The big drawback to the Amazon.com ecosystem is that it's limited to the home. Apple's iPad fits easily in both home and work environments, quickly becoming the standard platform for both -- separately and across the two. The original Kindle Fire supported basic email, but the new model adds Microsoft Exchange to Google Gmail and POP services like Yahoo Mail. Amazon.com hasn't said if the Kindle Fire supports on-device encryption or Exchange ActiveSync policies, both critical to enterprise permission to access corporate email, so we don't yet know if we'll see Kindle Fires being used as a supplemental work device as employees now do with the iPad. [Updated 9/10/12: Amazon.com says the Fire will support on-device encryption and common EAS policies.]
Google also wants Android to work across personal and business environments, but it hasn't done the heavy lifting Apple slogged through to accommodate the corporate world. It fits into small businesses, but not most larger ones. Plus, Android tablets have not cracked either the home or work markets -- a sharp contrast to the huge sucess of Android smartphones outside of the work environment. Google admitted this week that tablets account for just 5.8 percent of its Android activations. By comparison, iPads account for 39.5 percent of iOS sales. (Note: Apple hasn't released iPod Touch figures, so their impact on the iOS percentage can't be calculated, but you get the point.)
Microsoft has a similar goal with Windows 8 tablets and Windows Phone 8 smartphones, both heavily tied into the Microsoft Store, which offers music, movies, and games. But Windows 8's poor usability on both PCs and tablets, coupled with the limited app ecosystem on Windows Phone and Windows 8's Metro environment, put Microsoft behind Google -- and way behind Apple -- in its attempt to be an enticing ecosystem for home and work.
Fewer iPads at home could reduce demand for BYOD
What we're left with is a herculean battle between Apple and Amazon.com for the entertainment side of the user's life. Should Amazon.com displace iPad usage in homes, that could reshape the iPad's role in business. After all, if fewer people have iPads for their personal use, there'll be less demand for BYOD scenarios, at least those involving tablets. iPads would continue to be relevant as business devices, but they could easily become corporate-issued devices like PCs, not the single platform a user has for both work and home -- the fundamental enabler of the consumerization and BYOD phenomena.
Email BYOD might survive if the Kindle Fire supports corporate-class Exchange policies, allowing employees to access messages while working from home on the Fire, not just on the iPad and Android tablets. But should the Fire displace iPads in sigificant numbers, its lack of business apps -- a market Amazon.com has shown no interest in -- would nonetheless push tablets as a class away from business usage, as well as lessen the duality of personal and business access that characterizes the iPad.
Plus, there are many IT organizations that would love it if the BYOD concept became restricted to email access, as that would contain their (mainly unfounded) security fears and also let them justify keeping out the deeper strength of the iPad: its universe of applications.
In other words, tablet BYOD could be an unintentional casualty of the Amazon.com/Apple war on the entertainment front. If Amazon.com truly delivers (the hardware this time looks good, but the software might still be bad, for example, and the lock-screen ads are yucky), Apple doesn't bolster its tablet, and users start to shift away from the iPad. They're all big "if"s, but plausible enough to contemplate.
This article, "Kindle Fire vs. iPad: The battle at home may hurt your iPad at work," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Smart User blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.