Business Embraces Tablets-With Caution

The enterprise and small businesses are increasingly interested in supplying or supporting tablets for their employees. But CIOs and IT administrators are concerned about issues ranging from legacy apps to security.

When it comes to tablets such as the Apple iPad, consumers want the ability to read their email, cruise the Web, download some apps and play games-or rather, one specific game that involves hurling some irate birds at nonplussed pigs.

However, IT pros, whether they are working for a large enterprise or a small business, are looking at the tablet arena from a different direction: They want tablets that will play nice with their legacy infrastructure and applications, offer high security, and let users segregate any personal software and services (i.e., those angry birds) from their professional ones.

IT administrators working in specific fields, notably health care and construction, also want tablets that have long battery lives and are rugged enough to withstand bumps and falls.

Just to complicate things a little bit more, over the past few years the enterprise IT world has undergone something of a radical paradigm shift when it comes to mobile devices. No longer does a CIO or high-ranking IT pro buy his or her employees a couple dozen BlackBerry devices and administrate a relatively homogeneous mobile-device environment.

With the slashing of IT budgets in the wake of the global recession, more enterprises and small and midsize businesses (SMBs) have replaced buying smartphones and tablets in bulk with encouraging their employees to sync their personal mobile devices with the corporate network.

This might save money, but a heterogeneous mobile environment creates its own issues in terms of IT security and compatibility with existing assets. With tablets a relatively new device on the IT scene-thus subject to a lot of evolutionary flux in terms of hardware or software-the complexity and potential problems rise by an order of magnitude.