With iPad, has Apple won the enterprise?

Friday's launch raises the question, but the answer is more complex.

As Apple's [AAPL] latest iPad goes on sale in the U.S. and nine more countries at 8 a.m. Friday (March 16), it seems some of the biggest U.S. corporations will be joining consumers to get hold of some. Indeed, the most recent Changewave survey reveals 18.48 % of businesses intend on purchasing an Apple tablet in the current quarter.

The survey of 1,604 business IT buyers reveals that more than one-in-five companies (22%) say they'll be purchasing tablets for their employees during the quarter, and 84% of these will plump for an iPad. Put these figures together and you can quickly figure out that 18.48% corporate number.

Surely that must be good news across the wider tablet industry too, right?

Not so. Without exception, every other manufacturer has seen a decline in corporate demand for their products:

  • Samsung's anticipated share of future enterprise tablet sales has slipped from 20% to 8%.
  • Amazon has lost one percentile point, to hit 6%.

RIM now holds just 3% of planned future tablet sales, down from 5% in a November 2011 Changewave survey.

Seismic Shift

What does this all mean?

Obviously inspired by the trend toward consumerization of IT and the popularity of Apple products, twinned with the fashion to favor BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) permission within the enterprise, the tech landscape is undergoing seismic change.

It's out with the old guard of corporate IT: H-P, RIM, Dell and the others, and in with the new solutions providers for a new century. And while it's too early to say the world has turned upside down, the figures speak for a future in which Apple is -- at the least -- a peer player in the enterprise tech Olympics.

A Gartner survey last autumn claimed the iPad will command two-thirds of the global tablet market in 2012 and will maintain a 45 percent share until 2015, but with enterprise replacement cycles grinding forward, the device is likely to continue to build share in business.

Gartner has also suggested that Android-powered tablets use will reach 36% by 2015, with Microsoft Windows tablets grabbing 10.5% share in 2015. This might be true in consumer markets, but with Windows already the OS vendor of choice for business users, Gartner could have it wrong. On introduction of tablets running Windows 8 later this year (tablets which will likely include integrated devices from Nokia), many corporates may take a look at a Microsoft alternative, assuming Apple hasn't grown to completely dominate mind share.

Trends Still Favoring Apple

That will guarantee some presence for such devices among many business users, but BYOD trends will continue to favor the Apple option. With Apple offering a high-quality curated and relatively secure environment and Microsoft offering a business-focused alternative, it is Android-powered tablets which will feel the pinch.

IMS Research predicts a waning of the power of Android within the enterprise, observing this of the iPad competition: "Of these, the Kindle Fire from Amazon and several Windows 8 tablets, which will be released in late 2012, are forecast to be most successful. However, to date there is no significant threat to the iPad's continued dominance in the tablet market. In fact, the share of Android tablets is forecast to fall from 35 percent in 2011 to 26 percent in 2012. These tablets have struggled to compete with the user experience offered by the iPad and most future Android tablets are expected to target the low cost side of the market."

This means, for CFOs and CIOs considering tablet deployment, that the prevailing group wisdom seems to favor looking to Microsoft and Apple for an enterprise class solution.

The vital ingredient in any deployment (once security is ensured through a good choice of device security vendor) will be the apps: do businesses choose off-the-shelf apps, or do they develop their own in-house?

In-house app development -- at least for larger firms -- seems to be a good way forward in order that firms can guarantee security, reliability and network compatibility. Ovum believes businesses should create their own in-house apps.

The Growth of In-House App Stores

Analyst Richard Absalom says: "Providing a range of customized applications that make use of tablet functionalities for employees in specific job roles is a good way to gain maximum value from tablets. The growing use of in-house app stores indicates that more and more companies are going down this custom development route."

The analysts don't always get it right. They still believe that tablets aren't built for productivity. But the anticipated introduction of versions of Office for tablet devices will change that in a single moment.

Meanwhile, the tablets are dropping into enterprise shops worldwide. A recent iPass survey claimed tablet adoption in the enterprise has grown to 64% in 2012 from 41% in the second quarter of 2011.

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Jonny Evans

CFO World

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