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Pej’s Rule of Three: Why Tablets are Taking Over

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Since the debut of the Apple iPad in 2010, the integration of tablet devices into our lives has progressed rapidly and shows no signs of stopping. According to market research firm NPD DisplaySearch, the mobile PC category is poised to soar from 347 million units in 2012 to more than 809 million by 2017, for a compound annual growth rate of 28 percent. And last week’s launch of the new Apple iPad mini promises even more uptick in an already growing market.

While tablets are often viewed as a consumer device to consume media and entertain, there’s no denying their ever increasing popularity in business environments due to their ability to increase productivity and enable workers to spend more time away from their desks while staying connected to corporate lifelines.

Today I am examining three key factors contributing to the rise in popularity of tablets in the enterprise. 

1.     Enhanced Enterprise Applications

As tablets grow more common in business settings, applications available for them are evolving from simple personal productivity software to advanced enterprise tools. In recent years, online companies, as well as traditional IT businesses, have invested heavily in mobilizing their online services and developing tools specifically for mobile use. Now that tablets are here to stay, major software vendors are creating third-party apps that integrate with tablets and provide a better user experience – designed from the ground up specifically for mobiles, rather than just duplicating the traditional desktop or browser experience.

Although enterprise applications contribute to the success of tablets, it’s also worth noting that in today’s consumerization of IT era, there is simply no such thing as an enterprise tablet. Consumer appeal is a key factor in the success of tablets – functionality, design, ease of use and cost are critical in all settings.

A real-life example of this is Cisco’s failed Cius business tablet, which lacked the consumer appeal and functionality that it needed to succeed. Perhaps The New York Times comment on Cisco’s announcement said it best, “You may be making a corporate tablet, but you are selling a consumer device.”

Lesson here: at the end of the day, end users are increasingly demanding enterprise tools optimized for the devices they already love and use.

2.     Growing BYOD Trend

Today, the vast majority of organizations allow employee-owned devices in some way, shape or form. This underscores a major shift in the way people are working, indicating that the trend toward universally deployed devices will continue to gain momentum.

Recent research from Gartner estimates that enterprise sales will make up more than one-third of tablets sold in 2015, but these will not be solely enterprise purchases. With many organizations now adopting a BYOD policy, consumers are now being given the okay to bring their personal devices into their work environment – be it a traditional office, healthcare facility or factory.

Lesson here: organizations are increasingly adopting BYOD practices, and companies that are slow to move in this direction may lose competitive advantage.

3.     Increased affordability

On Oct. 23, Apple unveiled its long-awaited iPad mini. The 7.9” iPad mini, which will retail for as low as $329, is predicted to open doors to customers who had been turned off by the high cost of the iPad (starting at $499). By changing expectations for how much a tablet should cost, the iPad mini is also expected to enhance the tablet market as a whole – IHS predicts that it will double the market for 7-inch tablets in 2013 over this year.

Although Apple dominates the tablet market, the iPad mini still faces competition from competitors with even lower priced options, including Google’s Nexus 7, which has a starting price of $199 and Barnes & Noble’s Nook tablet, which starts at $200. Apple believes that its 7.9” screen with 35 percent more display area, while still being able to be held in one hand, will be comptitively differentiated against these competing smaller Android devices and justify the higher cost point.

The increase in tablet options bodes well for enterprises looking into major tablet deployments. In the past some enterprise customers were forced to go with alternative tablets because they cost $200 - $300 less than the iPad, but with the introduction of the iPad mini the difference has been narrowed considerably, paving the way for increased use in business settings.

Lesson here: price continues to play a dominant factor in device selection. But it’s not always about upfront costs. What matters most to organizations should be the total costs of ownership over time.

And there you have it. My three rules for getting the most out of tablets in enterprise settings. Looking ahead, as BYOD trend continues and mobile devices in enterprise become even more ubiquitous, people should be on the lookout for new creative processes, tools and accessories coming to market simultaneously to increase the productivity of those devices for business.