Tablets in the Enterprise: Entering the Post-PC Era? Possibly ...

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In this Issue

In this issue:
Sunday, May 1, 2011 - 00:00

"If you need ammunition to spur your action into better action when it comes to a tablet strategy, you can find it here."

-- Gabriele Piccoli, Editor

I am not an Apple user, so I certainly can't be classified as an "iEverything fan boy." I have always used a PC, ever since it was called an IBM clone. I once tried to switch to Mac when my PhD advisor -- definitely a member of the Apple cult -- donated this poor Italian graduate student his old Macintosh Classic. But I could not get the darn thing to work and, after being thoroughly frustrated, I convinced my department head that for me to be successful in the program, the department needed to buy me a Windows laptop I could take home. (Of course, it helped that I was doing most of the work on a project in which we had received an important grant, so I had some negotiating leverage). Today, I do have an iPhone and an iPad, and I sometimes consider trying again to shift to the Mac -- generally when I feel my "coolness index" dropping. But I still get frustrated with Apple products when my iPhone doesn't work (e.g., fails to connect to a network) and provides absolutely no indication as to what's going wrong! Yes, the platform is stable, but when things go wrong, you feel completely lost.

Digressions aside, it's fair to say that I am not enamored with Apple. I do, however, very much enjoy listening to interviews with Steve Jobs. The guy is clearly very intelligent and knows his stuff. However, what I really like about him is his reflective style and the fact that his answers are never shallow. He will pause after particularly interesting questions, take his time to really think through the answer, then respond. I was watching his interview with Walt Mossberg at All Things Digital D8. That's when I first heard his take on the post-PC era. As Jobs tells the (obviously pro-Apple) story, this new era has been ushered in by the iPod -- the first post-PC device -- and subsequently by the iPhone and the iPad. While these devices are technically digital computers, just like your desktop and laptop of old, vendors are trying hard to pass on the message that they are a new breed of devices. As Jobs put it, when it comes to post-PC devices, nobody cares whether they are truly a computer, all that matters is the user experience -- and, in that, Apple clearly leads the pack! While mobile devices are architecturally similar to any other digital computer, they do have some peculiar characteristics that make them particularly appealing for organizations and end users. Aside from the portability and direct access user interface, especially relevant are the characteristics that we could term "ubiquitous," "identifiable," and "context awareness." Ubiquitous means that users of the device can access needed resources from (in theory1) anywhere. Identifiable represents the idea that mobile devices uniquely discriminate their users. Context awareness is enabled by the fact that mobile devices can be geolocated. In other words, smartphones that incorporate a GPS receiver can communicate their position to any software application running on them and therefore receive information tailored to the surrounding context.

Jobs' discussion of the post-PC era got me thinking that now would be a good time to benchmark what's happening in organizations with respect to tablet adoption and use. That's when we turned to one of our best and most fun-to-read academic authors, Joseph Feller, for a survey-based issue of Cutter Benchmark Review. As those of you who follow CBR know, Joe is a Senior Lecturer of Business Information Systems at University College Cork (Ireland), and this is now his fifth CBR contribution. Recently, he was appointed Senior Consultant status for Cutter's newly refined Data Integration, BI & Collaboration and Business Technology Strategies practices. Joe has contributed to various CBR issues, including open innovation and Web 2.0, and is rapidly becoming our go-to guy for any innovative subject that's becoming mainstream.

Providing our view from the trenches of business is the extremely well-qualified Niel Nickolaisen, someone new to CBR but who has contributed to Cutter IT Journal. Niel is currently VP of Strategy and Innovation at Energy Solutions, Inc., and founding partner at Accelinnova, a specialty consulting company dedicated to the idea that organizations can make better decisions every day. He has held both technology and operations executive positions, typically in turnaround roles. His strategic and tactical alignment model significantly improves returns on technology and business initiatives.

Joe begins his contribution by outlining the definitional difficulties he and Niel had when creating the survey, addressing a head-on obstacle one encounters when attempting to understand the tablet phenomenon. After this important introduction, Joe outlines the results of the survey. You will be quite stimulated by his (provocative) analysis of the results.

Niel begins his contribution by addressing some trends at the heart of what he calls "a coming storm" that "might introduce the biggest changes in IT and IT management since the Internet revolution of the late 1990s." With the stage set for his interpretation of the survey, Niel addresses the results by focusing on those questions that have the most insight to offer, rather than systematically addressing all aspects of the questionnaire. I very much like the approach taken by Neil, who also offers many ideas for applications of tablets, thereby stretching our thinking about the potential of the platform.

Our goal with this issue is to provide some benchmarking data on the state of the adoption and use of these post-PC devices in an attempt to understand whether they have become pervasive and how organizations are approaching their integration in the firm's overall infrastructure. I am very pleased with this issue. We had a good response rate and our respondents represent a wide set of perspectives. The analysis of our two contributors is insightful and provocative. If you need ammunition to spur your action into better action when it comes to a tablet strategy, you can find it here -- we have done our job!

ENDNOTE

1 We specify "in theory" because, despite technical feasibility, many users are constrained in their access to resources by their data plan.

ABOUT THE EDITOR

Our goal with this issue is to provide some benchmarking data on the state of the adoption and use of post-PC devices in an attempt to understand whether they have become pervasive and how organizations are approaching their integration in the firm's overall infrastructure. If you need ammunition to spur your action into better action when it comes to a tablet strategy, you can find it here -- we have done our job!