Do tablets have a place in enterprise?

20th November 2013

Tablets to topple the table-top PC

Last month, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt told the Gartner Symposium that the classic business model of in-house software running on PCs was under threat by the rise of tablets. Schmidt said, “I was actually surprised by this. I didn’t call this. Would the phone replace the PC? I figured employees would be using a PCs and a phone.” He continued, “It looks to us like the majority of enterprise computing is being done on mobile devices, in particular on tablets.”

Even if Schmidt is overstating this, the increase in use of tablets in the enterprise cannot be in doubt. In the same week as the Gartner Symposium, a report released by Ovum found that 17.6% of employees had been provided with a tablet by their employer, up from 12.5% in 2012.

The report also found that, even where businesses were not providing employees with tablets, the trends towards ‘bring-your-own-device’ was driving tablet usage. Personal tablet ownership rose from 28.4% in 2012 to 44.5% in 2013 and, of those users, 69.7% reported using their device work.

During his discussion, Schmidt explained that the classic PC-and-software model had coexisted comfortably with the with subsequent emergence of cloud computing. However, he went on to say that the tablet revolution had “broken” the old model of business computing and that enterprises will have to, “dismantle much of that existing infrastructure and replace it [with infrastructure] that actually works in this new tablet, phone, mobility model.”

Looking at these three stages, it is easy to see a progression. The emergence of cloud services provided benefits that could not be achieved with a localised PC-and-software approach. The emergence and proliferation of mobile devices then helped to drive the growth of cloud services and, now, cloud computing and mobile devices are becoming the norm – with PCs becoming increasingly surplus to requirement.

The continued development of ecosystems around tablets will only serve to reinforce this. Microsoft Office, for example, is now available on the Surface and other similar devices and, of course, Windows is offered as a mobile operating system allowing users the convenience and flexibility of a tablet whilst retaining enterprise level software. This is significant from an IT perspective too as it means tablets can be easily and securely deployed within an existing Windows-based business.

PCs will not disappear from the enterprise overnight, of course, but there is now a question of what a business computing model may look like without them. The long-mooted radical idea of users having one device that was used for both personal and professional purposes, that attached to any peripherals that might be required at the time and that adapted to the user’s current requirements (based on, say, location or time) has never seemed less radical.

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