Tablets: Full Throttle Up

Eurofighter_afterburnerSome eye-popping numbers from Gartner on the outlook for tablets:

  • 2016 global tablet sales should reach 369.3 million units
  • Apple seen leading market with 169.7 million units by 2016
  • Android unit sales seen rising eight-fold over same period

Those numbers are bold enough, but what caught my eye is Gartner’s prediction that Apple’s dominance will be relatively untouched by Microsoft’s efforts to gain a beachhead here:

"Despite PC vendors and phone manufacturers wanting a piece of the pie and launching themselves into the media tablet market, so far, we have seen very limited success outside of Apple with its iPad," said Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner. "As vendors struggled to compete on price and differentiate enough on either the hardware or ecosystem, inventories were built and only 60 million units actually reached the hands of consumers across the world. The situation has not improved in early 2012, when the arrival of the new iPad has reset the benchmark for the product to beat."

Gartner sees Windows tablets as a niche within conservative IT shops:

"IT departments will see Windows 8 as the opportunity to deploy tablets on an OS that is familiar to them and with devices offered by many enterprise-class suppliers," Ms. Milanesi said. "This means that we see Windows 8 as a strong IT-supplied offering more so than an OS with a strong consumer appeal."

 And as the numbers show, Microsoft will gain some traction, but you have to wonder if it will be worth the effort for Redmond:

Bfrancis - tablet table

 It’s worth noting that Gartner estimates that 35 percent of tablet sales will come from the enterprise. So why isn’t there more love for Microsoft. Four letters: BYOD. The “bring your own device” trend will allow individuals to walk iPads into the enterprise.

Gartner also notes that the vendors have not planned their rollouts wisely, pushing hardware specs over platform robustness:

“They are also marketing these features as if consumers know what they mean, as with the Verizon's Motorola Xoom commercial: "Your wife will love the new Tegra 2 dual-core chipset. "Tablets will be much more dependent on ecosystems than smartphones have been and the sooner vendors realize that, the better chance they have of competing head to head with Apple. HP's recent decision to abandon production of webOS products is a clear example of the pressure that vendors are under when trying to sell tablets (see "HP Drops webOS Devices, Creates Potential for Sale or Licensing"). Rather than focusing on higher hardware specifications, vendors should be looking at partnering with content providers to deliver unique and compelling content to be consumed on their tablets. Alternatively, vendors should offer incentives to developers to create applications that fully exploit the capability of the tablet form-factor, to deliver a unique experience.”

Consumers are driven by apps and content, according to Gartner:

Consumers are buying tablets because of what they can do with them, and so applications, content and services, intuitive user interfaces and a good design are the vital attributes that have an impact on user experience and ultimately drive sales, not hardware features.

I think that’s largely true for enterprises: they’ll go where the apps are. That tips the balance in favor of web-based cloud apps.  There’s far less work involved in optimizing a web app for an iPad’s high-res screen and touch capability than building a traditional enterprise client from scratch. So seize this opportunity, cloud vendors and tablets will take you full throttle up.