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Tablets help revolutionise computer landscape

Sales expected to hit 69 million in 2011, devices present new opportunities for business

Tablets help revolutionise computer landscape
Tablet computers are revolutionising the workplace and the computing landscape according to Gartner.

Media tablet shipments are expected to hit 69 million in 2011 and the devices are presenting new opportunities for business, as well as creating their very own set of policies, technologies and skills for enterprises, according to Gartner.

"CIOs are determined not to make the same mistakes they made with smartphones, which were often written off early as expensive and frivolous toys, or executive status symbols - which then left room for more inventive leaders who saw the competitive advantage that mobile applications would bring," said David Willis, research vice president at Gartner. "They are also more willing to see that they don't need to supply and manage every device that employees use at work: Consumerisation is here to stay, and moving very fast. If you can think of an application for tablets, your competition may well be thinking in the same way - and acting on it. It is time to explore the use of media tablets in business."

According to Gartner, the impact of tablet computers is far greater than just the shipment numbers, nudging into the domain of notebooks, smartphones and other computing devices. The creation of applications and media that has surrounded the debut of tablets has also made a real difference to the computing landscape, according to Gartner.

"The iPad, and the larger wave of media tablets, has captured the imagination of business leaders. Some companies have issued them to business and IT leaders in the spirit of exploration. Others see areas in which they can use media tablets to bring computing into settings that were not practical or were too cumbersome to use traditional approaches," said Willis. "For the consumer, the iPad brought a casual but rich experience into the living room, or the train, or while waiting in line at the bank. In turn, IT organisations are finding new places where tablets can deliver information and media in new ways."

Willis added that companies who recognised the benefits of consumer devices entering the market were more prepared to adopt and manage media tablets, with those that developed security for the iPhone for use in a corporate environment had also been first to market with security for the iPad in turn.

Garnet believes that media tablets cannot take over from laptops or smartphones, but can complement both.

According to the research company, in comparison with laptops, tablets are instantly active, skipping long start up times, have good battery life, and are responsive, tactile and user-friendly. However, Gartner says users may use the tablets during the day and return to their laptops in the evenings for data entry and content creation.

"Sales leaders are clamouring to adopt media tablets with their sales teams, as a more engaging way to share sales collateral and promotional materials. And it won't stop there: Next will come customer relationship management systems, and order entry and sales configuration applications. For sales managers, media tablets will be a natural platform for business analytics and performance dashboards," said Willis. "In other settings, the intimacy of using a media tablet supports more personal interactions. Doctors, nurses and medical technicians find they can sit down with a patient and help that patient understand a diagnosis, walk through a medical procedure and describe a therapy with them. Retail clerks can use tablets to display customized clothing for a customer. Conference attendees can take surveys on their own, with no training required. The opportunities are huge."

Gartner says that media tablets will not replace PCs or mobile phones, even in smaller form factors, but will have enormous potential in the workplace.

"Fundamentally, the market battle will not hinge on features and specifications; on the fit and finish of a given device; or even on a device at all. The platform that will prevail will have a strong supporting ecosystem of developers producing a wide range of applications. And in this area, Apple is far ahead of any competition," Willis said. "Not only does it have a first-mover advantage in the device itself, but it has built a curated application distribution mechanism in the App Store that is notable both for how users hold it in high regard and how detractors see it as a limitation. In the end, Apple's lead will be very difficult to beat."


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