Enterprises will be a battleground for tablets in 2016; two-in-ones will gain traction

Shiny new tablets are always popular under the Christmas tree, and with new devices from Apple and Microsoft recently hitting the market, there are plenty of options available for commercial deployment as a means to support mobile productivity.

Apple’s latest iPad is taking a page from Microsoft’s book by adding something Steve Jobs said he never wanted: a stylus. And while Apple is often seen as being a purveyor of premium devices consumers are willing to pay for, recent research from Strategy Analytics suggests that despite a “long bumpy road” for Windows tablets, 2015 is the year Microsoft and its partner OEMs “finally got tablets right.”

According to “Tablet Operating System Forecast – Shipments, Installed Base & by Price Tier” released by the research firm’s Tablet & Touchscreen Strategies service late last month, Windows tablet shipments have already increased at a 58 per cent annual rate in the first nine months of 2015 and momentum will carry through the holiday season to reach 22 million shipments for the full year, or 10 per cent of the total market.

The Strategy Analytics report said Android and iOS competitors will not stand still as Windows gains in popularity, and that Apple has strengthened its position among enterprise and prosumer users with the iPad Pro, opening the tablet market to even greater penetration of higher-tier prosumers and enterprise users. Premium price tier tablets will play an important role in the market, particularly in the enterprise market and as PC replacements in general.

Windows tablets will have a more balanced approach than Android’s mass market, low cost appeal, and although there will be many millions of sub-$150 wholesale Windows tablets from hardware vendors that contribute to Microsoft’s growing market share, according to Strategy Analytics. Most, if not all, major vendors will have high to premium tier Windows tablet offerings by the end of 2016 to address prosumers and enterprise currently served by Microsoft’s Surface Pro line.

One of those vendors is Dell, which as a Microsoft partner is ready to provide its enterprise customers with Surface tablets if, but also updated its own Windows-based Venue tablet line in the fall.

Kirk Schell, VP & GM of Dell’s commercial product line, said some customers prefer Microsoft’s Surface Pro for their tablet requirements, but that Dell can configure and deploy its Venue tablets as part of an overall solution that works with other Dell deployments such as servers and storage and architect security and management from the ground up. He said tablets are being used for productivity in enterprise environment and have a bigger requirement for back-end communication support and extending the same security and management abilities already present in the organization.

Enterprises are also looking to deploy applications that work through the entire environment, including applications and workflows that are already well-established, said Schell. “Windows 10 by all accounts has been well received and the general trend is a fast transition.” The pen is becoming more desirable to support productivity on Windows 10 devices, he added.

Vladyslav Mukherjee, research analyst for tablets at IDC Canada, said HP is likely to take similar approach to Dell in Canada in terms of offering either Microsoft Surface or its own devices to enterprise customers. “Commercially we’re seeing more and more companies using the two-in-one form factor,” he said, such as tablets with a detachable keyboard being used as desktop replacements. This contrasts with research from IDC released a couple of years ago, which saw little interest for replacing desktops with tablets. Other growth areas for tablets are in the areas of data input to replace forms for field staff so they can quickly enter information directly without having to transfer from paper to digital.

While the addition of a “pencil” to the iPad might lead to increased use for enterprise applications, said Mukherjee, its use will be niche in the early days, especially given its high price point and that apps will need to have the Apple Pencil support. “There’s a wider range of enterprise apps that will run on the Surface device that might not run on an iPad Pro.”

Adoption of tablets and two-in-ones is still an emerging market, said Mukherjee, and he said there’s indications that Windows 10 adoption is slowing down little. “But I think in the long term it will be a good upgrade,” he said, as not only are there some upgrades in the front end but improvements in terms of mobile management.

“I think we will see two-in-ones replace tablet devices because if you get the experience right the two-in-one is essentially a laptop and tablet device in one. We’re quite bullish on that.”

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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