Adoption of tablets PCs will take time, say analysts & CIOs

by Abhinna Shreshtha    Nov 25, 2010

Tablets PCsWhen Apple released its iPad earlier this year, it was toasted as the next revolution in computing. A few months down the line, there has been a flurry of activity in the tablet PC space, with companies like Samsung, HP, Dell , etc. launching their own tablet PCs. Though the tablet PC has seen a tremendous response by the consumer segment, the story is very different when it comes to business users.

The main reason for this seems that most tablet manufacturers seem to be targeting the consumer segment. Of course this does not mean that adoption is not increasing. Take the case of Apple; while the company remains focused on consumers, enterprise adoption of the iPhone and iPad has grown and is expected to keep growing. However, adoption is not ubiquitous across all verticals and is mainly driven by mature markets like the US. In another case, HP released a ‘business-oriented’ tablet called Slate in October, which, after initial good sales, has failed to capture the interest of business users worldwide.

The prevalent opinion is that tablets will be great devices for mobile sales teams who need to make convincing presentations. However, Mohar Tiwari, VP (IT) of Metropolis Healthcare had a different experience when his company gave tablet PCs to their salesforce. “We were using tablets from Toshiba and HP, but we found that it was not working out. People were more comfortable scribbling on paper than using the functionality of the tablet!” says Tiwari.

Last month, Arimasa Naitoh, the ‘Father of the ThinkPad‘, was asked whether tablet PCs would ever replace laptops and notebooks. His answer was in the negative. “Devices like the iPad are good tools but they are basically browsing devices. You can’t use them for creating content,” explained Naithoh-san. His reasoning seems logical, if you consider the increasing functionalities that smartphones provide. With business users able to browse, check and send emails, etc via mobile devices, the need for a separate device is removed.

The cost of most of the tablet PCs is another deterrent to its adoption, where tight IT budgets make replacing existing devices with tablets a luxury. In this scenario, analysts predict that tablet PCs will not be replacing notebooks or laptops anytime soon. “Standardization just for the sake of it makes no sense, since each one of the workforce might have different needs,” says Chandrakesh Rai, head (ITIM) of Quinnox. “I don’t see us replacing existing laptops with tablets, though I might let a new user have one if it is really required. However, personally I don’t see tablets replacing laptops in the near future.”

It seems IT managers are still waiting for a compelling reason to start using tablet PCs and manufacturers can’t or won’t provide one. “Tablet PCs will not replace laptops, at least for the next two years,” opines an analyst. Things, though, might change next year, when companies like RIM and Cisco enter the market. Cisco will be positioning its tablet -Cius, as an enterprise collaboration device, which could interest companies. The entry of RIM, a name synonymous with enterprise devices, might also provide the fillip that the market needs. Another major factor that could drive adoption will be the availability of enterprise-centric applications. This is where companies with a large developer base, like Apple’s iPad or the various Android-based devices could gain an edge.

Though analysts feel enterprise adoption of tablet PCs will take more time, it is only a matter of time before manufactures shift their focus to the enterprise segment. When this happens, we will probably see more business-oriented devices and an increase in adoption might happen sooner than predicted. Of course, tablets will never replace traditional computing devices, and there is no reason why they should, but they could be a good complimentary device to laptops and desktops.