Feature Story

Tablets: Going Beyond "Angry Birds"

by Kristi Essick

Recent research shows that companies are purchasing tablets at a rapid rate – far faster than they adopted smartphones in the past. According to a recent report from Deloitte, companies will purchase more than 25% of all tablet computers this year, with thisfigure rising significantly in 2012 as more companies replace laptops with tablets.

"Although some commentators view tablets as underpowered media-consumption toys suitable only for consumers, more than 10 million of the devices will likely be purchased by enterprises in 2011," the Deloitte report said. 

Companies will spend $29.4 billion on tablets in 2011, up from $9.6 billion last year, according to a report from Gartner Research, which added that global enterprise spending on tablets is forecast to increase on average 52% a year through 2015.

Above and beyond the tablets purchased by companies, individuals often use their personal mobile devices, including tablets, for work-related tasks like checking email, accessing corporate Web apps, and viewing PowerPoints. Forrester Research estimates that at least half of all consumer-purchased tablets are used for work, which is why 75% of companies haveofficial security and network management policies in place to support employees' personal mobile devices.

Although some commentators view tablets as underpowered media-consumption toys suitable only for consumers, more than 10 million of the devices will likely be purchased by enterprises in 2011.



Today, enterprise tablets mostly serve as secondary devices to laptops, allowing mobile employees instant access to e-mail, calendaring, and Web apps. Organizations also pre-load tablets with documentation, videos, handbooks, product guides, HR information, and company reports so employees can read up on work material while at the gym or on a plane.

Digital publisher Telltale Games, based in San Rafael, Calif., provided tablets to many of its 80 employees. The company's senior marketing vice president Steve Allison said his tablet quickly became "hardwired to me in a way my laptop never was." Interviewed in a recent article in Inc. Magazine, Allison added that "the form factor makes it more like grabbing a magazine than lugging an 8-pound laptop around the office, at home or on a trip – and that changes everything about my usage pattern."

Why are tablets so popular in the workplace? The answer is twofold. First, people love them – and any device that encourages people to work outside business hours is a boon for companies. Second, tablets are app-driven – and apps can make work-related tasks easier and faster. Organizations can give their mobile workforce access to CRM, business intelligence, sales, and other corporate systems through secure gateway apps, either developed in-house or purchased from app stores.

According to Forrester Research, 41% of North American and European IT departments said increasing the number of business mobile apps available to both employees and customers is currently a high or critical priority.

As the number of business-related apps rises, tablets hold the potential to break out of their "secondary device" role to become primary work computing devices. Tablets could feasibly be used for almost any work-related task – from doctors using sophisticated radiography apps in their offices, to field sales reps wooing prospects with interactive video presentations, to plant managers inputting data on a factory floor.

However, not all tablets are well suited for enterprise use. Many are first and foremost consumer devices for playing games, reading e-books, and watching videos. But others, such as the Cisco Cius, are built especially for the enterprise. The Cius was designed for business users and comes with an integrated suite of collaborative applications such as Cisco Quad, Cisco WebEx, Cisco Unified Presence, instant messaging, email, and Cisco Unified Communications Manager, as well as support for industry applications through the Google Android Market.

"The Cius tablet is a dockable communications device. Imagine initiating a video call on your Cius-docked IP phone, then undocking and taking that video call with you down the hall to a meeting," Ted Schadler, a principal analyst at Forrester Research, said in a report titled Executive Q&A: Tablets In The Enterprise In 2011.

Tablets are invading the enterprise, whether IT departments like it or not. Smart companies won't just buy hundreds of tablets and hand them out to employees. To make tablets true workhorses, companies need to choose enterprise-ready tablets, create secure device management policies, and train employees to use collaboration and productivity apps.

 The contents or opinions in this feature are independent and do not necessarily represent the views of Cisco. They are offered in an effort to encourage continuing conversations on a broad range of innovative, technology subjects. We welcome your comments and engagement.