ABi (Anything But iPad) Business Tablets Face An Uphill Slog In 2011

No need to revisit the success of iPad. The millions of units sold since April speaks for itself. While most of these have been purchased at retail, many buyers use their tablets for work, often sponsored or supported by an enlightened IT organization. 2011 will be a big year for iPad in the enterprise.

But what about the countless number of tablets from other manufacturers? These anything-but-iPad (ABi) tablets promise enticing characteristics that Content & Collaboration professionals cherish, things like Flash media support, enterprise app stores, and sometimes greatly enhanced security (as RIM’s Playbook will have) or deep links to the unified communications infrastructure (as Cisco’s Cius will have) or full Microsoft Office support (as HP’s Slate will have).

How will these ABi tablets fare in the enterprise in 2011? Fair to partly cloudy, I fear. Three gating factors will slow enterprise adoption:

  1. Many ABI tablets and particularly those from RIM and Cisco and HP will be sold primarily to companies. So in a world of smartphone and tablet consumerization where employees bring personal devices to work, the leading ABi 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. So IT can at least temporarily sidestep the issues of funding and data plan provisioning while developing a tablet strategy. It’s an easier business case to make in 2011. Of course, other Android tablets are available to consumers and will come in through the employee door.
  2. Tablets are dual use devices, which blunts the potential benefits of an ABi business tablet. Dual use means that employees want to use tablets for entertainment and for personal media and communications as well as for work. So ABi business tablets will have to delight the consumer in each one of us. And that means firms will have to sacrifice the very characteristics that attract them to ABi tablets in the first place: security, application control, and control over the data plan.
  3. Apple has a one-year head start in tablets and accessories and more than that in apps. And in a world of six month product cycles, that’s a lot. There are already a gazillion (fashionista, ruggedized, practical, leather, pleather, wooden, you name it) cases available for iPad, and the list of keyboards and apps for iPad is long. So while Angry Birds and Citrix Receiver may be available on ABi tablets at launch, many other applications will not be. It will take time for ABi tablets to garner the full support of ISVs and carriers. Further, the ABi tablets being announced at this week’s CES are competing with iPad 1.0, even as Apple is preparing iPad 2.0.

All three factors will slow down the adoption of ABi tablets in the enterprise, while iPad's growth is assured. On the other hand, it’s early going in the tablet market, and there will be opportunity for many suppliers. Our updated forecast (available to Forrester customers) is for the US tablet market alone to grow rapidly to reach 82 million tablet owners by 2015. As IT professionals, you are wise to:

  • Pilot the ABi tablet alternatives. There are solid (though smaller) Android tablets already available from Dell and Samsung and some great looking tablets coming from RIM, Cisco, Motorola, and HP starting in the first half of 2011 and accelerating throughout the year. They may have characteristics you need. Check them out.
  • Look for real laptop replacement opportunities. iPad today is really a third device, neither smartphone nor laptop, rather something in between. But a tablet with full Microsoft Office support could allow employees to leave the laptop in the drawer permanently.
  • Look for paper replacement and “new place” tablet opportunities. It’s a big, complex business world out there. Tablets are showing up in operating rooms, construction sites, retail floors, and insurance sales calls. It may be that an ABi tablet is better suited to some of these scenarios.
  • Plan for a multi-platform future. Ultimately, you will have 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.

What are your expectations? Will ABi tablets succeed in the enterprise in 2011?


ASUS EEE Slate EP121

Do you think the Asus EEE Slate EP121 with Windows 7 has any chance of being a viable enterprise alternative?

Windows 7 tablets should surely find a market


I do think that a well-built, long battery-life tablet running Windows 7 could be very interesting. The apps will have to be touch-enabled to be truly interesting, but a mouse, keyboard, and Office would make it a viable laptop replacement.

I look forward to seeing these come to market.


I don't see it the same way

Your first gating factor starts out stating ABis will come in through the enterprise door but ends with stating they will come though the employee door. Which is it? Over a million Galaxy Tabs sold with little to no enterprise doors being darkened indicates this is not an issue for ABis.
Your second gating factor talks about dual use often referred to as the dual persona device. Your point is that the ABi tablets will have to fulfill the personal persona at the expense of the business persona. Native enterprise security controls for iOS are not comprehensive. There are third parties stepping into the void in this area for all major platforms. Application control is an issue for all tablets presently. Data plan control is no more an issue than it is with smart phones. Why is the iPad in better position here?
Your third gating factor is the one year head start. Bluetooth keyboards are not an iPad only accessory. App store apps are not going to impact enterprise adoption, only consumer adoption. Recent Android activation figures (>300k/day) indicate there are at least two consumer players. Carriers are embracing new smartphones left and right. Why would this change for tablets? So it’s advantage iPad on customized cases? iPad has the mindshare of executives that have personal devices and want to force the device into the enterprise. This is an advantage for 2011 but it will wane over time.
I’m glad to see you’ve suggested keeping an eye on the ABi marketplace. Tablet use cases will dictate numerous solutions. Employee owned devices, employer subsidized devices, and employer supplied devices will all have differing requirements for enterprise support up and down the technology stack. Keep in mind that Apple has never embraced the enterprise and indications are this will continue. If this holds true, the iPad will be known as the trailblazing device that over time ceded non-consumer uses to other devices. But for 2011, the first mover advantage will see the iPad more prevalent than ABis.

Interested in which ABi tablets you're looking at

Ed: Thanks for the comments.

Which ABi tablets are you considering? I'd be interested to hear more.

On the App support front, I do think that in 2011 anyway it will be an issue. Data dashboard ISV RoamBI, for example, is targeting iOS and (today at least anyway) not Android or Windows Phone or QNX. ISV support for conferencing, data dashboards, document management, and authoring will be an issue for the general information workforce in my view.

On the other hand, for a specialized group such as drivers or warehouse staff, these are not going to be issues per se. It may be that a specialty ISV or an IT group builds a custom app for devices that are not specifically dual use and perhaps company provisioned.

I'd love to hear more about what you're looking for in an ABi business tablet.


Good points on the

Good points on the application front. The BI and data visualization areas are certainly among apps that bring value in a business setting. I'm taking a wait and see approach on how effective those are in pressing the iPad very deeply into the enterprise, however. In my view content authoring is not a desirable use case for the tablet form factor in it's purest sense. Add a physical keyboard and things change a bit. All that stated, I see these document based content creation/consumption use cases as only the cusp of the potential for mobile devices of which tablets are just one. Perhaps that makes my definition of success in the enterprise different than moving today's activities from a desktop/laptop onto a tablet. I certainly agree with your assertion that the iPad has the lead in 2011. I believe that lead will be difficult to defend if Apple continues to take a laissez-faire attitude toward the enterprise.

I couldn't agree more

I agree that the full potential of mobile devices has yet to be revealed. I catalogued the situations as "displace laptops," "replace clipboards," and "new place" scenarios in part to begin creating a way of looking at the potential of tablets, smartphones, and other smart mobile devices to change the way we work and operate. There's more on that in this post: http://blogs.forrester.com/ted_schadler/10-10-26-how_ipads_enter_the_wor....

Let's stay in touch on this as you begin to see opportunity for tablets (iPads and ABi tablets) in your business.

Hi Ted, Alex from RIM

Hi Ted,
Alex from RIM here.
We’re glad to see BlackBerry PlayBook included in your post. We feel the PlayBook’s professional-grade design benefits both consumers and enterprise alike because it delivers an uncompromised experience. Both audiences appreciate enhanced security, and both personal and business customers want a full web experience The PlayBook design incorporates Flash 10.1 and HTML 5 to connect you to all the sites, videos, games and content on the web -- with no exceptions, and without a loss in quality or functionality, and all on a crystal-clear 7-inch display and ultra portable design.
Get hands-on with some of these features at CES (South Hall 30320) and be sure to check out the Inside BlackBerry Blog for more details.

Looking forward to seeing the PlayBook

Alex, thanks for commenting. There is a lot of excitement (and high expectations) from our customers on the PlayBook. The security model is unparalleled of course, and the Flash & HTML5 support are huge (and in the case of Flash, a big differentiator). I hope that BES users will examine their policies to lock things down as needed but leave things open as possible so that employees can get the benefit of apps and Web experiences on their PlayBook. Looking forward to meeting next week. Best, Ted

From what I've seen (I don't

From what I've seen (I don't own an ipad), the playbook's multitasking capability is set apart because you can have multiple apps running at the same time. This is opposed to suspending apps that are in the background and toggling between them but only having one app actually running in the foreground. Videos on the playbook show multiple apps running side by side on the desktop at the same time. Correct me if I'm wrong, the ipad can't do that.
I have learnt much from online, such as this iPad spot: http://www.ifunia.com/ipad-column/index.html

I believe the consumerization

I believe the consumerization of IT lends itself to an uphill battle to dethrone the iPad. RIM may be appealing, but most (smart) companies are ripping out their expensive Blackberry infrastructures and changing support models to accomodate the likes of iOS and Android. Plus, rumor is it doesn't even do email or calendaring?

Microsoft is missing the mark if they think re-introducing the previous failed attempt at running old style windows on a tablet will compete. Yea sure you can run Office but who in their right mind wants Windows 7 on a tablet? Seriously, has anyone tried it? It is not built for that type of use. This isn't something that will appeal to anyone. I think a netbook, while a proven loser in 2010, has a better value than a Windows 7 tablet. Even better, run Office on Citrix via the iPad if you really need it. (rumor is Office for iPad is coming out - if it doesn't its just Microsoft acting like Google and blocking Apple)

Its time companies look at what the iPad has done and start to re-think. Mobility is going to grow like crazy. IT staff needs to find a way to support the consumerization model or business units will work around them. IT also needs to question whether the old enterprise Microsoft Office model is still valid, or if its time to move to the cloud. No doubt the likes of Google will support more devices than Microsoft's attempts will.

Microsoft wants you to buy THEIR hardware, and they will try force you to do so by building enterprise applications that only work on their devices. This is short sighted and in the end will be yet another reason why they are quickly becoming irrelevant. Companies MUST support ALL devices, anywhere, at anytime. IT needs to live and breathe this now in order to continue to meet their customers needs.

Microsoft, this is your wake-up call. People aren't going to move to your WP7 or your tablet, so start acting like a real software company.

Even after so many

Even after so many shortcoming likes usb ports n all, ipad is still preferred by a lot of people.. to stay ahead in competition apple will make a lot of improvements in the present Ipad and launch its next version soon.. IMO competition is always good..it provides the consumers a better product and also lots of alternatives to choose from.. :)