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Tablet...or Deskphone in Disguise

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Tablets are gaining unbelievable moment in the enterprise, with 87% of tablet owners using their tablets for work and 27% of enterprises providing tablets to at least part of their workforce (iPass Global Mobile Workforce Report).

Apple set this market on fire with the introduction of the iPad. And many vendors, consumer and enterprise alike, have followed suit. Enterprise vendors, such as Cisco and Avaya, have grabbed some attention for evolving their next generation high-end deskphones into tablet form factors: Cisco with its 7" tablet, the Cius, and Avaya with its larger 11" tablet, with a focus on user interface, dubbed "Flare."

I applaud both companies for thinking ahead enough to develop something in time to ride the tablet wave, but I think they both have fundamentally missed what is really powerful about the tablet as a device. In my opinion, the tablet (which is currently only the iPad for all practical purposes) is powerful for five key reasons:

  1. It's easy – Apple's iOS interface is familiar (thanks to the popularity of the iPhone), and it's easy to use for the young, old, gadget literate and illiterate alike.
  2. It's versatile – There is an application ecosystem that is huge, ranging from games, social and business apps of all types (plug: including ShoreTel Mobility's RoamAnywhere client).
  3. It's sexy – Whatever you think of Apple, it is impressive that people will line up for hours, sell their organs, and in some cases, their virtue, to get one.
  4. It's enterprise grade – A business class device that employees are willing to bring to work and use it for work, without the enterprise having to pay for it.
  5. It's mobile – The allure of the tablet is its form factor versus a laptop. It's powerful enough to do real-time communications. It’s big enough to support video, read books and documents, and with the right accessories even create content. It also holds promise as a window into the cloud with Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI).

A blog post from ZDNet talks about the pricing for Cisco and Avaya's devices as what will make or break them as a tablet contender. Yes, pricing is key, and their outrageous pricing isn't going to help them displace Apple’s iPad in the enterprise..

But I believe it is the 5 points above that they lack, and are their biggest challenge to overcome, not pricing. Their devices are just deskphones in tablet clothing. While that isn't necessarily a bad thing (enterprises buy deskphones and will continue to do so for some time), they miss out on the real pivot that tablets bring to computing and communications in the enterprise.

What are your thoughts?