Swapping tablets for laptops? Not until 2017

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By Frank Hayes

Corporate users like the idea of replacing their laptops with tablet computers, particularly Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPad. But too many use cases just aren't possible with tablets today, and it will be at least three to four years before iPads will be capable of completely replacing corporate laptops, notes Forrester analyst David Johnson.

In the meantime, supporting iPads is just an additional cost on top of laptops, whether the tablets are supplied by the business or brought in by users.

Johnson sees a series of improvements--what he calls "an evolution of modernization"--that iPads will require before they can push laptops off the desk.

  • Step one--Enterprise software vendors will have to develop tablet versions that support such features as touch interfaces. While Salesforce.com is already moving in that direction, Johnson estimates that good tablet support from most enterprise application vendors is a year or two away.
  • Step two--Even with tablet support, some major applications still won't play well with other apps. "We find several cases where many companies have their versions of Siebel or SAP, where other things are installed, in which case the iPad Safari browser experience isn't compatible," says Johnson.
  • Step three--Tablets themselves will have to move toward a zero-trust security model, Johnson says. At that point, security will be handled at the network and data levels, instead of through proxies and access gateways. But those security improvements are at least three to four years out, Johnson says.

One sign that tablets are ready for desktop prime time is when employees begin to connect iPads to large monitors and other peripherals. "If we start to see those form factors and use cases develop," Johnson says, "that'll be another indicator that the iPad and other tablets are a bit more mainstream for business apps."

For more:
- see Tom Kaneshige's article

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