Skeptics who think tablets are not legitimate enterprise computing tools must now deal with the fact that IBM, whose middle initial stands for Business, this week launched a program under which corporate customers can lease the Apple iPad or tablets from any other manufacturer directly from Big Blue.
"If you're rolling out a thousand tablets or more this could be more efficient and cost-effective" than financing and acquiring the devices through the manufacturer, said Mike Elmasry, worldwide PC financing manager for IBM Global Financing.
For the most part, business customers who are deploying tablets are going with the iPad, but IBM's leasing program will also cover RIM's PlayBook, Google Android-based slates like the Samsung Galaxy, "or any other tablet on any OS," said Elmasry. He added that IBM will also finance tablet purchases "at competitive rates."
It can be cheaper for enterprises to lease tablets than to purchase them directly, once all costs, including imaging and deployment, are considered, according to Elmasry.
IBM's financing arm will lease tablets, which can cost $600 or more each, for about $20 per month, per device, and arrange imaging, security, and deployment services through IBM Global Services. "We can bundle it in as a total cost solution," said Elmasry.
The typical lease will run about two to three years. At the end of the term, IBM will manage data cleansing and reconfiguration or disposal of devices returned to the company. The service can also be particularly cost-effective for enterprises that are deploying a mix of new client devices that also includes desktops and laptops.
Deloitte predicts that more than 25% of all tablets purchased in 2011 will be deployed in corporate environments. Elmasry said that number is consistent with what he's seeing at IBM customers.
"In the course of discussing laptop and desktop deployments and technology refreshes, I would say many clients in the enterprise are looking at tablets, many are thinking about incorporating them into their PC technology refreshes. We're also starting to see activities with deals that have mixed bundles," said Elmasry.
He added that many companies, in industries ranging from healthcare to insurance, are issuing tablets to employees who need to access cloud-based apps and services while on the road or in the field. IBM said it's the first "captive IT financier" to offer tablet leasing and financing services.