Bill Gates had a vision of a "computer on every desk and in every home," and, by 2002, one billion PCs had been sold according to Gartner at the time. That number had been predicted to double by 2008, but it was precisely then the PC industry suffered its worst growth rate since 2002.
Now PCs are not just down, they are disappearing as both a consumer choice — from which much business use is driven — and as a corporate option. Tablets are officially taking over, but what are they really doing in the enterprise?
By The Numbers
Gartner says the decrease in PC shipments is a reflection of a long-term change in user behavior, mainly from the adoption of replacement devices like the tablet.
In its Q1 2013 report “Forecast: Devices by Operating System and User Type,” Gartner puts predicted worldwide tablet shipments at 197 million units in 2013, a 69.8% increase from 2012. This percentage is similar to the year over year growth from 2011 to 2012.
According to Changewave Research, (a service of 451 Research) overall business IT spending is set to improve in Q2 2013, led by smartphone and tablet demand. In its Q1 2013 survey (“Corporate Demand for Smartphones, Tablets & PCs”), 25% of respondents said their companies will be purchasing tablets for employees in Q2 2013. This is one point above the all-time high registered in the prior quarter survey.
The report showed that BYOD is allowed for both smartphones and tablets at the majority of (38%) companies (36% have no BYOD policies at all). And while the percentage of companies whose BYOD includes "smartphones only" was flat, the rate for "tablets only" doubled since a November 2012 report.
For corporate purchases, iPad is the top choice at 77%. Indeed, when Apple launched the 4th gen iPad, CEO Tim Cook noted that 94% of the Fortune 500 is testing or deploying the device.
Changewave’s survey shows Samsung and Microsoft tablets tied for second choice at 16% each. Because of the integration with traditional desktop applications, a Microsoft device may seem like a logical choice for business, but the Surface Pro for Windows 8, for example, has been subject to much criticism.
In addition, while a small percentage of businesses will move to Windows 8, just as they did with Vista, the real issue for 2013, according to Bob O’Donnell, Program VP, Clients and Displays, IDC, is the migration to Windows 7. He says that more than 40% of commercial enterprises are still running XP.
Samsung proclaimed 2013 its year for tablets, and has made a push for the enterprise through a clearly laid out internal strategy that offers an end-to-end tablet solution for business, and a product strategy that takes the tablet from “consumption to creation.” It also makes devices enterprise and BYOD ready through the company’s SAFE program.
In a separate survey of consumers taken at the same time, Changewave discovered that 6% of respondents are planning to buy a tablet in Q2 2013. This may seem low, but could be a result of a post-holiday buying slow down, and, perhaps, a good many “prosumers” are waiting for corporate-issued devices.
Of particular note, 14% of consumer respondents said the tablet is a laptop replacement, contrasted with 48% of corporate respondents.
The tablet take over is evident here as the enterprise is now set to outpace the consumer. Yet, it’s been the reverse for so long. Mike deVente, VP, North America Enterprise Mobility Channels, Motorola Solutions, points out, “One of the most interesting trends that we’ve seen in the last couple of years is that technology used to always start in the business — the fax machine, cell phone, printer computer — and then it moved to the consumer. And that’s changed with tablets.”
He explains that the devices he cited had to be “consumerized” in order to make them work at home and be affordable. “This has actually reversed itself. We are seeing a lot of technology, not just tablets, starting at home moving into the business,” he says.
Apps at Work
Two things that drove the consumer tablet explosion — Wi-Fi and apps — are also fundamental for business. deVente says, “If we didn’t have wireless coverage, indoor or outdoor. It [tablet use] just wouldn’t be possible. The availability and acceptance of apps at the consumer level and the familiarity with OSes has also reduced a lot of barriers.”
After all, it is the apps that are running the show, and Changewave’s corporate survey, cited earlier, asked: “What apps are you using?” Email came in on top at 71%; productivity apps - 40%; collaboration tools - 28%; CRM 28%; and business intelligence - 25%.
Since tablets started out in the C-suite, for staying connected, and migrated first to where the ROI can be most easily measured — sales — these numbers are not all that surprising. However, the use cases are growing, and what tablets are really doing in the enterprise is changing the way everything works.
Vishal Jain, Analyst, Mobile Services for 451 Research says the entire business process is being transformed. “With a connected tablet, the process is faster and that’s pushing the business process to change itself. You can take a snapshot of what’s happening in real time, update it and get information right back. You don’t have to go through the process of collecting information from disparate sources, aggregating it and pushing it through a manual process. All the data is there and this makes a big impact.”
Merchandising is one of the functions where this impact is being seen. Tablets are ideal to see planograms and product pictures, for distributing content to thousands of workers in the field and for order management. (See PepsiCo Case Study.)
From supplier to seller, Jain says that tablet solutions are replacing the entire format of the retail industry. They enable those on the floor to be more informed and agile — both from a consumer-facing (replacing fixed POS terminals) and internal perspective (connecting the front of store to back of house).
In a manufacturing and warehousing environment, now everyone is a mobile operator as tablets can be handed off from one shift to another. Peripherals can be added for increased functionality and rugged options are becoming smarter and sleeker as well. The healthcare industry is quickly turning to tablets to connect its fragmented workforce within its own four walls, and is another example of where the devices can easily be shared.
In this industry, much like retail, there is overlap in how tablets are being used both internally and for patient/consumer facing activities.
To Do or Not To Do
In thinking about how and where to use tablets, Jain says to consider the aforementioned transformation. Figure out what processes are inefficient. For example, any field function that is paper based — especially sales and service — in nearly any vertical, benefits.
Tablet solutions are replacing paper and streamlining the workflow — from adjusting schedules and checking locations, to work order and product management, signature capture, data monitoring and real-time collaboration.
All this in mind, what are tablets lacking? A keyboard is the most obvious answer, despite convertible/hybrid options being available, they are not popular with the consumer or the enterprise.
Jain believes there is still a big hole in terms of creating on a tablet and there is no root folder structure either. It is likely, however — pardon the cliché — that there is an app for that, or there will be one soon, as he is seeing new solutions coming to market that address this.