Compared to PCs, tablets have faced severe limitations as a primary productivity tool for business. In fact, tablets have historically provided only a small fraction of the functionality businesses count on from desktop PCs and laptops.
That will change in 2014 as tablets further infiltrate the business workforce. This change won’t stem from an influx of new and exciting capabilities from the tablets themselves however. Outside of slimming down, and improved touch-screen capabilities, tablet functionality growth has been minor. They are still easy-to-use, super portable and provide quick access to a variety of apps. But we need to look elsewhere for an increase in business aptitude.
Tablets will become serious business tools when they more closely replicate the functionality of a Windows laptop, with a good experience. This means being able to run the many Windows applications that businesses rely on every day. The problem with tablets is that they have been limited to running tablet apps, and slimmed down versions of “office” apps created for tablets have not yet measured up to the full, rich experience of PCs users rely on for core productivity. And forget about all those 3rd party and custom apps unless you are willing and able to invest in significant mobile app development. Desktop virtualization solutions that present a remote Windows desktop on the tablet can be miserable to use because Windows was designed for a mouse, keyboard and a large display, not a 10-inch touch device.
So what will change in 2014 to push tablets over the tipping point into substantial and relevant business tools? The concept of a workspace, the sum of individual apps and files needed for a user to be productive, independent of a Windows desktop, is gaining traction and getting a lot more attention. It’s not a new concept, but in 2014 workspace technologies should evolve sufficiently to bring the apps that businesses need to the tablets that users want to use, without sacrificing the rich capabilities essential to core productivity. Virtualizing the workspace is becoming a key tool in the IT arsenal for reducing the cost of managing and maintaining desktops. But perhaps more importantly, these technologies are providing IT with the tools necessary to allow users to be productive in all of the new ways they are insisting on working, including on tablets.
And speaking of IT, it often won’t be IT driving tablet use, but the business leaders themselves. Using tablets as a primary business function can allow greater flexibility for workers to be more productive in more places, but may also create a better experience for customers and provide competitive advantages through new business models. For example, why collect customer information on site and return days later with a proposal when options and configurations can be explored with direct customer input and real time feedback on a tablet?
But don’t take my word for it. Forrester believes enterprise use of tablets will rise significantly in the coming years, predicting 18 percent of tablet sales to come from businesses. Another forecast from Forrester puts total tablet sales in 2017 at 381 million units, up from 186 sold in 2013.
Also posted on NComputing blog here: http://www.ncomputing.com/node/6703