Has the iPad already won the business tablet market?

Has the iPad already won with businesses?

I was at the Dreamforce conference today in sunny San Francisco checking out all the latest and greatest in enterprise software and I couldn’t help but notice that tablets were all over the place. Well, not tablets, just the iPad. I counted at least 30 tablets on the show floor and they were all iPads. Has the iPad already won with businesses?

Of course, an anecdotal story isn’t representative of the larger situation but this made me think of the larger tablet market as a whole and I’m reminded that Apple sold 9.25 million iPads last quarter and that’s probably more than all the other tablet makers combined. In fact, outside of tech conferences, I’ve only seen one non-iPad tablet in the wild. I saw a lady reading from a BlackBerry Playbook at a restaurant. She was a tourist from Canada.

Still, the enterprise market is a different beast entirely where Apple generally doesn’t do that well unless you’re talking about some of the creative fields. From my time at InformationWeek covering enterprise mobility, I know that the iPhone changed that – I heard plenty of stories where a C-level executive got an iPhone and forced it on the company’s network while the IT departments scrambled. I’m starting to see the iPad take on a similar role within businesses.

Has the iPad already won with businesses? The thing about Dreamforce is that it’s a businessman (or woman’s) conference. Unlike most of the mobile tradeshows I go to, the uniform here is a full suit instead of jeans, a t shirt and a hoodie. Many of the attendees are road warriors who are likely equipped with company-issued BlackBerry smartphones and Lenovo ThinkPads (some still running XP). Yet, the iPad was still as common as an overpriced neck tie.

This isn’t to say that businesses are in a post-PC era, as the iPad became a strong complement to many workers. For example, a traveling sales person doesn’t always need to lug in a five-pound laptop to a client’s board room, as an iPad can provide the PowerPoint presentation, give that worker access to e-mail, web browsing and navigation and give the company a certain image of technological prowess.

If everything is the same, wouldn’t you tend to think the company showing you its catalog on an iPad is more “with it” than one that has a printed one? The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have already replaced their playbooks with iPads and it has opened up the door to multiple new possibilities – instead of having to carry a physical playbook and DVD for films, players have all of that in one place in an attractive package.

Quickmobile helped build the official Dreamforce app and it’s compatible with the iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and the iPad. When I asked if Honeycomb or the PlayBook were in the running, they said that Salesforce looked at its demographics and decided that the iPad was the only tablet worth supporting. Salesforce has a ton of cash, so if any other tablet had any significant share, it would have built an app for it.

Medl Mobile told me that one of the fastest-growing and most-interesting segments of the app market in the business-to-business iPad app space. These programs never see the App Store, are deployed through business distribution networks and may only be made for as few as 4 people but businesses are seeing a legitimate value in these types of programs.

For example, Kaiser Permanente built an app for some of its sales people in Washington D.C. who are trying to reach out to governmental agencies. Some of these buildings aren’t even allowed to have WiFi due to regulations, so it built an iPad app for these workers which includes videos, built-in maps and all the information they need to potentially close the deal. Medl has created multiple B2B apps for companies and so far, tablet versions have only been for the iPad.

While the iPad is definitely the runaway hit in the business tablet space, Medl founder and CEO Andrew Maltin said he expects that to change over time.

“Just as Android surpassed iOS in the phone market, I expect a lot of companies will start buying and investing in Android tablets,” said Maltin.

He said that a lot of the issues with Android fragmentation can be addressed within a single company that standardizes on a single tablet or or a small portfolio of these. Additionally, the deeper system-wide APIs in Android could be very appealing for many companies. Still, Android and others will have to overcome the coolness factor of the iPad.

“The cache of the iPad will always be there,” said Medl founder and creative director Dave Swartz.

This is the market that Research In Motion should be killing, as the PlayBook offers many similar iPad features but with enterprise-grade security out of the box. The RIM tablet hasn’t taken off with consumers yet and Medl hasn’t seen much interest from enterprises yet either.

Don’t count Microsoft out of the business tablet race either, as Windows 8 is supposed to offer full computing power while also including a tablet-friendly user interface. Microsoft has deeper connections with enterprises than Apple and its development environment is one that many companies are familiar and comfortable with. It remains to be seen how good Windows 8 on a tablet will be and we should get a sneak peek at this in a few weeks at the Build conference (yep, we’ll be there). It’s also unclear if Microsoft Windows 8 tablets will ever achieve the same amount of end-user desire and coolness factor that the iPad currently has.

Like with the overall tablet market, Apple’s iPad is king with businesses. For now.

  • Tyson Kingsbury

    Excellent article. The vast majority of our office runs on pc (only a relative few of us use a Mac currently) but I’ve noticed that atleast half of our managers have an ipad now, and some of our sales guys have em as well….so your article pretty much hit hit the nail on the head.
    It may have taken Apple a bit of effort to convince business folk to switch, but the message has apparently gotten through…and i don’t see anyone catching up to the ipad any time soon….

    • A good friend of mine hates Apple products, but insists the iPad is so good he makes an exception for his job. To me, that says something about the business mindset.

  • Edlong

    I can’t tell if this site is just Apple fanboys or antiAndroidist. Apple was the only tablet out for 2.5 years. Of course they have the largest market. It will be another story in the next year.

    • Ed

      woops 1.5 years not 2.5

      • Thanks for at least attempting to correct yourself. But you’re still wrong.  On numerous levels. Even disregarding all the netbook tablet convertibles, new Android tablets were released right around the same time as the iPad (April 2010). M They were just horrible products mostly sped into the market between Apple’s announcement at the end of January, and its first shipments in April. Moreover, Xoom launched in April… So, even discounting the original Galaxy Tab, which landed at the end of 2010, that’s much less than 1.5 years.

        Android phones are only now getting Skype video support while iOS has had Skype with video for almost 9 months (December 2010). Meanwhile, I challenge someone to create a good brochure using Pages or a great presentation using Keynote on an iPad… Then try to produce the same result, given twice as much time on any other touchscreen tablet.

        I’ve been looking at the market for a while, and competitors need a reality check or we’ll never gain adequate parity. Even editing a video or composing a quick sound track is incomparable on the iPad. And GotoMeeting is still a biggie.

    • I agree. The guys over here or biased to the point of no return. The OP is proclaiming iPad the king of business after visiting one conference, he has probably never travelled abroad and his whole world spins around Apple. I don’t blame them, but don’t expect any REAL analysis here, just some more Apple buttkissing.

      • Hari Seldon

        Yeah, anyone who says anything positive about Apple products must be a fanboy and god forbid if reality is introduced into the discussion and Apple’s dominance in tablets is mentioned. 

        There have been several articles on the last few months covering iPad’s increasing presence in the enterprise, but obviously this is a global conspiracy of fanboys.

        At least we have people like you to point out the error of their ways

        • Anonymous

          I’m reporting what I see. I’m not saying this is a scientific survey of every business out there but I’ve seen a similar game being played in the enterprise mobility space a few years ago but this time there’s no established player in the tablet market. 

          • Hari

            Hi Martin

            My comment wasn’t aimed at you, perhaps I should have been clearer. My response was aimed at Edlong and Chester, with their Apple fanboy accusations. I actually agree with your article and was attempting sarcasm in response to the two posters mentioned.

  • Anonymous

    No fanboyism about it – It started with apps for the iPhone and has expanded to the iPad. Apple has such a lead in quality apps, it’s what everyone wants. And that leads to vert market apps – remember, that’s what won the desktop market for PCs.
    As more and more industries invest in iOS apps, the harder it will be for others to gain enterprise share.
    As an example, Medtronic has 4.5K iPads and it’s own internal iOS dev team. Do you think they’re going to add another platform? No. And in hospitals, Drs. are carrying iPads because of all the reference apps. Vert after vertical market is adopting the best of what’s available and it’ll be hard for android to crack that when they are so far behind in the vert. market app dept.

  • No comment on the HP Touchpads?   Multi-tasking OS that syncs with a business’ Exchange server, and is the 2nd most distributed tablet on the market.  I’m not sure if the iPad counts as the best of what’s available or just the best of what came out first.

    • You can trust its the best. Still. Every Enterprise feature the iPhone got with iOS 4, the iPad got. Exchange support. Excellent email client. GotoMeeting connectivity. Skype video support. Its all there. In fact, the freezes in typing in this comment box being exhibited by this Touchpad, make me want to throw it back on its inductive charging dock and get my iPad. The Galaxy Tab was even worse typing in comment boxes.

      I love my Touchpad (firesale customer), as a backup tablet, but there’s not contest.  I just picked up the Wacom Bamboo stylus, and I have the distinct feeling that the iPad alone (through great apps like Awesome Note and Adobe Ideas) can best take advantage of it.

    • Anonymous

      I think the TouchPad could have actually been a contender in the enterprise space with HP’s massive enterprise sales force but with no support past a year, businesses should pass. 

  • As an IT consultant for many small and medium businesses I see many of my customers using IPads. From talking to them it does not seem to be because they think it is a superior product to Android or Blackberry tablets but they just don’t know the other tables are out there and what the difference is. Apple has done a great job of marketing their product. The work IPad is almost the same as QTip now in that I will hear people say things like “Have you seen the Samsung IPad?” Or “I saw the new Motorola IPad”. IPad is becoming another word for tablet. If you break it down to pure hardware there are better Tablets out there. If you ask a tech savey person which OS is better most will tell you Android. Apple people will make the argument of Apple’s quality apps but the fact is most (not all) of these apps are available in Android and those that are not have good Android substitutes. Android is open source which allows for great custom modification as well. You can find a wide range of Android products in all price points as well due to the competition among manufactures.

    Apples has superior marketing but Android has a superior product. If Android was marketed better Apple would loose its grip on the tablet market as they already have on the smart phone market.

    • Hari

      “If you ask a tech savey person which OS is better most will tell you Android.”

      On the contrary, most tech commentators are saying that iOS is superior to android. Generally android tablet reviews end with something like “not bad, but lacks the polish of the iPad”

      Add to this the lack of good quality apps and it’s obvious that at moment and for the foreseeable future (Apple are not standing still) this market is owned by Apple.

  • i really hope not. competition is good in any industry. The iPad is so damn good though. My only criticism is the claustrophobic eco-system which stifles business models and innovation as much as it inspires it. 

  • i really hope not. competition is good in any industry. The iPad is so damn good though. My only criticism is the claustrophobic eco-system which stifles business models and innovation as much as it inspires it. 

  • I think it is too early to tell for sure.  Viable competitors to the iPad have only begun to arrive (notably the Samsung tablets).  Even then, Android has already started creeping up the tablet market share ranks.

  • Anonymous

    Its amazing that an article in a business oriented magazine will not acknowledge the obvious:
    • the consumer market is far more fickle but far larger, (the price of failure is the cost of development while the rewards for success is lots and lots of income,)
    • the difference between being a niche player or being a market leader lies on a confluence of  product adoption curves,
    • consumer purchasing is not driven strictly by the bottom line (explain the rationale behind Ferrari, Lamborghini and a dozen other luxury automotive manufacturer when the Lada Brabant is an acceptable car for most businesses) and
    • Apple is a consumer electronics manufacturer.

    If business find a use for tablets, that is fine and good but don’t expect Apple to cater to any one business market. Verticals are the bailiwick of the purchaser, they are not Apple’s responsibility. 

    Furthermore, I expect that nine out of ten users users know exactly what to expect from Microsoft and don’t want a repeat of their work desktop experience on their own private home device. I suspect that corporate IT doesn’t want that either. (That will do more to keep Microsoft numbers down than anything else.)

    Android is still playing catchup and will surely be a factor, (software made available through a single “Android-App Store” counters the single “Apple App Store” advantage,) but the economies of scale achievable by a single company, Apple, producing more tablets in one quarter than the rest of the market combined will remain a considerable hurdle to success.

    The economies of scale are simply not going to be there and a tablet can be considered as a sheet of glass with memory, WiFi or a phone plan, and a set of sensors.

    • Anonymous

      You make great points but I’ve seen the shift in enterprise mobility from BB-only and maybe some Windows Mobile to an iPhone world. Yes, there will always be restrictions and certain differences in the enterprise market but the consumerization of IT is real. 

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