Are the New Crop of Enterprise Tablets a Threat to Apple?

Patrick Moorhead / March 19th, 2013

Over the last three years, Apple has reshaped many industries, including the smartphone, tablet, PC and even SOC industry.  One areaHP-ElitePad-900 of Apple success that was in Microsoft’s own backyard was enterprise tablets, where, according to Apple, 94 percent of the Fortune 500 is either testing or deploying iPads.  For a product that has only existed for a few years and the slow pace of enterprise change, this is no small feat.  While no competing enterprise tablets emerged over the last three years to challenge the iPad, technologies developed over the last few years by Intel could very well change the competitive dynamics.

Enterprise iPads were deployed for very similar reasons that consumers bought truckloads of iPads for themselves.  IPads were thin, light, sexy, easy to use with 10 hours of battery life.  Through the use of EAS and an MDM, iPads were “secure enough” for enterprise email.  As time rolled on, Apple added even more security features and companies like Oracle, SAP, and Salesforce.com started to develop enterprise front-ends to their products and services.  This enabled iPads to be more than email machines, but devices where workers could quickly get access to HR and financial system data.

8024514200_050496a1feBecause iPads aren’t Windows PCs, enterprises needed to spend a lot of time and money making iPads “enterprise-compliant”.  By this, I mean IT had to buy products and services and create parallel processes to secure, provision, deploy, manage, service and support iPads.  They did this because of the benefits iPads brought and the lack of a Windows alternative.  At that point, the Windows alternative was thick, hot, and expensive with no more than 5 hours battery life.

Intel Atom Z2760, aka Clover Trail, could change this enterprise dynamic.  If you look at many of the vectors where Windows tablets had an issue, many of them are solved with Clover Trail.  With the Atom Z2760, HP, Dell, and Lenovo have just recently started shipping created tablets that are thinner, lighter, as sexy with better battery life than today’s iPad.

Here are a few snippets on the new tablets that only became available for pilot and deployment:

  • Dell Latitude 10: Dell’s tablet is made from shock-resistant magnesium alloy yet weighs in at nearly the same weight as the iPad.  The battery is user-replaceable, too, providing up to 20 hours of battery life and enabling the user to focus on the client, not searching for a plug.  The desktop dock enables users to come in from the road and dock the tablet to their giant display via HDMI, GigE LAN, and 4 USB ports for a full-size keyboard, full-size mouse and even external storage or a printer.
  • HP ElitePad 900: Made with an aluminum design, the ElitePad is thinner, lighter, more durable and serviceable than the iPad.  HP even provides enterprises with a fixture to remove and repair the display, PCB and battery.  We all know what happens to an iPad 4 when the display breaks.  Also, HP’s “jacket” system provides every imaginable port a user and enterprise would want, including an extra battery that doubles battery life to 20 hours.  Other jackets are available, including rugged designed and one with a keyboard.
  • Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2: Almost a full 100g lighter than the iPad, the ThinkPad is made of plastic design and comes standard with ports that typically only come standard with a PC, like USB, HDMI and SD.  Lenovo also provides an optional desktop dock and keyboard.

Windows 7 is still the enterprise desktop standard and Windows 8, with its issues, is actually viewed by the enterprise as a simpler choice.  You see, while enterprise isn’t enamored with Windows 8, it’s a lot easier to secure, provision, deploy, manage, service and support a Windows 8 tablet than it is an iPad.  This is because it is a PC and can use the same tools and process they do on their 100s of thousands of PCs.  These new tablets can also run legacy desktop apps, too, which means as productivity devices, they can access more of the company’s systems and data without any changes to the older apps.  Finally, the tablets are compatible with the 100s of thousands of USB peripherals, the ones important to enterprises like corporate standard receipt printers, laser printers, full-sized keyboards and mice.

Net-net, these new Windows tablets offer support or the tools enterprise IT already know and have paid for and eliminated the downsides of the previous 22 years of Windows tablets.  The large enterprise CIOs I have talked to really like this combination, too.  Because these new tablets only now became available for pilots and deployments, it will take a while for them to start driving mass volume, so the iPad impact will be minimal at first.

Just as it took Samsung and Google years to get their act together in smartphones and consumer tablets, HP, Dell and Lenovo are now ready to lean into enterprise tablets and have the potential to start chewing aggressively into enterprise iPads.  Apple finally has real tablet competition in the enterprise and will need to amp up their game to maintain their position.

If you would like to learn more about this, I have published a detailed white paper here.

Patrick Moorhead

Patrick Moorhead was ranked the #1 technology industry analyst by Apollo Research for the U.S. and EMEA in May, 2013.. He is President and Principal Analyst of Moor Insights & Strategy, a high tech analyst firm focused on the ecosystem intersections of the phone, tablet, PC, TV, datacenter and cloud. Moorhead departed AMD in 2011 where he served as Corporate Vice President and Corporate Fellow in the strategy group. There, he developed long-term strategies for mobile computing devices and personal computers. In his 11 years at AMD he also led product management, business planning, product marketing, regional marketing, channel marketing, and corporate marketing. Moorhead worked at Compaq Computer Corp. during their run to the #1 market share leader position in personal computers. Moorhead also served as an executive at AltaVista E-commerce during their peak and pioneered cost per click e-commerce models.
  • FalKirk

    “Windows 7 is still the enterprise desktop standard…”

    Agreed.

    “These new tablets can also run legacy desktop apps, too, which means as productivity devices, they can access more of the company’s systems and data without any changes to the older apps.”

    True. But legacy apps made for the desktop don’t work well with the tablet form factor.

    The problem I have with this analysis is that it seems to ignore the fact that Windows devices are very poor tablets even if they gain increased battery life and processing power. Windows 8 doesn’t have many tablet specific apps and by combining two operating systems in one, Microsoft has made using their devices as a tablet more complex and therefore more difficult to use.

    The tablet is the fastest growing form factor of all time, growing faster even than mobile phones did. Yet Microsoft continues to argue that people don’t really want tablets, they really want hybrids. Microsoft is entitled to their opinion…but the market doesn’t seem to agree.

    • I’ll play devil’s advocate here. I see the hybrid device as more of a transitional device, which is great for the enterprise customer for a few reasons;

      1. It allows them to still run Office, which is still, by far, the most widely used productivity application.

      2. It gives them the ability to run their legacy apps, which won’t be re-written overnight.

      3. Connecting to back-end MS servers is still more seamlessly done using Windows machines

      4. It gives enterprise customers a toe into the Metro “future” so they can begin writing Metro apps while still being able to run what they have now.

      Eventually, in MS’ future, there will be only Metro but that will be awhile yet and most enterprises will take anywhere from 5 to 10 years to get to a legacy-free future. Hell, a good chunk of them are still running Windows XP.

      Besides, if history is any indication, MS is not a company to bet against. They’ve shown they have what it takes to come back.

  • RationalChris

    “With the Atom Z2760, HP, Dell, and Lenovo have just recently started shipping created tablets that are thinner, lighter, as sexy with better battery life than today’s iPad.”

    Factually incorrect. At least Dell Latitude 10 mentioned here is either about the same weight with no better battery life, or about half pound heavier with better battery life. Atom is too wimpy for most of Windows application.

  • capnbob67

    Why do all Patrick’s articles feel like shills for specific products? No-one else feels the need to push particular products in lieu of insight and other websites do a much better job as product reviews. It’s as though you see a new gadget and use that as the basis for some hypothesis about how “things are gonna be a changin'”. That’s the kind of slightly breathless blogging based on cherry-picked “facts” we get from the mass market blogs. Unfortunately, such a market moving device comes along once in a blue moon (iPhone, Nexus One, iPad, MacBook Air, Google Glass, etc.), and I doubt they will ever be made by Dell, HP or Lenovo. My suggestion is that if you have noticed some devices that support your hypothesis, link to a proper review/preview and let us make up our minds about how well they support it. Looking at the proper reviews of the devices you mention, they all seem to be flawed in pretty major ways. Nice “stick-out-of-the-back” battery pack, Dell (the only way it has acceptable battery life).

    The rest of the article is fine if unsubstantiated about what Corporate IT “wants”. All the big enterprises I work with have already cracked the iPhone provisioning and security nut and adding iPads is not a huge deal. Since most of the work they are doing is cloud connected, Enterprise Web App front ends etc. the iPad is no downgrade in most occasions. Since CIOs are well known to be the least accurate bell weather for “what works” in their own organizations and growing consumerization is taking decisioning out of the hands of IT anyway, I would dig a little deeper into the Enterprise IT user base before declaring victory for Atom-based Win8 tabs. Most Enterprise pilot users of Win8 tabs I have met are not fans and would rather carry an iPad and ultrabook/laptop.

    Then we are back to the old chestnut of “but it’s a hybrid and the best of both worlds” schtick. That is no more valid with Clover Trail than it was with any other chipset. It is still a dog as a desktop replacement. If you use it that way with desktop apps, I bet the already ordinary battery life scores will crash. That’s if you can read the menus and click buttons on the hopelessly sub-scale 10.1″ low res screen. It only becomes usable when you have it on “life support” with all the tubes and wires sticking out of it to external keyboard, mice and monitor etc. I would never say that the iPad is a great business machine per se but it fulfils its use cases very well and predictably. The mentioned tablets are all inferior in some regard or other (heavier or worse battery or worse screen, etc.) for addressing those use cases AND they do a poor job of doing the things the iPad can’t do well. As for competitive hardware, I think we should wait until the new iPad 5 comes out for what the benchmarks on thinner, lighter and sexier are.

    • mhikl

      I have neither the time nor interest to read much outside Apple in the tech field and so I appreciate the reports Mr Moorhead provides. I am more interested in the paths the competition are taking and and how it might impact Apple, so this works well for me.

    • Thanks for spending so much time on your comment. Hopefully you go the chance to read the full white paper that includes sources, links, etc. This came from interviews with enterprise IT, app developers, OEMs, OSVs, and chip makers.

      Unlike other writers, I have over 20 years actual product management and general management experience, so the essences of “product” tell a story. They tell where the category is and the reality of what is happening, so many times, I start there.

      As for the “before declaring victory for Atom-based Win8 tabs”, I have done no such thing. I urge you to re-read the article and please let me know where I declared victory.

      On CloverTrail, I have used four different devices for long periods of times, and yes, it’s no Core processor, but it works just fine on Metro apps. I don’t want to do megatasking (lots of multitasking), in desktop mode, but for Outlook, Word, Excel and Powerpoint, it feels just fine. BayTrail and Haswell take that up a notch in 3-6 months.

      I wish I had an iPad 5 and HP, Dell, and Lenovo’s future products, but that’s not in the cards. 🙂

      Thanks again for spending the time.

      • capnbob67

        Thanks for the response. I wasn’t trying to be mean and ad hominem and I’m glad you didn’t take it as such.

        You raise some good rebuttal points.

        On the Enterprise IT views, you probably have more coverage than I do but both of us are really not far beyond the anecdotal. What we would need is a nice broad CIO/CTO/VPIT survey to really understand interest (and the iPad installed base, use cases etc.). Then we could segment by industry and other demographics to get a more well supported view point.

        What I am discovering from client IT organizations is that the whole mobility thing is putting the cat amongst the pigeons because what was once thought to be a simple channel add-on (let’s build an app!) frequently really implies a total rearchitecting of their web capabilities, back-end data integration/architecture and their fundamental application development platforms. Once you go there, the legacy of Windows or not becomes a lot less significant. If you are trying to stand against the irrepressible tide of multi-standard clients, device-specific presentation, etc., the the Win8 pitch will hold some water in the short term but I don’t see it holding back the tide.

        As to the Win8 Atom devices, you seem to imply their superiority over the iPad yet the reviews are very equivocal about each one. It’s all about target users and specific use cases. The compromise hybrids have fatal shortcomings as a laptop replacement. If you are a road warrior, you might have some benefit from a hybrid if you are a really light user of non-web-based productivity apps. I am a moderate user and a road warrior to boot and I need outlook + at least 2 of word/excel/ppt + acrobat, etc. open most of the time and on my SB Core i5 4GB it is still a chore. Remember that corporate OS images with their horrific bloatware of encryption/VPN/keyloggers/support monitors/etc/ cripples many an i5/7 so what will it do to an Atom? The SSD will help but not that much. That screen is also too small to be useful for desktop apps, Metro apps don’t exist for most things I need so we are back to desktop. Show-off execs who bring iPads into meetings might be a better demographic (since they do little that is productive anyway 😉 but that is an irrelevant minority who probably revel in the Apple brand and the ability to use it at home more that its raw productivity.

        As to the iPad 5. If it is not retina (obviously), A7x, and put on the iPad mini diet (probably with an IGZO screen) then we have no faith in our predictive skills. My guess is aluminum, 1.1lbs with 10 real hours of life. Maybe Haswell will tip Atoms over the edge but the desktop software gets ever more bloaty too.

        • benbajarin

          Interestingly, I’ve seen the CIO and CTO surveys and it is not favorable to Win 8. One stat I’ll share from a survey of 2,000 IT decision makers stated that of those intending to purchase tablets for their employees, 68% planned on buying iPad.

          I’ve got a lot more juicy stats on this but not all of them will make it public 🙂

          Bottom line is the momentum is not in MSFT’s favor and I doubt it will be any time before Windows 9 and even then MSFT and partners face an extremely steep uphill battle.

      • Rich

        Sorry Moorhead, when you say “Unlike other writers, I have over 20 years…” it sounds like you think whatever you say is God’s truth and nobody needs to question it. Dial down the ego a little.

  • Short Answer: No.

    Long ANswer: Noooooooooooooo.

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