Three years ago, the very first iPad rolled of an assembly line, and corporate board rooms and IT departments have never been the same. Analysts at Forrester now predict collaboration via tablets is the next big wave in the enterprise.
Portability is Key as Tablet Ownership Climbs Toward 1 Billion
Perhaps most obviously, tablets have become exceptionally popular due to their portability. In the developed world, they have become mainstays along side the smartphone and the laptop, Forrerster reported in its Global Business and Consumer Tablet Forecast Update, 2013 to 2017 report. By 2017, there will be nearly 1 billion tablets owned worldwide, Forrester reported, up from 380 million predicted in 2013.
Because tablets are so portable, consumers use them for gaming, streaming media, social media and interacting with rich media from a variety of locations (above image). In the workplace, PCs still rule at the desk, but tablets now rival smartphones in terms of mobility (conference room, lunch, etc).
Forrester cited a Logitech mobile app the company uses for its sales people in China as one example of how companies use tablets. Logitech employees can track sales and inventory levels at retail stores, but also take photos to ensure displays are set up correctly.
While portability is a key feature of tablets, the actual size of them is a factor as well. The iPad is kind of the measuring stick in that regard, and from there, the 10 inch and 7 inch sizes have become more or less the standard choices. However, with the popularity of ereaders and things like the Samsung Galaxy Note (tablet/phone hybrid), there is now a wide range of device sizes now available.
Forrester calls this phenomenon fragmentation, and while many buyers indeed tend to opt for traditional 10 and 7 inch models, smaller tablets do capture some preference share, the report found. 61% of those surveyed in the 2013 North American Technographics Consumer Technology Survey said they preferred a tablet in the 8.9 to 10.1 inch range.
16% said they preferred tablets in the 7 to 8 inch range, a size pioneered by Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet. Additionally, 11% said they preferred tablets larger than 10 inches, and 12% said they weren't sure what size they wanted.
iPads at Work
Despite tablet innovations by companies like Amazon, the iPad remains in the market lead. Apple has now sold 140 million units of iPad, while Android and Microsoft powered tablets try to carve out their share. Knowledge workers are bringing tablets to work, and companies are purchasing tablets for them, but either way, tablets indeed have a bright future in the workplace, the report found.
Bring your own device accounts for about half the tablet use in the workplace, and 7% of those surveyed in the Q2 2013 Forrsights Telecom and Mobility Workforce Survey said they would pay the entire cost of a tablet to take to work. Tablets are also seeing increased use in certain verticals like healthcare, and in particular business roles like executives and traveling sales people.
Forrester predicts double digit growth in tablet sales for these roles in 2013. For that reason, businesses are recommended to try to get consumer grade tablets into worker's hands either by providing them through the company or by facilitating a BYOD policy supported by management tools.
Either way, collaborating via tablets will only increase in the workplace. That will happen on large screen tablet like devices, through multiple tablets linked by collaboration apps, and via machine to machine and wearable components. We're not quite yet to the Minority Report level of large touchscreen (or 3D) interactivity, but the technology is becoming more widespread to at least allow workers to conceive of work on that level.