2012: Year Of The Tablet - InformationWeek
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2012: Year Of The Tablet

BYOD is not a fad. It's going to be a major productivity motivator, and its going to prove itself out in 2012.

The phenomenon of bringing your own device to work will this year move beyond the initial phase of workflow and personal productivity functions toward using apps that enable a variety of business initiatives. 2011 was the year of "rogue behavior" with employees using consumer devices at work for light functions including email, research and reading reports. Now, vendors are aggressively beginning to create apps specifically for tablets and IT will deploy them, says David Willis, chief of research for communications at Gartner.

"This year, IT organizations will embrace [tablets] and finally recognize [their] legitimate business uses," he says. "IT thought this was another hoola-hoop in the beginning and as it turned out [BYOD] is not a fad; it does make people more productive throughout the day."

"We're starting to see more vendors building out apps to give [users] ways to...access tablets and form factors...It's a very aggressive program among vendors, so we'll see a much more open approach from the IT perspective," concurs Michael Fauscette, group vice president of software business solutions at IDC.

This is very timely. According to Gartner's latest forecast, worldwide media tablet consumer sales totaled 63.6 million units in 2011, a 261.4% increase from 2010 sales of 17.6 million units. Media tablet sales will continue to experience strong growth through the end of 2015 when sales are forecasted to reach 326.3 million units. Combined sales of tablets and smartphones were 44 percent higher than the PC market in 2011, according to Gartner.

Although figures from Strategy Analytics are more conservative, the research firm says the global combined shipments of corporate-liable and personal-liable business-use tablets quadrupled to reach 30 million units in 2011, and will increase to over 40 million units in 2012.

Willis cautions that while ERP, CRM, and other business application vendors are looking to sell tablet versions of their software, they will only be successful if they redesign the apps, rather than just duplicating the traditional desktop or browser experience.

The types of apps companies will deploy for tablets this year are those that are primarily geared for customer-facing roles, says Dan Shey, practice director of mobile services at ABI Research. Applications that fall in this category include vertical-specific line-of-business (LOB) apps, business intelligence (BI) apps, and workflow apps, he says. BI apps typically provide a snapshot view of CRM, ERP, and supply chain data. Workflow apps typically are approval apps for things such as purchase orders and employee leave requests, Shey says. "You will start seeing in 2012 more sales associates with tablets in retail,'' he says. "In 2011, sales associates in car dealerships with tablets was a new trend (design your own car) and I think deployments in this sector will continue. 2012 also will be the year that more field force employees will be given tablets."

Fauscette sees a proliferation of apps being designed for tablets to gain access to sales force automation, reports, and dashboards. Salesforce.com, for example, has designed such an app for the iPad, and Workday has built an execute dashboard iPad app to optimize talent and recruitment and manage personnel.

Gartner estimates that by 2016, more than 900 million tablets will be sold and will find their way into the workplace. Willis says executives in particular are "redefining processes for 'ready at hand' moments where other computer types are not as well adapted." CEOs often prefer tablets for distributing material for board of directors meetings. Salespeople are using them in client-facing situations. Sales configuration tools help close more business and reduce error rates. Sales and marketing leaders are using them as dashboards to their business; and marketers are designing campaigns around them, according to Willis. Doctors and nurses also are using tablets, he says, and they are finding their way onto the manufacturing floor.

Although tablets might be ideal for certain work roles, Fauscette says there are some functions that don't lend themselves to a small form factor, such as entering inventory and creating spreadsheets. "While [a tablet is] OK for doing content creation it's not great,'' he says. "I travel with both a tablet and a MacBook Air. I do short things on the tablet but what I like it for is consumption of content, email, reading articles and documents, doing research and looking at reports."

According to Gartner, the top 10 commercial business application categories for tablets are:

  1. Sales automation systems for customer collateral, sales presentations, and ordering systems.
  2. Business intelligence: analytical and performance applications with management dashboards.
  3. Containerized email to separate corporate messaging environments from personal email.
  4. Collaboration applications for meetings.
  5. File utilities for document sharing and distribution.
  6. General corporate/government enterprise applications for CRM, ERP, SCM, and messaging.
  7. Medical support systems for doctors, nurses, and physical therapists.
  8. Hosted virtual desktop agents to provide secure remote operations of traditional desktop applications and environments.
  9. Social networking applications with intelligent business insight.
  10. Board books for secure document and report distribution.

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