So I've decided to take a break from my usual Technical Blog to air some of my opinions on tablet computing in the Enterprise. I'll start with a bit of a disclaimer:
This post is my opinion about the future of tablet computing in the Enterprise, and is only an opinion. Everything posted here is completely open for discussion and I may be COMPLETLY wrong on some of this. All told, I welcome your comments and discussion on this exciting topic.
Tablets have been around for a very long time, longer than a lot of people realize. Back in November of 2001, Bill Gates introduced Comdex to the concept of tablet computing (Link) but unfortunately the available technology at that time was just not 'there' yet so it got off to a rocky start at best. Then Apple came along and introduced the iPad and the tablet/slate device was popularized. Since the iPad's launch in April of 2010, tablets have exploded to the point where they are starting to outpace laptop and desktop sales ... but is this just another fad like the netbook?
Since the iPad launched a number of competing devices using various OS's have worked their way into the market with varying success. Microsoft's partners tried to counter the iPad with tablets based on Windows 7 but that OS was just not ready to be used in a full-touch environment, even though it had touch functionality built in. Android has been ported to run on tablet hardware, with Google even releasing versions of Android designed to run on tablets. Blackberry launched its ill-fated PlayBook, HP tried and failed with WebOS. Now that Windows 8 is out, which is a Windows OS designed from the ground up to run on tablets ... what now?
Lets be clear, most of the tablet offerings that have been made available to date are NOT enterprise devices. Sure, you can invest in apps to bring some enterprise functionality to the tablet, but they are mostly of the "Remote Desktop" variety so really shouldn't count. How many tablets have BUILT-IN enterprise functionality? What actually constitutes enterprise functionality? Is this even a fair question to ask?
Personally, I think that Microsoft and their hardware partners have an opportunity here to really win over the enterprise market by providing basically a replacement for a laptop. Think about it for a sec, what can a tablet on Windows 8 Enterprise bring you?
- Connectivity into your corporate network via DirectAccess
- Device-level security by the use of BitLocker
- Device Management and Application Deployment via System Center Configuration Manager 2012 SP1
- Ability to use your standard application catalog as well as any Line-Of-Business apps that you already have in place, without having to invest in new specialized applications designed specifically for tablets
- Provide users the flexibility of having a tablet AND a laptop in one small package, great for road warriors and users who may do some form of field review
So what does Microsoft and their hardware partners need to do?
RELEASE COMPELLING HARDWARE!
I'm typing this blog entry from my Dell Latitude 10, which is connected to a docking station and to a 24" monitor. Forgive me for being blunt, but this tablet sucks in many ways. Its using an Atom-based CPU which is incredibly slow. The video card is not capable of displaying the native resolution of my monitor (1900x1200) even though it uses the HDMI 1.3a spec which allows for much higher resolutions. Microsoft Office is incredibly slow, it hangs on most operations. I don't use this tablet for any heavy tasks, just word processing, email, internet, and connecting to remote desktops. It isn't all bad though, I've had to do some remote troubleshooting while away from the office, using my Mobile Hotspot on my Blackberry and DirectAccess to get into the network ... that functionality alone is making me not want to give up on tablets.
Now, this isn't strictly a Microsoft problem. Indeed, Microsoft did something quite smart by essentially releasing reference hardware in the form of the Microsoft Surface and the Surface Pro. Their hardware partners need to see those devices for what they are, the lowest common denominator from a performance and functionality standpoint. Atom-based Win 8 tablets are, as far as I'm concerned, dead in the water. I wish Dell would have released a tablet in their latitude line-up based on the i5 CPU like they did with the XPS 12 (though that is a convertible tablet, not a slate device).
At BEST, tablets are a niche device that will never really take over the desktop and laptop market. Without a doubt, it will slow the market down since people will spend more and more time on tablets for their day to day needs, but will fall back to their desktop or laptop PCs when they need to do anything heavy.
Am I off base here? Is there something I'm missing?
For the record, I have a desktop, 2 laptops and 3 tablet computers at my disposal that I use on almost a daily basis. The Desktop, Laptops and one of the tablets run Windows 8, then I have a Windows RT tablet and a Blackberry PlayBook. I have colleagues who have iPads who don't really use them that often for work use, with the exception of using iTap to remote into servers when needed. I'm not new to tablets, I've pushed many initiatives with my employer to try to increase the adoption of tablets within the company, but even they are starting to push back to say that its just not a viable platform.
What do you think ? How are YOU adopting tablets for the Enterprise ?