By Maximilian Clarke

Business apps for the iPad and other tablet devices are moving beyond the first wave of personal productivity tools towards manageable and secure enterprise applications that support major business initiatives, according to Gartner Inc.

Speaking at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2011 on the Gold Coast today (Wednesday), Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst David Willis said that initially, business applications in the commercial app stores were focused on personal productivity tools, which were inexpensive and allowed users to experiment liberally.

“Now, major software vendors are taking the tablet seriously and embracing the market, following where users want to take the platform,” said Mr. Willis. “As media tablets become more common in business, ERP, CRM and other business application vendors are looking to sell tablet versions of their software, but they will not all be equally usable or functional.

“Success lies in how the vendor re-factors the apps in a meaningful way, rather than just duplicating the traditional desktop or browser experience,” said Mr. Willis. “Businesses also need to understand the difference between an enterprise and a consumer application, and have a decision framework to select them.”

According to Gartner’s latest forecast, worldwide media tablet sales to end users will total 63.6 million units in 2011, a 261.4 percent increase from 2010 sales of 17.6 million units. Media tablet sales will continue to experience strong growth through to the end of 2015 when sales are forecast to reach 326.3 million units.

“By 2016, more than 900 million tablets will be in the hands of users,” Mr. Willis said. “As more consumers buy them, they then tend to bring them to the workplace and use them for their jobs — often led by executives. Leaders are finding legitimate business use and redefining processes for ‘ready at hand’ moments where other computer types are not as well adapted. CEOs often prefer tablets for distributing material for board of directors meetings.

Salespeople are using them in client-facing situations; sales configuration tools help close more business and reduce error rates; sales and marketing leaders are using them as dashboards to their business; and marketers are designing campaigns around them. Doctors and nurses are carrying them; they are even being used on the manufacturing floor. Anywhere you once saw people carrying a clipboard or lugging printed reference material, you’ll find an application for a tablet. “

Combined sales of tablets and smartphones will be 44 percent bigger than the PC market in 2011, according to Gartner predictions. By the end of 2014, the installed base of devices based on new lightweight mobile operating systems like Apple iOS, Google Android and Microsoft Windows 8 will exceed the total installed base of all PC based systems.


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