Apple is expected to announce the next version of its fast-selling tablet, which has been a bigger enterprise success than many observers expected. With the competition paying closer attention to enterprise needs, it would be nice to see Apple do the same.
The likelihood that Apple would simply send a press release announcing its next iPad (iPad 2) is like Lebron James laying up on a breakaway, so here we all come to San Francisco, breathless about what's to come at its March 2 announcement. In these very pages, we've talked about what the new tablet should be and what it shouldn't be, and on Wednesday at 10 a.m. Pacific time, we'll tell you in our live blog what it actually is. This will be the final announcement in this season of tablet introductions, and while this one may not be the slam dunk Apple made last year, it's sure to have a couple of surprises. And because the iPad has become a surprisingly popular business tool, we're hoping for some enhanced enterprise support.
A reasonable person may ask: With more than 15 million tablets sold, why should Apple care about expanding its scope? The enterprise is unreasonable, demanding even, and besides, other vendors are building tablets that do provide various levels of enterprise support.
RIM, a stalwart in the enterprise with its BlackBerry phones and its solid BES architecture, has also started to create an ecosystem of enterprise development around BEAM, its middleware architecture that helps mobilize enterprise services. The back end is a Java application server, and its libraries can be called from existing tools without the need for specialized SDKs. That means the RIM Playbook tablet can easily run SAP, Oracle, and IBM applications, and those applications can access any standard BlackBerry service. Playbook, which is expected to ship any day now, will be tied into the BES architecture via a BlackBerry phone -- kludgy, yes, but also very secure.
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The Venue: Yerba Buena Center, March 1
During Mobile World Congress in Barcelona a couple of weeks ago, Samsung made a big splash with its Galaxy Tab 10.1, a 10-inch Android tablet that will ship in the second quarter in Europe and Asia, and later in the U.S. It might be worth the wait, because Samsung placed a strong emphasis on the enterprise. In fact, Samsung called it "a true enterprise solution," and beyond the run-of-the-mill Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync, the tablet includes support for IT policies (using Cisco AnyConnect, which allows policy control at the application level), on-device encryption (in hardware -- AES 256), and mobile device management from Sybase.
Sybase Afaria adds 60-plus device management features, including the ability to separate business and personal data. Sybase has always supported Android and its growing list of enterprise APIs, but the company says that the operating system is still limited, and that it has chosen to work with Samsung at the hardware level.
The Sybase-Samsung scheme has more than 85 APIs for management and security, Sybase says. The company's Afaria platform lets IT administer apps (from the Android Marketplace) centrally. With this construct, companies can set up mini app stores on Android devices, auto pay for the apps, and manage and control them. In a risk situation, those apps can be wiped without touching the rest of the device (say, personal apps and settings). Sybase said it's working on versions for other mobile operating systems.
Hewlett-Packard didn't talk much about enterprise-class security or mobile device management in its latest TouchPad and WebOS announcement, but it did present an enterprise client vision that spans from the mobile phone to the tablet to thin-client devices, laptops, and desktops. So far, only HP and Apple can make such a claim, at least if we're considering the usual suspects. Moreover, HP is taking WebOS functionality beyond the client and into devices like printers. It's still an early story, but HP has expanded the developer target dramatically just by saying it out loud. Syncing data between WebOS devices will be one reason companies consider HP's mobile offerings.
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