Android tablets ignore the enterprise to their peril

As Apple declares its enterprise intentions, Android tablets appear to be ignoring enterprise IT needs

Pundits have predicted the growing adoption of tablets as a top 10 trend for 2011. According to Mashable, a new Forrester report estimates that 44 million tablets will be sold in 2015, surpassing even laptop sales by nearly 5 million and desktop PC sales of more than 25 million. Android-based tablets are expected to capture a significant share of the overall tablet market, and they're making a splash at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

If Twitter buzz is any indication, two Android tablets -- the Motorola Xoom and the T-Mobile G-Slate -- will be strong competitors to the iPad, at least for consumer use. For business use, it looks like it'll be another story.

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Tablets in and around the enterprise

As consumers adopt tablets, they will undoubtedly want to use their personal tablets to access enterprise systems from outside of the office. In fact, Forrester Research credits that individual behavior for helping the iPad make its way into businesses. Sales teams and employees that already have remote access to enterprise systems will seek to drag their personal tablets onto enterprise IT networks from outside the office.

Like me, buyers seeking to use personal tablets for occasional work purposes aren't ready to ditch their work PC or laptop. Rather, I'd like to augment my work machine with my personal tablet so that I can access email, calendar, and enterprise Web applications when I'm not at work and can't be bothered turning on my laptop. I'd also like the option of carrying a tablet when traveling rather than my ThinkPad or MacBook Pro. It's important to note that while my tablet will be a personal device, the ability to use it for work purposes when needed will factor into my purchase decision.

IT will resist user requests for accessing enterprise systems from personal tablets, citing enterprise security, administration, and management requirements. Device vendors will work to address these enterprise needs, while balancing against the backlog of consumer-focused demands. When they do, IT will, at times grudgingly, accept personal tablets onto the network.

The iPhone and iPad's growth in the enterprise followed this trend. Android tablet adoption in the enterprise is likely to tread the same path.

The iPad's enterprise lead over Android

Despite this obvious path into business, it's interesting to note how little attention is being paid to enterprise features by Google or Android device makers. This fact is especially striking considering how far ahead the iPad already is with its enterprise readiness.

If you watch the Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" preview video or the Motorola Xoom launch video or if you read the T-Mobile G-Slate press release, you'll scarcely find a mention of enterprise features. Likewise, you have to scour the Galaxy Tab website or support site to determine its appropriateness for access enterprise systems. You have to click on Other Features, then Working Remotely to learn about the Galaxy Tab's Wi-Fi and 3G connection options. That's great.

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