Media Tablets in the Enterprise: Consumerization of IT Strikes Again

media tablets tug-of-war

Well, Apple did it again. On April 3, 2010, they unleashed the iPad, a thin, sleek, tablet that has excited consumers around the world. It borrowed a lot from its little sibling, the iPhone, including compatibility with mobile applications in the Apple App Store. Just to give you some perspective, it took 74 days to sell one million iPhones. We know how that product revolutionized the smartphone industry. It took only 28 days to sell one million iPads. Simply amazing.

Tablets are not a new thing. They’ve been around for years. Remember those PC tablets with a pen? However, the iPad started a new breed of tablets that are becoming known as media tablets. These devices have a larger-than-smartphone display and a multitouch input used primarily for consumption of information. There are some interesting features that this new media tablet has that the PC tablets of the past (and present) don’t, including instant-on, lightweight, thin, day-long battery life, and the operating system is usually adapted from a smartphone platform.

Media tablets are now really starting to take off. Over 75 new media tablets were announced at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and all of the major vendors want to play in this game.

Let’s face it, these devices are cool. Really cool. But do they have a place in the enterprise? Here are some areas that are worth exploring:

  • Senior management – They probably already have them by now, so I’ll skip this one.
  • Using a computer while standing up – This can be useful for really mobile people. I’m not talking about ‘corridor warriors’, but folks who are on the move constantly like warehouse personnel. Employees who use a clipboard might be a good fit for media tablets.
  • Sharing information one-on-one with customers – Sharing visual material face-to-face can be more compelling that dragging a notebook and a projector around and talking across the table. Both retailers and health care have picked up on this.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with the following recommendations:

  • Try to start from a business needs perspective. I know that many users will want to use an app on these irresistible devices, but pause first. Put technology aside for a moment. Ask you users what they are trying to accomplish from a business perspective: increase sales by X%; add Y more customers this year; decrease processing errors by Z%. Then figure out what technologies, including media tablets, can be used to meet these objectives. IT management will require a solid business case anyway, so you might as well do it now.
  • Get started early. Just like smartphones, employees have access to media tablets at the same time as IT. They will find their way into your environment. Besides, you do want your IT department to look progressive, don’t you?
  • Assess the applications in your portfolio to see if they are media tablet-friendly. Windows-based client-server applications obviously will not work on Android and flash-based websites won’t play nice with iPad devices.
  • From a security perspective, you may want to start with applications which don’t require local data storage, like web sites or thin-client virtualized applications. This will make it easier to get through any security audits. Also, if you have a mobile device management product for smartphones, see if you can leverage the same tooling for media tablets.
  • Expect that media tablets will complement smartphones and notebooks, not replace them. Each has its strengths and challenges.
  • If you have an individual-liable smartphone program for your knowledge workers, media tablets might be a easy addition. However, it probably won’t fit for workers areas like manufacturing or logistics that may share a device from shift to shift.
  • If you are going to use them in a less-than-hospitable environment, you’ll need some kind of sturdy case. You can look online to find a number of interesting options. After all, these consumer-built devices are not the most rugged instruments.

There is no doubt that media tablets will be very popular with many consumers and businesses. This is just another example of how the consumerization of IT is continuing to change the corporate world.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Android, BlackBerry, Individual Liable Devices, iPhone, Media Tablet, mobile thin client, WebOS

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