CES Tablet Debutants Likely to Cause IT Support Trouble

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2011-01-03 Print this article Print

title=IT Managers Must Prepare Tablet Support Policies Now}

This has become a significant question now that the first exploits and the first malware have appeared for Android devices. While it's easy enough to get the necessary protection from the Android market, if you can't get to the market, then it's useless. The same is true if you're unable to get timely updates to the Android OS. Even if you know there's a vulnerability, that's not much help if you can't get an operating system update that eliminates it.

In regard to the non-Android world, there are mostly a lot of questions. The iPad 2 isn't really one of them. While there is a lot of speculation about screen resolution and what cameras may or may not be there, what matters to the enterprise is the integration of the device. If Apple follows its practices in the past, there should be few surprises. Perhaps the biggest advantage to the new iPad will be access to 3G carriers other than AT&T. That would provide a great deal of flexibility to enterprise users.

The other tablets are mostly questions. Nobody really knows what to expect from Lenovo or HP, for example. While HP has a long history of making tablets running Windows for industrial applications, the new tablet won't be one of those. And while WebOS has been a good smartphone platform, nobody really knows how this will translate into a tablet environment. We know even less about the tablets from the other computer makers. One would assume that they will build in enterprise features given their market position, but until you see one, you really don't know.

What this means to the IT department is that there will be a lot of requests over the next few months about whether or not users will be able to connect their new tablet to corporate networks. Proceed with caution. Just because the device runs Android, for example, doesn't mean it will support the security you need. Nor does it mean that it will support features like remote wipe. You'll need to confirm this with every variation of every new device that shows up. It'll take time.

It's probably best to set expectations now by issuing a tablet acceptance policy that lists specifically what the tablet must support in order to be used on the network, and by making sure it's available to everyone well before the flood of tablets starts washing up on your office door. Besides, you have to think about how you're going to adapt all that specialized software so that it will work with those tablets or you need to decide that you won't spend the money to do that. But that's a different decision.

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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