Tablets to replace laptops in business? Not so fast, says Yankee Group

February 6, 2013

While many predictions and forecasts were released at the start of the year, research firm Yankee Group took a little longer staring at its crystal ball to see what 2013 holds in store for enterprise mobility.

In a recent webinar, the research firm detailed its predictions for 2013 that included a number of surprises — not least concerning the future of tablets in business.

Yankee Group began by stating that by the end of 2012, consumerization had reached a tipping point in the enterprise.

“Consumerization is a trend that shouldn’t be new to anyone in IT,” said analyst Chris Marsh. “But it needs to be said how widespread it has become.”

Consumerization will keep causing problems for IT departments

Marsh added weight to this theory by saying that 56% of employees currently use or would like to use their personally-owned devices for work purposes, with another rebellious 20% even willing to ignore instructions from their IT department to do so.

That isn't the only headache IT seems to be facing, with Marsh also noting that the same departments could face complexity with devices and apps in 2013.

Indeed, Yankee Group's research reveals that half (50%) of IT decision makers are having trouble managing software upgrades, up from 30% last year, with 42% also struggling to distribute mobile apps (up from 26% last year) and another 49% contending with data costs.

For all these problems however, the adoption of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) shows no sign of slowing down, with The Yankee Group forecasting that as many as 80% of businesses will embrace it this year.

Marsh said the trend is showing “no signs of abating” and, perhaps more significantly, added that the percentage of companies prohibiting BYOD in the workplace has fallen from 56% to 38% year-on-year.

Such openness to BYOD and other trends sees companies generally more willing to take on mobile strategies and embrace other technological advances, says Marsh.

"We're also at the tipping point from [companies] being optimistic on managing mobile to actually becoming more strategic," said the Yankee Group analyst.

[BYOD strategies will be the focus of a major session at the Tablet Strategy West conference, February 20].

Tablet penetration to “flatten out” in enterprise

The second of Yankee Group’s predictions will perhaps catch many in the industry by surprise, not least in light of some recent studies on tablet enterprise adoption.

For the researcher estimates that 2013 will be the year tablet penetration in the workplace “flattens out”.

The researcher claims that tablet growth slowed in 2012 and thinks the form factor will eventually settle on around 30% of employees using tablets, with around 80% of these being employee-owned.

So, why will tablets be grinding to a halt? Contrary to recent reports, the Yankee Group believes that tablets like the iPad and Surface are still finding it hard going replacing the laptop.

“One thing we see is how the tablet struggles to become the primary device,” said Marsh, who added that most users still prefer smartphones for mobility and laptops for out and out productivity.

“The tablet still comes out as the third or even fourth preferred device.”

However, while the researcher’s data hinted that the laptop will be difficult to dislodge as the primary mobile computer in enterprise, it wasn’t all doom and gloom for the tablet. Yankee Group suggested that the form factor could be a hit in future and certainly when it comes to retail, field workers and any other customer-facing roles.

MDM or MAM? It’s all in the marketing

Of the Yankee’s other predictions, there was also a suggestion that mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM) vendors will be changing their marketing over the next year, as well as a hint that one of the bigger players in this space could get bought out by a ‘big IT shop’.

Commenting that the likes of AirWatch, Boxtone, Good Technology, MobileIron or VeliQ could be snapped up, analysts from the firm also believe that 2013 is the year that the lines blur between MAM and MDM.

“Standalone services are losing some of their value,” said Marsh. “And so as the market shifts, so does the marketing.”


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