribution
“There are many highly visible ‘quick wins’ for tablets such as board books and sales automation, which the CIO can use to break new ground,” said Willis. “But not all tablet apps are created equal from an enterprise perspective. Businesses must evaluate tablet apps based on functionality and business process integration, user factors, systems integration, management and security, application architecture and vendor viability.”
This, Gartner believes, means that mobile device management systems will be a growing market.