Tablet usage explodes in enterprise

iPad still dominates; surges as laptop replacement

A new survey of business IT buyers shows demand for the new-style tablets is exploding in the enterprise. One big surprise is the willingness of enterprises to use tablets such as the iPad to replace laptops, for years the main mobile computing platform for companies.

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The iPad still dominates the corporate market, but the latest survey by ChangeWave finds keen interest in new tablets released or announced by Dell and Research in Motion.

The November survey queried 1,641 business IT buyers specifically about tablets and compares the data with that from an August survey that focused strictly on Apple iPads. A summary of some of the data is available online.

Tablets are generally positioned and, as this survey shows, are used as "content consuming" devices rather than "content creating" devices as with laptops. A large number of the most common business tasks - accessing the Internet, checking e-mail, and so on - clearly are well-suited to this light-weight, highly portable, touch-screen form factor, with a screen that's much larger than that of a smartphone.

Demand for tablets is growing fast: 7% of respondents in the November study say their company currently deploys tablets. And 14% say their company will buy tablets in the first quarter of 2011.

The iPad currently remains the overwhelming choice of business buyers. Seventy-eight percent of the survey respondents say their companies plan to purchase iPads. And customer satisfaction with the device is huge: 69% of respondents say their company is "very satisfied" and another 28% are "somewhat satisfied" with the Apple tablet. By comparison, 28% of HP, and 12% of Dell tablet users in this survey were "very satisfied."

Rival products have only recently been introduced or are scheduled for early 2011 release, as with the RIM Playbook. Both RIM and Dell are tied at 9%, second place, for planned buying. HP is just one point behind.

ChangeWave identifies six main corporate uses for tablets, and all six have increased sharply since August. "Such an across the board increase in usage is a good indicator of the extent to which tablets have proven valuable to current corporate users," the report concludes.

Internet access, checking e-mail, working away from the office remain the top three uses:

Internet access: 73%, up 18 points from the August survey

Checking e-mail: 69%, up 12 points

Working away from the office: 67%, up 15 points.

Usage increased also for using the iPad for sales support, 46%, up 6 points; and for customer presentations, 45%, up 6 points.

The biggest percentage jump since August is perhaps the most surprising. The percentage of businesses using iPads for laptop replacement jumped 13 points, to 38%.

That said, the biggest percentage jump of all since August lies in the number of businesses that report they are using the iPad for laptop replacement (38%; up 13 points).

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.

Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww

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