Notebook PCs, smartphones and now tablets. There is no shortage to the onslaught of cool new consumer electronic devices. Most of these devices have seen strong market successes largely due to ever-increasing utility and affordability. But tablets are different -- tablets have reached an extra-high level.
The Apple iPad, the most prominent tablet, was telegraphed well ahead of its release. You would think a product being developed by the trailblazing company would have led to numerous copycats with a race to the starting line. Yet, astonishingly, the device received more of a wait-and-see response. Perhaps this was due to the fact that tablets are not new -- they've been introduced in some form and fashion in the past ... to a large thud.
Lack of computing power, an unfriendly user interface, and small screen size (among other factors) led to low adoption in favor of devices such as laptops and PDAs. Yet once the iPad launched and flew off shelves, Apple's competitors quickly responded with their own versions, such as the Samsung Galaxy and RIM BlackBerry Playbook.
But the question still begs as to whether the tablet value proposition is real and can hold its own in a crowded smart-computing device marketplace. Without question there are consumers who prefer a tablet's large screen, or who just need to have the latest, coolest technology regardless of redundancy or cost. But the real differentiator in the long term for the tablet platform is its business applicability and enterprise value. Think about how retail employees such as your local banker or the clerk at your favorite department store might be able to interact with customers; or about how insurance agents, realtors, healthcare providers and financial advisers could more effectively and productively do their jobs. Tablets can make businesses reevaluate their entire workflow to enable a mobile workforce.
As the tablet's enterprise power and capabilities improve, you'll see a natural evolution to the devices, as you have seen with smartphones. At the same time, the number of units in the hands of consumers will continue to grow, increasing their demand for tablet-based utility from their service providers.
Supporting Employee-Owned Devices
But there is another driver: Spurred by widespread and disparate smartphone adoption, more and more companies are supporting employee-owned mobile devices, including tablets. Once a single device can support multiple user profiles (personal and corporate), you'll see adoption accelerate even further.
These drivers notwithstanding, we have to recognize that security and redesigning the supporting systems and workflow for mobility will be the biggest challenges to truly leveraging the tablet in the enterprise. Yet financial institutions already are evaluating how to play in the mobile and now tablet spaces. Already, we are seeing companies such as JP Morgan give investment bankers iPads, and many other companies are providing executives with such tools, as well. We're just getting started down the mobile road, but it's going to be an interesting ride.
About the Author: Raj Dhinsa is managing principal of Verizon's financial services practice. He focuses on solutions and business development and strategy.