The Enterprise Tablet Debate

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The Enterprise Tablet Debate

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It seems that I ignited a bit of a debate around tablets in the Enterprise.

First, let’s be clear there will be an exciting opportunity to serve enterprises and consumers alike with devices of all shapes and sizes, including tablets and smartphones. But the key to delivering solutions that meet the needs of the enterprise market remains grounded in the notion of open, capable and affordable.

  • Open means open. Apps and content can be written and easily deployed – without vendor intervention. Carriers freely selected. Service partners and channels chosen based on relevance to the Enterprise, not relevance to the vendor. There is a choice of OS.
  • Affordable isn’t just referring to the single solution, it means the total bundle – virtual desktop, virtual apps, system, carrier plans, accessories are beneath the price bands seen today from the market leader. In part, that’s why we partner with Google and Microsoft and others to ensure we are enabling a comprehensive solution.
  • Capable means existing workloads run well – whether virtualized or through the browser. It also means the device is packaged with comprehensive enterprise services – from the remote recovery and termination through global remote support. And many Enterprises are looking for the same lifecycle and lifecycle management they have seen on the notebook.

Just because a device is doing well in the consumer market isn’t a proxy for success in the Enterprise market or for meeting all the needs of the Enterprise user. This is because there are a raft of issues that enterprises struggle with. Security is a big one and extends to being able to remotely manage the workloads they need (install, update, wipe, cloud base sensitive data, run Office, etc). As is the complexity of managing so many devices per user.

What I outlined yesterday was that some of our competitors in the consumer market have products that are doing well there and rightfully being looked at – as are ours – by enterprise buyers. 

What I didn’t say was that competitors will fail. Not even close. But then interviewees don’t write headlines and rarely do journalists.

A few folks had questions on my pricing comparison. First, the reporting is in Australia and being down under I was using $NZ based on a trip that morning to a retailer with a CIO customer to check out how they were merchandising computers. Take a look online and you will see 3G tablets around NZ$ 1,875.01 or, without the keyboard and a cheaper cover you are looking at NZ$ 1,634.00. Why would you want a keyboard? Well, the only way most Enterprises can justify that price is to set it up as the primary device.

Liberal headlining aside, innovation around tablets is opening the door to a raft of new technology and shining a light on the needs of users in the enterprise market. And that market – our largest – is one that we are very focused on and aim to compete in with purpose built solutions.

I also published this at my personal blog The Daily Lark.

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  • Agree about the whole open issue. Enterprises need open architectures to succeed. Open means devices that can do more than just email.  Andy's comments were taken out of context. Sure as an email and film watching device the I pad is great. Enterprises need far more than that from its hardware going forward.  Price of purchase aside this is much more about cost of ownership relative to the value the device and its interactions can generate for the organization.

  • I hope that bringing the needs of large enterprises into consideration will clarify just what a tablet is - is it a large smart phone or is it a small PC?  Thus far tablets have been largely viewed as the former, to be expected of a consumer product perhaps, but with often frustrating consequences.

    For example, many large enterprises, whether businesses or other organisations such as universities, have implemented authenticating proxy servers (APS) as gateways between their intranets and the Internet.  Connecting to the intraweb requires local authentication, but getting outside - through the authenticating proxy server - requires a second authentication.  That done, intranet usage can be differentiated from Internet use, with things like quotas and so forth applied to each user who, by going outside the intraweb, costs the organisation money.

    Android 3.0 does not support authenticating proxy servers.  iOS 4.3 does.

    That puts someone like myself between a rock and a hard place.  On the one hand, I don't like Apple or the iPad.  On the other, since iOS 4.3 has APS support, I can get something useful done even though the iPad's limitations as a business tool are many.  An Android device, including obviously the Dell Streak, is simply dead weight in this environment.  On paper, at least, Honeycomb gives me just about everything I want - multitasking, tabbed browsing, etc - but lack of APS support is a deal killer.  3G/4G functionality is useful for anyone who is out of the office, but in the office who wants to pay out of their own pocket to retrieve data via their provider instead of using WiFi to hook into their organisation's local net?  Exactly.

    So why this glaring omission by Google?  Presumably it's because they're obsessed (thanks to Apple) with consumers.

    In any event, while I am seriously in the market for a high-end Android 10" tablet (a la the Xoom), no-one is getting my money until the device and all its network applications support APSs out of the box.  (I really don't want to hear about rooting or custom ROMs - this is fundamental functionality.)