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IT groups eschew BYOD, issue company-owned tablets

Tablet priorities are device management, carrier relations, support costs

By , Network World
July 12, 2012 07:53 AM ET

Network World - After several years of struggling to accommodate personally-owned smartphones, many corporate IT groups are taking the opposite tack with tablets: they're issuing corporate-owned iPads and Android tablets. And partly as a result, at least some are seeing a jump in costs for mobile end user support, redesigned custom applications, and device administration.

Insider content: 3 tips for avoiding tablet management headaches

Special to Network World: "The enterprise mobility revolution by the numbers (and the security implications)"

For this latest installment in "Tablets Go Corporate," we revisited three companies we covered in December 2011 [See "IT groups reveal their best enterprise tablet tricks"]  - Bayada Home Health Care, Hawthorn Pharmaceuticals, and The Ottawa Hospital - along with a new one: Boston Scientific, which began deploying the very first iPad within weeks of its release. Now it has 5,300 corporate-owned iPads distributed worldwide.

Except for Bayada, all have deployed iPads as a corporate standard. Bayada deployed the original 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab and is now adding the newer Tab 2. That fits with the iPad's overwhelming dominance in enterprise deployments. Boston Scientific also has a tablet BYOD program, but limited to iPads, currently with about 1,000 devices.

Together, these four companies are a microcosm of the way tablets, and mobile computing in general, are overturning the PC paradigm, and doing so with astonishing rapidity. "This is a disruptive technology," says Dale Potter, CIO at The Ottawa Hospital. "We're ripping PCs out of the environment faster than we're installing them. This may be the death of the PC."

Tablets are more likely to be corporate-owned than are smartphones, even when a company is willing to support employee-owned tablets. Data from a recent survey of 556 companies in 45 countries by Aberdeen Group found that overall, 43% of the sample were willing to support any personally owned tablet; 29% allowed selected tablets, but over one quarter -- 28% -- banned all personal tablets. By contrast, 51% allowed any personally owned smartphone to be used for business; 32% allowed selected phones (from a corporate-approved list); and only 17% banned all personal smartphones for business use.

Companies aren't abandoning "bring your own device" (BYOD) policies for tablets, but "tablet adoption won't be like smartphone adoption," says Aberdeen's Andrew Borg, research director, enterprise mobility and communications. Big companies especially are more likely to impose policy-based limits and constraints to ensure compliance with corporate security and management requirements, he says.

"When you move into network and file access in [tablet] apps, you need to worry about much more than you do for email access," says Rich Adduci, CIO at Boston Scientific in Boston. "You're accessing proprietary information, so greater control is a necessity. It's hard to get that [control] in a BYOD environment."

Device management

For Boston Scientific, control comes from an early decision to create a management infrastructure as part of the iPad deployment. The company chose SAP's Sybase Afaria for provisioning mobile devices, and the Sybase Unwired Platform for device management. "We knew we would have a large deployment," Adduci says. "We knew we couldn't do that if we didn't have device provisioning and control in place." At the same time, he's realistic about the current state of the art for device management. "As with any new technology, there will be things missing from it, compared to the much more mature device management capabilities of the desktop.

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