The Business Case for Tablets

Tablets become business changers when the perks of their size are married to the right application and a use case that wasn't before possible.

There was a tablet conference underway in a fashionable Manhattan event space the day that BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins made headlines for telling an interviewer he doesn't see much of a future for tablets.

"In five years, I don't think there'll be a reason to have a tablet anymore," Heins had said during an interview at the Milken Institute conference in Los Angeles April 29. "Maybe a big screen in your workspace, but not a tablet as such. Tablets themselves are not a good business model."

Apple, which sells more tablets than any other hardware maker, said during its last earnings call that 95 percent of the Fortune 500 (the top revenue-generating companies in the United States) are either using or testing its iPad, and 89 percent of the Global 500 (the world's top generators) are using iPads.

Still, the business case for tablets isn't always straightforward, and the majority of the tablets being used in work scenarios are personal devices. A 2012 Forrester global information worker study found 12 percent using tablets, and 8 percent had paid for them themselves.

Ken Dulaney, a vice president and Distinguished Analyst at Gartner, told eWEEK that the iPad, when it was introduced, helped to further the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend because it was cool and beautiful and workers wanted to use it.

"But IT couldn't figure out a reason that a knowledge worker needed a tablet," he said.

"For some, an iPad and a keyboard can be a substitute for a notebook, but this can never be on a permanent basis because most content in organizations is created with the Office suite, and those applications do not run in full on iPads," Dulaney explained. "The potential for errors, when using such a solution, is not a huge variable, but business people cannot afford to look at a spreadsheet on an iPad and wonder if something is missing."

Gartner's stance, he added, is that the iPad is not a laptop replacement. While in vertical markets they can be justified, for knowledge workers "they are still an extra expense."

Vertical Markets and Tablets

At the April 30 tablet conference, which was hosted by TabTimes, people were either justifying their tablet purchases or considering their own tablet deployments,so Heins' comment didn't sit well.

During a panel discussion about managing a successful tablet project, Ragu Kantamaneni, chief evangelist of product marketing and business development with Damaka, a unified communication and collaboration provider, considered Heins' comment before responding: "I think that's nonsense."