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Putting Tablet Devices to Work

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Worldwide shipments of tablet devices will reach 142.8 million units in 2013 and 222.1 units by 2016, according to IDC. The market research firm sees increasing interest from commercial buyers, and Gartner anticipates that business sales of media tablets will account for about 35 percent of total tablet sales in 2015.

Gartner says tablet devices present a variety of new opportunities for businesses by supplementing traditional uses of laptops and smartphones. As a result, Gartner analysts recommend that businesses begin experimenting with tablet devices without delay.

“Some companies have issued them to business and IT leaders in the spirit of exploration. Others see areas in which they can use media tablets to bring computing into settings that were not practical or were too cumbersome to use traditional approaches,” said David Willis, research vice president at Gartner. “IT organizations are finding new places where tablets can deliver information and media in new ways.”

At the same time, Gartner has long maintained that tablets are neither “better laptops” nor “better smartphones” but complement both. ICG agrees — tablets are an additional tool that businesses can use to meet specific user needs.

“A lot of people try to replace their PC with a tablet and are hit immediately by the drawbacks rather than the benefits,” said Luigi Catanzaro, Application Development Manager, ICG. “If instead you exploit the strengths of tablet devices, they can become very powerful additions to your company.”

An Additional Tool

When compared with laptops, tablet devices activate instantly, allowing a user to get right to what he or she needs without long and frustrating startup times. They also have exceptional battery life and are responsive, tactile and inviting.

“The high-resolution screens and longer battery life make tablets ideal for sales — you can definitely showcase your products,” Catanzaro said. “And  if  you  want somebody to fill out an application or order form, tablets are very powerful for that.

“Really, they are perfect for anything that’s visual. That’s why they are seeing so much use in the medical field. Radiologists are not waiting for film to be developed — they’re getting their FDA-approved images on their tablet devices. Doctors can access patient medical records that are as real-time as they can possibly be.”

However, in a common mobile-worker scenario, employees may travel with a media tablet during the day but return to their laptops in the evening for heads-down data entry or content creation.

“It takes careful planning to get the most from tablets,” said Catanzaro. “You have to consider what each group of users is trying to accomplish and set the right expectations.”

The Time Is Now

Just as media tablets won’t replace PCs, Gartner does not believe that they will replace mobile phones as voice devices, even in the smaller form factors. Nevertheless media tablets still have enormous potential in the workplace and present a variety of new opportunities for businesses.

At the same time, tablet devices require a new set of policies, technologies and skills. ICG’s Catanzaro recommends that organizations standardize on a particular tablet and data carrier insofar as possible to make it easier to manage application updates. A mobile device management solution is also critical.

“Tablets and other devices are very powerful — sometimes too powerful,” Catanzaro said. “You have to consider a mobile device management solution that can help you track mobile devices, restrict access to sensitive applications and data, and enforce policies.”

This is especially true if your company supports a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) program. BYOD brings a number of challenges that few companies are ready to handle.

“Employees are coming in with their own mobile devices and they expect to connect to the company net- work,” said Catanzaro. “But they have a lot of third-party software that can be risky to the network. In addition, they are accessing and sharing a lot of company information using their mobile devices. If the employee loses the device, it could expose that data. Mobile device management can help reduce these risks but you have to be sure to integrate it into your mobility solution.”

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