Business Embraces Tablets-With Caution Dominating the Market

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2011-10-03 Print this article Print

That could be one reason why some businesses have opted to embrace Apple's iPad, which dominates the tablet market. Indeed, a Sept. 22 report by research firm Gartner found that Apple's iPad will continue to dominate more than 50 percent of the worldwide tablet market through 2014, giving the company a huge advantage over both Google Android and Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8, which will also work on tablets.

"We found integrating iPads into our infrastructure to be straightforward, requiring limited effort," said Kirk Larson, vice president and CIO of Children's Hospital Central California. "We just needed to enter the wireless information, install the VMware View client, and make some minor modifications to the device."

Larson's IT group uses the iPad's configuration utility to remove nonbusiness applications. "This utility, combined with VMware, ensures that data is not stored on the physical device," he explained. "Because of this, we find tablets easier to manage than laptops from a security perspective." The iPads are hospital property, used to access and share information about the facility's patients.

With the VMware View client for iPad, users have access to virtualized Windows-based desktops on their Apple tablet. Similar applications also exist for businesses that want to reconcile a legacy Windows environment with their current need for mobility-and perhaps offer an alternative to purchasing a tablet preloaded with Windows 7.

Users Create Risks

Using iPads that belong to the hospital simplifies life on both the administrative and user ends. With a personal iPad or Android tablet, "It's very difficult for a CIO or CSO to say, -I'm going to disable the App Store,'" said John Herrema, senior vice president of corporate strategy for Good Technology, which offers tools for mobility compliance and security. "The new challenge with these devices is that it's the users who are creating a lot of the risk."

For example, an employee accessing a popular app or Website such as Facebook through a personal tablet or smartphone might port an address book-and its potentially sensitive contacts-into a public-facing forum. "There are wide open APIs there," Herrema added. "They're not phishing or malicious applications: They say what they're going to do. You will have data loss."

Good Technology's solutions enforce password policies on a mobile device, allow for remotely wiping data from stolen or lost devices, give administrators control over features such as cameras, and safeguard stored data. However, he acknowledged that imposing enterprise IT policies on a personal device such as a tablet will create tensions between users and IT administrators.

"They don't want to enter a password to access Facebook or make a call," Herrema pointed out. "Our thinking is, if you're not applying the same policy to an iPad as you do to a laptop, you don't have a policy."

Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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