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The Executive's Guide to Tablets


The Executive's Guide to Tablets


Gartner predicts that by 2012, sales of tablets will reach $326 million. In 2011, Gartner expects sales in the neighborhood of 63 million units which represents an increase of 261% from 2010. According to my research, tablets are and will continue to be a companion to notebooks and not a replacement. However, there is a potential for senior executives, sales and marketing personnel to make the tablet their primary device. Securing the tablet is a concern but there are several companies that have produced software to make tablets safe. Staff members are bringing tablets into work anyway so IT should be prepared to provide a safe and secure access strategy for them.
And the winner is…iPad of course. Gartner's forecast of media tablets to end users will reach 294 million units in 2015. Apple (iOS) will account for 138 million or 47% of all tablet sales.
This document shows what I learned researching the tablet market.


The first "tablet" like patent appeared in 1988 and was considered "pen computing" technology. However, the first hand-written character recognition patent was issued in 1915.
The first commercial products resembling today's tablets showed up in the 1980s. The following companies were early developers of tablet technology:

  • Pencept
  • Communications Intelligence Corporation
  • Linus
  • GO Corp
  • NCR Corporation
  • Wang Laboratories

Apple entered the market in 1987 and later released the Apple Newton in 1993 which had a 6" screen. The first internet based table was the Web Surfboard which was released by the Webbook Company in 1996. In response to some of the pen technology development going on around 1992, Microsoft released Windows for Pen Computing.


While iOS, Apple's operating system for mobile technology, is top of mind when considering the various platforms available in the tablet market, there are several more. In researching market share data for the tablet, the data was inconsistent depending on the source. However, the ranking seems to be consistent.

  • Apple (iOS) 61.3%
  • Android (Linux) 30.1%
  • Microsoft 4.6%
  • QNX (BlackBerry) 3.3%
  • Other 0.7%

Android continues gaining market share but iOS still owns the market with a 61.3% share. Android is second among the major players with 30.1%, which is up about 50% since the beginning of the year.

  • Apple (iOS)
    Apple uses iOS to run the iPad, iPhone and iPod. iOS was built on Apples MacOS which has its roots in the Unix operating system.
  • Android (Linux)
    Android is a Linux based operating systems developed by Google. Android powers smartphones as well as tablets. Android, Inc. was purchased by Google in 2005 and the first release by Google was in 2007. Android is generally available as free and open-source software. There are several builds of Linux designed to run on Tablets. Nokia uses a flavor of Linux, MeeGo, to power some mobile offerings.
  • Microsoft
    Windows 8 will include touch input and is expected to ship in 2012. Some of the older releases supporting tablet technology included Windows XP Table PC Edition and, Windows 7. Microsoft also released Windows CE which is the base operating system for Windows Phone 7.
  • QNX (BlackBerry)
    The BlackBerry Tablet OS is used on the new BlackBerry Playbook. BlackBerry acquired the QNX System in 2010 which is the technology for their tablet line.
  • webOS
    HP released webOS on the TouchPad, a 1.2Ghz tablet in 2011. The product was discontinued a few months later.

Choosing Enterprise Tablets for Employees

While it seems that most tablets are similar, there are features that you should consider when choosing a tablet for your staff. There are two basic types of tablets:

  • Traditional Tablets
    Traditional tables typically run full Microsoft operating systems. Windows XP along with the tablet PC extensions and Windows 7 (and Vista) power traditional tablets. The tablets usually are open face with no keyboard or convertible which means there is a keyboard that swivels under the tablet.
  • Media Tablets
    Media tablets run limited operating systems. Sometimes, media tablets run a scaled down operating system specifically designed for their limited functionality. iOS, Android, QNX and WebOS are all examples of media tablets.

Choosing the iPad may already be bouncing around in your head but consider this. American Airlines recently rolled out thousands of tablets across their business. One of their concerns regarding tablets was that the media tablets didn't have a traditional operating system. Another was security and device management. American Airlines didn't just jump to the Apple iPad. In the end, they chose the Samsung Galaxy. They are using the Galaxy in field service, maintenance, and engineering in hopes to increase efficiency.

Decision Criteria:

  • Usability/Multi-touch: Apps are only useable on smaller screens if they are simple and intuitive. Multi-touch gestures for ease of use and sizing of objects on the screen like resizing photos.
  • Onscreen Keyboard: Most media tablets provide an on-screen keyboard. The on-screen keyboard for smaller tablets may cover most of the screen and make work difficult.
  • Security Features: Tablets that rank high in security features are preferred by CIOs. In a survey by the Yankee Group, 68% of IT leaders rank security as a priority feature.
  • Wi-Fi: Most tablets have wi-fi built in (802.11n is the latest). Connection to the internet would require a wi-fi connection.
  • 3G/4G Access: Many tablets include wi-fi and 3G/4G access. In cases where you need internet connectivity up to 100% of the time, you may need 3G or 4G access. There is usually a monthly cost associated with 3G/4G internet access.
  • Bluetooth: If you are going to use a tablet with something like a wireless headset, Bluetooth 2.x is a minimum requirement. This option would support unified communications.
  • Access to Corporate Data (VPN): If your business is going to make back end data available on an employee's tablet, making sure one of the popular VPN technologies is present would be a requirements. Cisco and Juniper are commonly including with media tablets.
  • Dual Cameras: If your employees need to use their tablets for video conferencing, this feature could be a requirement.
  • Adobe Flash: Consider whether Flash is required for your tablets. iOS doesn't support Flash and instead has opted to support HTML5.
  • Long Battery Life: Tablets that provide a long battery life are important for business travelers.
    Weight: Depending on how your staff is going to use the tablets, weight can enter into the equation. For example, if you are using a tablet in a retail environment, carrying it around can be a factor. For most typical office scenarios, weight shouldn't be too much of an issue.
  • Resistive Touchscreen: Many of the popular media tablets require the touch of a finger on the screen. If your employees wear gloves, consider a tablet with resistive touchscreen which reacts to pressure and not just the touch of a finger.
  • Sunlight Readable Screen: These screens provide indoor and outdoor readability but sometimes they don't work well in some interior lighting.

According to Apple's most recent earning call, 86% of all Fortune 500 companies are deploying or evaluating iPads. If this wasn't being said by Apple, I might believe the 86%. But the point being made here is most companies are looking at tablets for their employees.
To quote a more independent source, the Yankee Group Enterprise Decision Maker Survey (July 2011) found that 51% of IT decision-makers are looking at the iPad for tablet purchases.

  • 18% are looking at the BlackBerry PlayBook
  • 17% are looking at the Motorola Xoom
  • 11% are looking at the Samsung Galaxy Tab

Ten Popular Media Tablets *

  1. Amazon Kindle Fire (Android) - $244
  2. Barnes and Noble NookColor (Android) - $299
  3. ASUS Eee Pad Transformer (Android) - $573
  4. Sony Tablet S (Windows) - $718
  5. Motorola Xoom (Android) - $848
  6. Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet (Android) - $694
  7. Acer Iconia Tab (Windows) - $657
  8. BlackBerry PlayBook (QNX) - $728
  9. Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (Android) - $799
  10. Apple iPad 2 (iOS) - $743

* Price is an average of different models available plus 2 years extended warranty

Supporting "Bring Your Own" Devices

Devices owned by staff members, changes the support model for Information Technology. Policies and procedures need to be rewritten and support staff will need additional skills to provide support. The support of bring your own technology gets even more complex for multinational corporations. It is recommended that you develop policies and procedures for each country where you have employees. Issues surrounding privacy, service contracts and work practices vary from country to country.

It's impossible for an IT organization to support every device that an employee can purchase. Supporting employee own devices comes down to an agreement between the employer and the employee. Both groups need to concede to make a mobile worker program work for everyone.

For example, an employee usually has to agree that his employer has the right to wipe their personal device in the event that the device is lost or stolen. This is typically a limiting factor when considering supported bring your own devices. Not every version of Android includes the technology that enables the wiping of a device. IT needs to publish a list of supported devices which is what we do. This list must be updated on a regular basis.
Since the business doesn't own these devices, part of IT's policies should include some of the following strategies as part of the "bring your own device" program.

  • An employee needs to agree to the terms of the program. Some organizations require an actual signature to make sure the staff member understands the program. The agreement should clearly state who is responsible for what in terms of the device.
  • The wiping of an employee owned device should be agreed to by the employee. However, since there will likely be personal data removed as the result of wiping a device, you should consult your legal advisors before implementing such a program. In addition, you should only support devices that include the ability to wipe employee devices.
  • Limit time supporting the device. Spell out in your SLA the amount of time your IT organization can spend working on their device. After the maximum time has passed, the user needs to assume responsibility.
  • An alternative to limiting support to a maximum amount of time is something Gartner calls "best effort support". This strategy states that IT will do their best to fix an employee owned device. But at the end of the day, the device is the user's responsibility. This needs to be spelled out in the policies and procedures.
  • Community support should be part of your strategy. Organizations need to provide a framework that encourages employees to share experiences, applications and best practices with each other.
  • Consider requiring employees to insure their personal device. This effectively transfers the risk of losing an expensive device to the insurance company.

Security and Business Risk

A recent survey conducted by Gartner showed that 75% of CIOs found end users connecting mobile devices to network resources without permissions. In the same survey, 85% said that they have received requests for iPads or iPhones. Managing business risk is about deploying policies that protect your corporate data. Critical data is being stored on smartphones and tablets. Because these devices are typically a personal and business device, the risk of data compromise is higher. After all, these devices are with employees most of the time.

Tablets themselves include security measures. For example, email in iOS is encrypted. Since mail remains the most used mobile application, this is a good thing. However, third party products don't necessarily provide support for encryption. This is where corporate data can be at risk. Business should include policies that require data protection and encryption before being used with corporate data. It might be difficult to limit these applications from being installed but they should only be used with non-corporate data.

Requiring a passcode on mobile devices strengthens data protections and is a best practice. Employees should be required to use passcodes on tablets. In addition, enforce passcode length and enforce a passcode grace period.
The ability to remotely wipe a lost or stolen device should be a basic requirement before certifying any mobile device including tablets. Not all tablets support remote wipe and these should not be allowed to connect to corporate networks. In addition, IT should test remotely wiping different devices. It's critical that a remote wipe can be "issued" immediately after a lost or stolen tablet is reported. If IT is unable to execute this in a timely manner, the data may be compromised while you "figure it out".

Other than requiring quality passcodes and using remote wipes, here are a few other security related best practices that should be implemented.

  • Require local data encryption
  • Don't allow a "jail-broken" device to connect to corporate data
  • Update device configurations regularly and require devices stay current on patches
  • Limit application installation using white lists and black lists
  • Flag content as personal or corporate
  • Consider stronger wireless email gateway IT policy support products such as Good Technology's Good Mobile Messaging or Sybase iAnywhere Mobile Office which offer advanced policies over Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync
  • VPN for secure connections to corporate data


At the Gartner Symposium/ITexpo in Australia this month, David Willis (Gartner VP) talked about the adoption of media tablets in businesses. By 2016, Gartner is predicting that 900 million tablets will be in use. As media tablets become more common in business, application vendors are developing tablet versions of their ERP, CRM and other business applications.
Gartner has developed a top 10 list of business application categories for tablet devices.

  • Sales automation system, sales presentations, and ordering systems
  • Business intelligence: analytical and performance applications
  • Collaboration applications for meetings
  • File utilities for sharing and document distribution
  • Sharing and document distribution file utilities
  • General corporate/government enterprise applications
  • Medical support system
  • Hosted virtual desktop agents
  • Social networking applications with intelligent business insight
  • Board books

Future of Tablets

Tablets are changing the way users interact with a computer. The dependence on keyboards and mice are effectively gone. Multi-touch technology is becoming an expectation of new mobile devices as well as media tablets.

In Gartner's report, iPad and Beyond: What the Future of Computing Holds, Angela McIntyre (research analyst) described a vision for tablet technology. Here are of some of the more interesting points:

  • Tablets will be the catalyst of change in all computing technology. PCs in new markets will include multi-touch computing which will make adoption possible.
  • Tablets will be part of hybrid technology solutions. For example, a docked tablet will become the controller for video conferencing and displays.
  • Tablets and smartphones will become digital wallets.
  • Tablets will replace in-car navigation systems.
  • Eye tracking using a camera provides data as to where a user's gaze is on the screen. Advertising and video gaming could leverage this technology.

It's also expected that tablet manufacturers will improve copy and paste functionality, auto correction and predictive text. These features are among those cited by tablet users in a survey by KeyPoint Technologies.

Users are expecting improvements in future releases of tablets if they are going to challenge laptops as a true business device.

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