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The mobile devices that HP launched this week along with its ‘Business First’ computing strategy come at an interesting time for the industry.

2014 saw some significant shifts in the types of device that customers are buying. Tablet sales slowed dramatically in 2014, with Gartner highlighting an 11 per cent increase in tablet sales during 2014 compared to the previous year. In 2013, they grew 55 per cent. Throughout the coming year, tablet sales will increase, but by just 8 per cent, said the company.

What will increase? Premium ultramobiles. These devices, typified by Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3, are hybrids, designed to offer power of a laptop with the portability and flexibility of a tablet. ‘2-in-1’ devices.

HP’s continuing adventure into the hybrid market is a good move. Gartner predicts that this category will make up 32 per cent of the premium ultramobile market in 2015, up from 22 per cent in 2014. That’s still only a fraction of the tablet and conventional PC markets, but it’s a promising category.

The company clearly isn’t giving up on the tablet market, though, as evidenced by the number of slate-style devices in its lineup this week.

Analysts including Gartner have repeatedly said that the slowdown in the tablet space is due in large part to a saturation in the consumer space. Consumers tend to keep their tablet devices for longer, and a lack of innovation is a key part of that pattern. There are only so many lighter, thinner designs that a company can launch before the user base becomes jaded, especially at the higher end of the tablet market.

“I think that in terms of the user experience, which is paramount for ultramobile devices. You don’t want to compromise in terms of performance, or in terms of functionality,” explained James Morrish, chief technologist for HP UK and Ireland. “For a lot of corporate users, that means wanting to use the same applications and the same operating environments that they have on their desktop.”

The challenge that HP – faces – as do all tablet vendors – is trying to get these devices into the enterprise. Apparently, that hasn’t been happening as much as people might think, at least, according to research conducted by HP across the pond.

The company surveyed 1,130 IT decision makers across Europe, and found that 70 per cent of them didn’t have a corporate bring-your own device (BYOD) policy. Worries about security were among the biggest concerns, with 50 per cent of respondents citing this as an issue.

On average, just 41 per cent of the devices that came into an organisation were supported by a policy where it did exist, HP found.

“We still see that overall, the majority of corporates really don’t want to go down that route because it’s too risky or expensive to do,” Morrish said.

If companies aren’t embracing consumers’ own mobile devices in the enterprise, then they’re not going to able to fold them into a mobility strategy in any meaningful way, which is why companies like HP are deciding that they need to sell them computers made for enterprise use. This is a challenge that Apple and IBM have been trying to solve with their partnership on iOS-focused enterprise applications and services, so it isn’t just HP that has noticed this.

“The corporate market is still very vibrant, but the challenge for corporates is to address those consumers’ aspirations,” added Morrish. In short, equipment needs to be built for enterprise use, while also being sexy enough for employees to demand it.

What remains to be seen is whether companies are ready to take those devices and move beyond the ‘horizontal’ productivity applications like email and calendar management, and integrate them into the revenue-generating, critical business processes that lie at the heart of their business. Those are applications like on-site ticketing, say, or shop-floor retail management, or logistics. That’s something that will eventually show up in the sales results for these business-focused mobile units – if corporate customers are far-sighted enough to bite.



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