The demand for IT to support consumer devices will only accelerate as tablet sales overtake notebooks. Tablets targeting the enterprise will proliferate. Some will sport NFC chips.
An IDG study, as reported by Bloomberg and VentureBeat, shows total tablet shipments, at 17.4 million, slightly below forecasts in Q1, and significantly off from the holiday highs of last year's Q4. Amazon's Kindle Fire plummeted in market share from 17 percent in Q4 to 4 percent in Q1. Apple continued strong with 69 percent of tablet sales in Q1.
A longer-term projection of the tablet market was provided by NPD DisplaySearch in their quarterly tablet report, which covers the changing landscape of screen sizes, features, and operating systems, as reported by CNet.com. The market researcher boosted its estimate for the number of tablets to be sold in 2013 to just over 184 million, up from its earlier estimate of 169 million. In 2016, tablet shipments will exceed the total for notebooks for the first time. And in 2017, 425 million tablets will be sold.
By 2017, Apple's share of the tablet market will have fallen from its 2012 level of 72 percent to 51 percent. Android will pick up most of the slack, going from 22 percent this year to 40 percent in 2017.
The surprising laggard, according to NPD DisplaySearch's estimates, will be Windows RT tablets (Microsoft's new name for the ARM-based tablet flavor of the Windows 8 operating system). Windows RT will power only 7.5 percent of tablets even 5 years out. These tablets will be rare on the ground through 2014, if this market researcher's numbers are to be believed.
Don't tell that to HP, which must be counting on some non-trivial level of Windows 8 tablet sales. The company has been rumored to be working on such "slates," as their terminology has it, and now a PowerPoint slide confirming those rumors has surfaced, as reported in Tom's IT Pro.
A growing number of companies will be producing tablets tailored for the enterprise market. Based on the estimates above, most of these will be based on Android. Tom's IT Pro writes about one of these tablets, available now from Panasonic: the BizPad. It ships with 128-/256-bit encryption, for encrypting files at rest, that the company says does not cost the tablet anything in terms of performance or battery life.
Many, probably most, of the tablets IT will see in corporations will show up as BYOD consumer-level devices. IT won't be able to relax its efforts to make sure that such devices are manageable and secure against information leakage; that job will only become more challenging as tablet varieties proliferate.
At the same time, consumerization is going to introduce features that offer intriguing possibilities for corporate use.
Barnes and Noble's Nook e-book reader is in fact a full-blown Android tablet. Microsoft recently invested $300 million in the as-yet unnamed subsidiary that B&N is spinning out to sell the Nook, e-books, and educational materials. In an interview conducted by Fortune, the Nook unit's CEO William Lynch revealed that the company will be introducing Nooks equipped with near-field communication (NFC) chips by the end of 2012.
We began covering NFC after one of our bloggers, NFC expert Theresa Billy, hosted a Business Agility chat on the subject. The close-range, two-way wireless communication technology promises many thought-provoking applications, of which mobile payment systems are only the most obvious.
Lynch outlined the B&N subsidiary's plans this way:
We're going to start embedding NFC chips into our Nooks. We can work with the publishers so they would ship a copy of each hardcover with an NFC chip embedded with all the editorial reviews they can get on BN.com. And if you had your Nook, you can walk up to any of our pictures, any our aisles, any of our bestseller lists, and just touch the book, and get information on that physical book on your Nook and have some frictionless purchase experience.
Numerous possible applications immediately spring to mind for NFC technology on tablets in the enterprise. For example, imagine equipping each server, each rack, each desktop computer, etc. with an NFC chip. When tapped with a suitably equipped tablet, each device could report its inventory number, specs, repair history, and more.
Other features of consumer-level tablets, perhaps ones we haven't even heard of yet, will be making their way into corporations in BYOD equipment. The agile IT department will be on the lookout for ways to exploit this bonanza of "free" technology walking through its doors.