Whether it comes from continuous IT consumption or just from companies looking for a more flexible approach, companies are starting to get serious about tablets.
IDC expects global tablet sales to reach 117.1 million this year, reaching 261.4 million units by 2015. Rival analyst Gartner expects commercial tablet purchases to triple between now and 2016.
Although no one believes that tablets will completely replace laptops and computers, most manufacturers and analysts now expect them to play a significant role in the company’s IT.
If you need to manage a tablet in your current environment, then you want to make it as easy as possible
There are good reasons to join. For roles where mobility, flexibility and access to business data are more important than transfer or a large workspace, tablets are without a doubt the most convenient and usable device. However, without proper justification, planning and support, buying a fleet from them could be a costly mistake.
The right device for the job
For Microsoft customer solutions specialist Jamie Burgess, it is vital that the decision to buy tablets is supported by a real business use case, so that companies «understand what the user is trying to do.»
Some tasks can be managed with touch screen devices and applications, while others are better suited for a laptop or even a desktop computer. Hybrid and convertible devices may seem to offer the best of both worlds, but if someone spends most of the day working on spreadsheets or setting up reports, then a tablet doesn’t make much sense. Companies should divide users into groups and assess whether or not the potential benefits for each group.
Tablets could also be worth considering as part of a broader change in IT strategy. If you’re moving from on-premises solutions to a cloud-based approach or from single-user desktops to a more flexible combination of resources, tablets might be right for you. A iPad or Surface with Windows RT is not a solution magic, but it could be the right tool in the right circumstances.
Once you’ve decided who really needs a tablet, the next question is how to manage it. «Managability is one of the key things IT managers have been concerned about in the past,» said Adam Griffin, Dell’s global tablet product manager. «If you have to manage a tablet in your current environment, then you want to make it as easy as possible.»
Here the choice of tablet and operating system becomes crucial. «If you have a Microsoft Windows-based client infrastructure and bring an Apple or Google tablet, then you need to manage it separately. The reasons why companies have done this, even if it is a small inconvenience for them, are limited to what they consider to be productivity benefits. «
The iPad has advantages here, as iOS has become a key point for Bring Your Own Device schemes, and Apple has worked hard to support management features on iOS and OS X. IOS 6 update is Secure S / MIME email accepted, blocked. down and the ability to lock an iPad in a single app, plus a supervised mode that gives administrators the power to change iOS device security and wireless usage profiles.
There are many things you can do with the free Apple Configurator tool, as long as there is an internal Mac or OS X server, and the operating system also provides good support for VPN and deployment. Applications internal for through the Enterprise Developer program. Smaller companies can only get away with Apple Configurator to manage a small fleet, although larger or more demanding companies will find a range of mobile device management (MDM) tools available.
With Android tablets, things are a little more complicated. Many companies are still concerned about the perceived lack of management tools and security issues, hardware fragmentation and malware affecting the operating system.
Manufacturers are working to combat these perceptions with Samsung Approved For Enterprise and Motorola Business Ready programs that provide support for common IT policies, encryption and robust MDM. Meanwhile, 3LM (a subsidiary of Motorola and now owned by Google) offers an Android remote access, management and security platform with remote deletion, access controls and remote application installation and updates on some devices .
Tablet operating system
Windows 8 Pro – Here we have all the security and management features that I know and trust in Windows-based companies, plus compatibility with existing applications. However, Windows 8 Pro tablets have been expensive so far, while battery life has not reached the level of ARM equivalents. There is potential to be the best business option, but these issues need to be addressed.
Windows RT Windows RT can accommodate a subset of users, but it’s not as secure or manageable as Windows 8 Pro, and business application support should work. Windows RT can be successful in the consumer space, but you have a lot of work to do if you want to convince business customers. Is this an opportunity missed by Microsoft?
If you want to subscribe to Google Apps, you can use the Device Policy app, which links all of these management features to certain Android devices and Google Apps accounts.
The administrator can set remote access rights and perform administrative tasks and can track, block and delete devices remotely. However, at GBP 4 per user per month, this may be higher than some companies are willing.
In theory, management should be the big selling point Windows 8 . «When you bring a Windows device to a Windows infrastructure, there are no hidden costs,» says Burgess’s Microsoft. «Assuming, for example, that you have a centralized management solution and you’re looking to deploy tablets, the bottom line is essentially that deploying tablets is exactly the same as deploying a laptop as long as it’s a Windows tablet and it’s x86.»
In other words, a tablet running Windows 8 Pro is no more difficult to manage than a laptop running the same thing. It will work with the same System Center Configuration Manager tools as a Windows 8 laptop and will take advantage of the Active Directory and Group Policy features that many IT administrators already use to manage their existing Windows environments.
Administrators can use the new Group Policy update features in Windows 8 to implement configuration updates and changes.
But what about an ARM tablet running Windows RT? Here things are less attractive. Microsoft’s recommended approach is for the cloud-based Windows Intune service, which provides management, security and a corporate app store for GBP 9 per user per month.
For small and medium-sized businesses that want to outsource IT management, this may not be a problem, especially if wholesale to Intune is anticipated. However, if you prefer to have everything at home, RT is not for you.
Tablets are not inherently less secure than laptops, but they are subject to the same concerns. «When you start taking data out of the office, things become less secure,» says Griffin of Dell. «Security must be an essential part of tablet devices, whether it’s physical security or data security on the device.»