When Fragmenting a Big Market Is a Good Thing
For business users, though, it makes more sense. The PlayBook is even smaller and lighter than is the HP model, and it runs QNX as its operating system. RIM hasn't let anyone get their hands on an example, so we don't know whether it's easy to use or not. But, given the competition, it's hard to believe that the basic operation of the PlayBook won't be influenced by the iPad. Also unclear is the effect of the Samsung Galaxy S tablets, which should arrive in a few days. These devices seem to be intended to take on the iPad rather than go the enterprise-tablet route. This should be no surprise given the success of Android devices in their battle for market share over Apple's iOS devices. Exactly how Android will be implemented on these devices remains unclear. But I think it's a good bet that if you've been using an Android 2.2 phone, you'll feel comfortable.HP's challenge is to move beyond these vertical markets it already has, and to gain share across the broad enterprise market. With a familiar operating system in Windows 7--as well as with familiar applications--this should be possible, although it remains to be seen whether the Slate 500 will garner the coolness factor necessary to attract those executives for whom form means more than function. The role of the PlayBook is a little less clear. RIM seems to also be aiming at the healthcare industry, where it would compete with HP. However, it would seem that a more logical market would be senior executives who want something light to carry around, and who also want to appear professional (meaning no iPads) and who have BlackBerry phones. Considering RIM's considerable depth in the enterprise, this isn't that much of a stretch. These new tables probably do contribute some to the fragmentation of the tablet marketplace, which has been a concern of some market analysts. But it's also the case that this is potentially a very big market. Similar fragmentation in the smart phone market has only made it grow faster and brought innovation at a higher rate than would otherwise have been the case. The same thing could very well happen with tablets.
With all of this new competition, where are the enterprise tablets headed? In the case of HP, it's pretty clear. The company has been selling into a specific set of vertical industries for years, and it's safe to assume that these markets will continue to be served by the Slate 500. The healthcare and insurance industries have used tablets for a long time, for example.