Following the tablet frenzy of the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, it's fair to ponder the question of how tablets from RIM, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco, as well as the slew of Android tablets, will fair among corporate employees.
For example, while the RIM PlayBook may boast enhanced security, the Cisco Cius superior unified communications integration and the HP Slate full Microsoft Office support, these gadgets will find it tough to penetrate enterprise accounts, according to Forrester Research analyst Ted Schadler.
Noting that the PlayBook, Cius and Slate will be sold primarily to companies, Schadler explained in a Jan. 5 blog post:
"In a world of smartphone and tablet consumerization where employees bring personal devices to work, the leading ABi (anything but iPad) business tablets are being sold through the enterprise door. This will slow down adoption as IT buyers find the budget and evaluate the alternatives. In contrast, iPad is available to consumers as well as directly to businesses."
Schadler also said that while the iPad is great for "dual-use," or work and play, he's not sure the PlayBook, Cius and other gadgets will be as well.
iPad also has a more than one year head-start on most tablets and is prepping for an iPad 2 launch this spring, making it extra challenging for the non-iPad tablets to gain traction in businesses that have grown to trust the iPad.
However, it's also conceivable Android-based consumer-oriented tablet such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the forthcoming Motorola Xoom and other Android tablets will enter the enterprise from consumers bringing their personal devices to the workplace.
While Schadler expects a big year for iPad in the enterprise, it's quite possible the Android invasion could curb some of that firepower by the sheer number of devices.
It happened in the smartphone sector. No reason to believe it can't happen in the burgeoning tablet market, which he said could reach 82 million tablet owners by 2015 in the United States.
Schadler's advice for IT professionals? Test the iPad alternatives.
For example, the Motorola Xoom, slated to launch next month, has dual cameras running on a 10.1-inch screen. This capability would be ideal for Google Talk sessions for consumers and knowledge workers. The iPad lacks cameras, though the iPad 2 will have them.
It doesn't have to be Android, of course. RBC's Mike Abramsky said the PlayBook he tested at CES impressed.
"Hands-on PlayBook demonstrations at CES showed its differentiation in multitasking and performance, which may be difficult for Apple/Android to rival" Abramsky wrote. eWEEK's Nicholas Kolakowski also took the PlayBook for a spin and had favorable impressions.
But whatever an enterprise does, Schalder cautions that it must prepare to support smartphones and tablets running different operating systems.
"So build flexibility into your device security and management platform, application development strategy, carrier selection, reimbursement practices, and dual use or employee-provisioned policies," he concluded.