Are the New Crop of Enterprise Tablets a Threat to Apple?

Over the last three years, Apple has reshaped many industries, including the smartphone, tablet, PC and even SO Cindustry.  One areaHP-ElitePad-900 of Apple success that was in Microsoft’s own backyard was enterprise tablets, where, according to Apple, 94 percent of the Fortune 500 is either testing or deploying iPads.  For a product that has only existed for a few years and the slow pace of enterprise change, this is no small feat.  While no competing enterprise tablets emerged over the last three years to challenge the iPad, technologies developed over the last few years by Intel could very well change the competitive dynamics.

Enterprise iPads were deployed for very similar reasons that consumers bought truckloads of iPads for themselves.  IPads were thin, light, sexy, easy to use with 10 hours of battery life.  Through the use of EAS and an MDM, iPads were “secure enough” for enterprise email.  As time rolled on, Apple added even more security features and companies like Oracle, SAP, and started to develop enterprise front-ends to their products and services.  This enabled iPads to be more than email machines, but devices where workers could quickly get access to HR and financial system data.

8024514200_050496a1feBecause iPads aren’t Windows PCs, enterprises needed to spend a lot of time and money making iPads “enterprise-compliant”.  By this, I mean IT had to buy products and services and create parallel processes to secure, provision, deploy, manage, service and support iPads.  They did this because of the benefits iPads brought and the lack of a Windows alternative.  At that point, the Windows alternative was thick, hot, and expensive with no more than 5 hours battery life.

Intel Atom Z2760, aka Clover Trail, could change this enterprise dynamic.  If you look at many of the vectors where Windows tablets had an issue, many of them are solved with Clover Trail.  With the Atom Z2760, HP, Dell, and Lenovo have just recently started shipping created tablets that are thinner, lighter, as sexy with better battery life than today’s iPad.

Here are a few snippets on the new tablets that only became available for pilot and deployment:

  • Dell Latitude 10: Dell’s tablet is made from shock-resistant magnesium alloy yet weighs in at nearly the same weight as the iPad.  The battery is user-replaceable, too, providing up to 20 hours of battery life and enabling the user to focus on the client, not searching for a plug.  The desktop dock enables users to come in from the road and dock the tablet to their giant display via HDMI, GigE LAN, and 4 USB ports for a full-size keyboard, full-size mouse and even external storage or a printer.
  • HP ElitePad 900: Made with an aluminum design, the ElitePad is thinner, lighter, more durable and serviceable than the iPad.  HP even provides enterprises with a fixture to remove and repair the display, PCB and battery.  We all know what happens to an iPad 4 when the display breaks.  Also, HP’s “jacket” system provides every imaginable port a user and enterprise would want, including an extra battery that doubles battery life to 20 hours.  Other jackets are available, including rugged designed and one with a keyboard.
  • Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2: Almost a full 100g lighter than the iPad, the ThinkPad is made of plastic design and comes standard with ports that typically only come standard with a PC, like USB, HDMI and SD.  Lenovo also provides an optional desktop dock and keyboard.

Windows 7 is still the enterprise desktop standard and Windows 8, with its issues, is actually viewed by the enterprise as a simpler choice.  You see, while enterprise isn’t enamored with Windows 8, it’s a lot easier to secure, provision, deploy, manage, service and support a Windows 8 tablet than it is an iPad.  This is because it is a PC and can use the same tools and process they do on their 100s of thousands of PCs.  These new tablets can also run legacy desktop apps, too, which means as productivity devices, they can access more of the company’s systems and data without any changes to the older apps.  Finally, the tablets are compatible with the 100s of thousands of USB peripherals, the ones important to enterprises like corporate standard receipt printers, laser printers, full-sized keyboards and mice.

Net-net, these new Windows tablets offer support or the tools enterprise IT already know and have paid for and eliminated the downsides of the previous 22 years of Windows tablets.  The large enterprise CIOs I have talked to really like this combination, too.  Because these new tablets only now became available for pilots and deployments, it will take a while for them to start driving mass volume, so the iPad impact will be minimal at first.

Just as it took Samsung and Google years to get their act together in smartphones and consumer tablets, HP, Dell and Lenovo are now ready to lean into enterprise tablets and have the potential to start chewing aggressively into enterprise iPads.  Apple finally has real tablet competition in the enterprise and will need to amp up their game to maintain their position.

If you would like to learn more about this, I have published a detailed white paper here.