Tablet deployment gets a wakeup call

April 2, 2012

Today the venerable Wall Street Journal took note of some of the key issues organizations deploying tablets have faced in an article titled: "Here come tablets. Here come problems." 

For example, one of the highest profile wins for the tablet industry has been with airlines. American Airlines was the first to announce plans to replace the weighty airplane manuals pilots are required to carry and use in the cockpit with iPads. 

While that program is reportedly moving ahead without a hitch, American found the iPad was not the one-size-fits-all answer for its broader deployment needs. For example, American’s mechanics and engineers needed a more rugged tablet, while flight attendants something smaller and lighter. American also reported earlier this year that it planned to offer Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablets to Premium Class passengers on international flights. 

The adoption of tablet by businesses following the release of the first iPad two years ago has been astounding, particularly as alternatives to PCs. Forrester Research estimates that about 25% of computers used globally are tablets or smartphones — not PCs. 

Perhaps one of the best poster child’s for corporate adoption of tablets is enterprise software giant SAP, which has distributed some 14,000 iPads to its employees and is expanding deployment to include Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablets running Android. 

But adopting the latest technology, whether it’s tablets, cloud computing or virtualization, can be tricky if the deployment, training and cost issues aren’t researched correctly.

The WSJ article underscores a number of deployment issues that TabTimes has reported on since it launched last year including integration with corporate networks, software availability and security. These topics and others will be the focus of the TabTimes Tablet Strategy conference April 27 in New York. 

The WSJ article listed five areas it calls “the biggest mistakes” companies make when it comes to deploying tablets and lessons learned: 

  • Failing to have a plan before rolling out the devices
  • Not understanding what tablets are–and are not–good for
  • Expecting to easily obtain all the apps you need
  • Thinking tablets are cheaper than laptops
  • Misjudging the ease of support and security

A key mistake is to simply issue tablets broadly without a clear idea of what they’ll be used for. Furthermore, figuring out policy issues for tablet use, who will manage the devices and how after the fact is sure to lead to problems. 

The WSJ also noted that without added customization tablets can’t do everything a PC notebook can. Adding a keyboard is a start and virtualization programs can get you access to apps off the corporate network. But there are other potential glitches starting with the fact that some PC programs might not view well on the tablet’s smaller screen.

Price is also an important consideration. The WSJ says companies would be making a mistake to think they can save money buying tablets versus notebooks because tablets have to replaced more often. This issue could be mitigated by the so-called BYOD (Bring Your Own Device to Work) trend where companies allow employees to use their own tablets and smartphones for work. But how many employees are willing or able to do that isn’t clear. 

As for security and management, many solutions are available but it’s very much an evolving industry when it comes to tablets. As Lars Kamp, strategy lead for Accenture Mobility Services, told the WSJ: "Don't think tablets are an extension of existing legacy IT systems. They are not."

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