Verizon Wireless’s “Blank Slate” tablet enterprise initiative revealed

by George Jones

January 11 2012

Company hopes to ease the pain of IT departments everywhere by offering customers secure, ready-for-deployment Android tablets and vertical custom solutions.

As TabTimes has talked to different organizations that have deployed or are contemplating the deployment of Android tablets, we’ve repeatedly heard the same refrain. Overcoming consumer-oriented pre-installed settings on off-the-shelf tablets such as services, app store access, and security creates a great deal of pre-deployment work.

With its newest enterprise-oriented venture, Verizon Wireless aims to remedy this by packaging and tailoring specific tablet hardware and software solutions for its customers.

The company revealed a new approach to selling tablet-based solutions dubbed the “Secure Enteprise Blank Tablet”.

Sowmya Varadarajan, Associate Director for Verizon Wireless’ Business Solutions Group, walked TabTimes through the concept and demonstrated two potential offerings for corporate clients.

At its most basic level, the Blank Tablet is simple. When it fulfills customers’ orders, Verizon Wireless will ship Android Gingerbread 2.3 tablets with Gmail, Android Market, and other apps, functions, and services removed or locked down.

In its place, Verizon Wireless will integrate its private app storefront, which will allow IT departments to deploy and grant employees access to their own organization’s proprietary apps. This private app storefront can also be modified to ingest any Android Market third-party apps as well.

At a more complex level, the Secure Enterprise Blank Tablet initiative will allow corporate clients much more latitude around deploying non-consumer tablets in various form-factors. “Media tablets are good,” Varadarajan said, “But they’re not always good enough - or rugged enough.”

Varadarajan showed off two working tablet units that the company worked with third-party manufacturers to customize and provide to retail customers or companies that require card- and bar-code scanning. One was a beefy 7-inch tablet ruggedized with a case; the other was an integrated rugged chassis.

Both offered IP54-rated protection, and both utilized a 2-inch by 1-inch Bluetooth barcode scanner and integrated card reader for retail transactions. (Or in the case of a hospital, patient ID readers.)

Varadarajan’s point was twofold. First, companies can buy these two integrated solutions and other purpose specific hardware/software packages as quasi- off-the-shelf VAR-style packages.

Second and maybe more importantly for a number of customers, Verizon is committing to exploring custom solutions for different vertical markets in a more consultative capacity.

Finally, Verizon Wireless has not yet announced specific prices, but based on the ranges Varadarajan suggested, it’s clear that Verizon will continue to offer attractive pricing in exchange for long-term commitments on wireless contracts.

Specific pricing and the official name of this product offering have yet to be finalized. A Verizon spokesman told us that enterprise customers could begin making and receiving orders in “coming months.”

An interesting opportunity for tablet makers

The Blank Tablet initiative represents an interesting and important opportunity for tablet manufacturers as well. When asked what kinds of partners Verizon Wireless would consider in these VAR-style partnerships, Varadarajan expressed, “We’re talking to everyone."

He encouraged interested vendors in applying for potential partnerships through Verizon Wireless’ Open Development Portal.

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