Too Early for Apple iPads in the Enterprise, Gartner Says

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-04-07

Apple's iPad and rival touch-screen computers will be popular among consumers, but expect fewer than 10 percent of PCs sold to enterprises in 2015 for mainstream knowledge workers to have touch screens, according to research from Gartner.

Tablets will have slower uptake in the enterprise thanks to heavy requirements for typing and text input, Gartner analysts said April 7.

Gartner argued that the "muscle memory" of mouse users and the potential problems of moving one's hands from the keyboard to the mouse will pose barriers for knowledge workers. Moreover, the wealth of traditional enterprise applications that don't use touch technology will make many enterprises disregard the business case for adding touch to PC hardware standards.

Rather, consumers and education will be the earliest adopters of touch-enabled computers, Gartner predicted.

"By 2015, we expect more than 50 percent of PCs purchased for users under the age of 15 will have touch screens, up from fewer than 2 percent in 2009," said Gartner analyst Leslie Fiering.

iPads haven't even been on the market for a week, but Apple has already sold more than 300,000 of the WiFi-only machines.

That has the media circus hopping with reports of additional tablets, such as HP's Slate and the reported Nokia tablet.

The iPad has, in essence, sparked a gold rush among hardware manufacturers and application developers looking to fuel the machines with games, social networking and other applications that enable users to consume media in a fun, effortless fashion.

The iPad is essentially a version of Apple's iPhone, with a larger user interface on which users can practice multitouch activities. iPhone users who play with the iPad for the first time are reported to be immediately comfortable with its functionality.

Fiering said movies, newspapers and ebooks will join games as leading target applications for the iPad and other tablets. Indeed, the Wall Street Journal's April 7 review of iPad applications focuses largely on applications for news, magazines, entertainment and music. Several blogs meanwhile are raving about Netflix's iPad application. 

Success for these applications will prove the content delivery model, paving the way for touch functionality in other areas.

Of course, iPads and like devices could sneak into businesses by being brought in by employees, regardless of corporate rules. After all, people don't leave their smartphones at home, so don't expect them to leave tablets home if they get comfortable bringing them everywhere.

Tablet computers appear to be marked for consumerization, Gartner's name for the trend in which new technology finds purchase among consumers before being adopted for use by enterprises.

"As with many recent technological advances, touch adoption will be led by consumers and only gradually get accepted by the enterprise," Fiering said. "What will be different here is the expected widespread adoption of touch by education, so that an entire generation will graduate within the next 10 to 15 years for whom touch input is totally natural."

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