As the opening of the Consumer Electronics Show approaches on Jan. 6 in Las Vegas, word is leaking out that dozens of new tablets will be shown at the trade show. Some of them are simply new versions of existing tablets; some are new versions of existing platforms (there will be a lot of new Android tablets); and some are totally new.
With all these new devices comes another level of complexity for the corporate IT departments that will be expected to integrate them into the enterprise-computing environment.
Most of the new tablets are Android devices intended to compete with the Samsung Galaxy Tab devices already on the market. These devices will come from existing tablet vendors, including Verizon Wireless, which has just reduced the price of its existing Galaxy Tab, perhaps to make room in the tablet lineup for something new. There are also vendors new to Android, such as Vizio, which is said to be launching a new smartphone and a new Android tablet at CES. There will also be producers of Android tablets from little-known manufacturers, some of which will offer very low-cost tablets with limited capabilities.
Meanwhile, there will be other tablets. Hewlett-Packard is expected to be showing, and perhaps announcing, the availability of, its long-awaited WebOS-based tablet device. The company has already had a few showings of prototypes, but at CES, many observers expect to see something along the lines of what will actually ship in the near future. Lenovo, meanwhile, will be announcing a tablet, but, so far, there's no word on whether this will run Android, Windows or something else.
Of course, everybody knows that Apple will be releasing the iPad 2 this spring although it likely won't be at CES.
So the problem for IT is going to be how to integrate these tablets, or perhaps more specifically, whether to integrate all of them. While nearly everything being released is Android-based, all versions of Android are not equal. There will likely be some corners cut that could affect the usefulness of these tablets in the enterprise.
For example, there are already a couple of low-cost Android tablets available at discount stores that suffer from very poor implementations of the Android operating system. These perform poorly (if at all). Their ability to handle enterprise-class security is unknown. Considering that these devices run outdated versions of Android and usually don't have access to the Android Market, they're unlikely to be good choices for serious use.
There's a similar situation for consumer-electronics makers who are suddenly jumping in the Android-tablet market. Vizio, for example, is known for making low-cost television sets. How well will this translate into making an Android tablet? While they can no doubt make a touch screen, does the company have the experience to create a secure enterprise-capable device with the features required for it to be useful in your business?