Any IT department hoping to escape the headaches of supporting iPads in the enterprise should realise that they're more than likely already being brought into the workplace.
A report from research firm Strategy Analytics shows that 61% of US corporations have found that their employees are already using tablets for work purposes, whether they've been formally purchased by the company or not. Strategy Analytics says that the chief contributors to enterprise tablet adoption have been "bring-your-own-device" work policies, the advent of 3G and 4G wireless networks throughout the country, and the rise of virtualisation and cloud computing.
"In tandem with the shift to virtualised and cloud computing environments, and a shift to all-IP networks, companies are also identifying how to integrate 'consumer' features into the way they manage their own communication, collaboration and interaction," says David Kerr, senior vice president at Strategy Analytics. "Tablets are increasingly being viewed as a fast and unobtrusive way to enter and access key information, irrespective of location and context."
Strategy Analytics Director Andrew Brown says that letting workers bring tablets to work with them is "driving the need for secure converged fixed mobile access: 4G, Wi-Fi and Femtocell, and integrated IT management." While this sounds like a daunting challenge for IT departments, he says that there's an improving ecosystem of products designed to make tablet integration much easier than past efforts at integrating different smartphones into the enterprise.
"This may appear to be the IT manager's nightmare scenario," he says. "But improved managed mobile service tools offered by vendors, ISVs and mobile carriers are bringing these devices under full IT control for the first time."
Research released last year from ChangeWave found many enterprises are considering taking the tablet plunge. Among business IT buyers surveyed, 7% say their company currently deploys tablets, and 14% say their company will buy tablets in the first quarter of 2011. The iPad still dominates corporate purchasing plans, but ChangeWave also found growing interest in tablets from Dell and Research in Motion, whose business-oriented PlayBook tablet is due to begin shipping next week.
Some early workplace iPad adopters, such as Boston's Museum of Fine Arts and Wells Fargo, said last year that it took them some time to figure out where tablets fit as work devices. Sharon Murphy, senior vice president and managing director at Wells Fargo, said last year that she has found that iPads are good for data consumers who want a simple and accessible device that will provide them with ready access to data. But for data producers who write several large documents or who perform a significant amount of data entry, PCs will still be the way to go.