It's true: iPads are starting to replace business PCs

Business interest in the iPad is increasing, as Android slips and Dell, HP, and RIM are irrelevant

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Furthermore, a big part of Android's success in IDC's shipment figures, of course, was a very strong debut by's Kindle Fire, which runs a customized version of Android. sold 4.7 million of the 7-inch tablets during the quarter, compared to Apple's sales of 15.4 million units. Given how weak everyone but Apple is on the business side,'s third-ranking, 6 percent share in the enterprise almost looks respectable.

IDC's numbers do not give a breakdown by type of buyer, but Tom Mainelli, who runs the research company's Mobile Connected Devices group, says the ChangeWave survey tracks with his impressions of the market. "At the end of 2011 we interviewed enterprises and was shocked by the high percentage of enterprise IT buyers who said were eyeing large-scale rollouts of [iPads]," he told me.

Mainelli believed the business market was "RIM's to lose" -- and it did. The IDC survey found that its worldwide share (for business and individual buyers combined) had dipped below 1 percent.

Why the iPad owns the enterprise
Apple has enormous brand equity and garners unmatched publicity when it launches an important new product, a point too obvious to belabor. Although that certainly gives Apple a running start on competition in business, it doesn't entirely explain its huge lead.

The answer, says ChangeWave's Carton, has to do with how tablets are used in business. According to his company's survey, 73 percent use tablets for email and general Internet use, 67 percent for working while away from the office, 41 percent for sales, and 38 percent for making customer presentations. And -- surprisingly -- 32 percent use it as a PC replacement.

None of the other tablets in the market offer such broad business functionality. Until they do, they don't stand a chance. That calls into question the potential strength of Windows 8. Microsoft's next-generation operating system has so far met with mixed (to put the best face on it) reviews. My colleague J. Peter Bruzzese, in a widely quoted piece, dubbed the OS "Windows Frankenstein" because it's such an ungainly melding of desktop and tablet interfaces and functionality.

It could be that the tablet-friendly Metro interface, plus Microsoft's very deep bench of developers, will result in products that businesses will like. If not, Microsoft will still be hunting for a way to cope with the slow, steady erosion of the PC business -- and follow the downward path RIM has taken.

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