A recent survey of 448 businesses by Model Metrics found that 22% of companies have begun formal deployment of tablets, and 78% plan to by 2013. Seventy-two percent claimed to already have tablets in use, just not formally integrated. The Apple iPad is by far the most popular device, with 83% of companies choosing Apple?s tablet over the competition.
There is no question the iPad is the most popular tablet with business users as well as consumers. Another study by Good Technology, which manages mobile devices for 49 of the Fortune 100 and 182 of the Fortune 500, found that enterprises activated more iPads than Android smartphones in Q2 2011.
Those companies are making a mistake, one fueled by the desire for the coolest gadget with the slickest design. In fact, many decision makers readily admit it. Thirty-five percent cited the iPad?s ?cool? factor as the reason they chose Apple?s tablet in the Model Metrics survey.
Too Cool for Business
Really? Cool factor? How do you build a business case around that? Will the cool factor make an employee more productive? Will the cool factor protect the iPad from the bumps and bruises of business travel?
Of course not. The Apple iPad lacks any ports or inputs useful to a business user and requires expensive accessories to perform basic computer tasks like transferring files from a thumb drive. Accessory external keyboards, a necessity for any serious user, also add to the cost, as do protective cases.
Businesses serious about tablet deployment should ask, ?What device makes the most sense for my business?? Out of the box, there is no question the Toshiba Thrive trumps the iPad in usability and durability.
The Full-Sized Solution
As we detailed in our Thrive review, the full-sized USB port, HDMI port, and SD card make it a more productive tablet than the iPad. Thanks to Honeycomb 3.1?s hosting feature, the Thrive works with most USB accessories, including keyboards and trackpads, and puts to rest the need for expensive Bluetooth accessories. The Thrive is also thicker, more durable and sports a grip-friendly and semi-rubberized back panel. The iPad is extremely thin and has a sleek aluminum back panel. Care to guess which would better shrug off an accidental drop?
Then there is the battery issue. As with smartphones and notebooks, tablet batteries die and won’t hold a charge. The Thrive battery is user replaceable. The iPad battery is not. Dead batteries probably aren?t an issue for enterprises this far into the iPad lifecycle, but they will be. And enterprises with a constant eye on the bottom line won?t be keen on replacing a fleet of $500 tablets, or sending them out for expensive repairs every few years, especially considering a tablet offering a less expensive alternative is readily available.
To be fair the iPad does have a distinct app advantage over Honeycomb tablets like the Thrive. Both have decent Office and remote desktop apps like LogMeIn Ignition, but the iPad has more than 100,000 total apps compared to approximately 300 designed specifically for Honeycomb.
But that advantage will shrink as Android makes gains in the enterprise and developers take notice. To that end, Google has made steady progress in making Android more enterprise friendly. The Honeycomb roll out came with a host of enterprise goodies from Google, including stronger password and disk encryption features.
What won?t change is the iPad. It will never have a USB input and it will never have a replaceable battery. And if that is not enough to convince corporate decision makers, the Thrive is cheaper than the iPad. Right now, the 16GB Wi-Fi iPad costs $499, while a Thrive with similar specs costs $480, and an 8GB model is available for $430.
So what do you think? Is the iPad the best business tablet? Or should enterprises look to the Toshiba Thrive, or some other tablet, as their business device?