Increasingly mobile

Tablets and smartphones have opened doors to big solution sales in every technology category.

Tags: Acer IncorporatedApple IncorporatedIPadIPhoneInternational Data CorporationMotorola IncorporationPoint of View BV (www.pointofview-online.com)
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Increasingly mobile Tablet PCs have quickly become the must-have gadgets of the decade.
By  Piers Ford Published  February 2, 2012

Tablets and smartphones have opened doors to big solution sales in every technology category. Everyone from software makers to peripherals vendors has come to the table with new products. Piers Ford looks at how tablets are revolutionising the mobile devices market.

Tablet PCs have quickly become the must-have gadgets of the decade. But while consumers continue to be the main drivers of the tablet PC market in the Middle East, there are growing signs that demand for enterprise-specific models is an increasingly important influence on vendor development strategies. As they iron out resilience and security issues, products are beginning to emerge that will make the enterprise a key target for the channel in 2012.

“Tablets have primarily been a consumer device for you to check emails, browse the web and read e-books, but the adoption of this very important device into the enterprise has been marred by drawbacks on existing enterprise platforms,” says Hofeza Sayalwala, regional manager, Motorola Solutions, which launched its first enterprise-only, Android 2.3-based tablet at GITEX in October.

Sayalwala says questions over whether tablets have the necessary security and resilience to withstand the typical abuses and misuses of technology in the enterprise environment have hitherto held up their adoption as a standard platform for enterprise applications. But as vendors like Motorola incorporate enterprise-specific features that, for example, enable tablets to swipe credit cards and swap out batteries without interrupting services, pressure from business users to bring them into the heart of the organisation is set to grow.

This will add an extra dynamic to a market that is already notable for its speed of evolution and the rate at which vendors are leapfrogging each other to capitalise on the rise of Google’s Android operating system as a major competitor to Apple’s dominance.

The arrival of the iPad 2, with its familiar interface, instant Internet access, prolific range of applications and all-important brand, has helped Apple to sustain that dominance in 2011. But market analyst IDC suggests that a number of Android-based vendors including Acer, ASUS and RIM – which is aiming to capitalise on the loyalty of an army of corporate Blackberry users with its new PlayBook – are set to provide healthy competition in a market that shows no sign of flagging.

“IDC expects the EMEA tablet market to continue to enjoy robust expansion, with shipments forecast to reach close to 22 million units, representing euros 9.1 billion ($12.4bn) in value in 2011,” says Eszter Morvay, research manager for IDC’s personal computing group.

The analyst expects that to rise to 33 million units next year – an increase of 53% for a market that will be worth euros 13.1 billion ($17.9bn). The expected arrival of iPad 3 will help Apple to sustain its momentum in the vanguard, but Android’s market share will reach 34% and Blackberry’s Tablet OS will make things interesting on the corporate front.

According to IDC, ongoing evaluation by businesses will translate into an increasing number of media tablet shipments in the commercial segment where they are seen as a major opportunity for horizontal and vertical applications – a key influence on Motorola’s product strategy. The vendor has created a developer platform to help customers migrate their enterprise applications onto the tablet.

“Many enterprises are still using Windows-based applications,” Sayalwala points out. “So we have built a development platform called ROH Elements. This allows any existing applications which may be running on Windows mobile to be easily migrated onto the Android platform.”

In future, that migration capability will extend to iOS, Blackberry and Symbian, reflecting the range of options open to customers – and the challenge of selling into such a competitive market where there has often been a sense of technology running before it is able to walk. For example, Google’s understandably strict control over Android licensing has not always made it easy for vendors to develop products at the rate they would have liked.

Najib Nesrini, sales director at vendor Point of View, which recently appointed Asbis as its distributor in the region, says hardware is not the issue. Software that doesn’t support the Arabic language renders even the best products impractical in the region.

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