Enterprises and their employees want real-time, on-demand access to content, the Internet, and business applications. As such, the tablet is emerging as an alternative to the laptop and the smartphone to provide access to these business functions.

According to preliminary results of a survey by Mobile Enterprise and The 451 Group conducted in February 2011, 41.2% of respondents’ companies allow tablets in their enterprise, 5.7% said that tablets are not allowed, and 53.1% have no stated tablet policy or are currently evaluating their policies towards tablets.

According to our survey, drivers for enterprise use of tablets include mobilizing business processes, improving customer responsiveness, increasing levels of collaboration, increased competitiveness, improving sales, and note-taking at meetings.

The Yankee Group released its first-ever global tablet forecast in January 2011, predicting that the total global revenue from consumer-grade tablet devices will increase from $16 billion in 2010 to $46 billion in 2014. Annual U.S. tablet sales will more than triple between 2010 and 2015, growing at a CAGR of 31%, from roughly 8 million units in 2010 to 30 million units by 2015.

“Although some commentators view tablets as underpowered media-consumption toys suitable only for consumers…in 2011, more than 25% of all tablet computers will be bought by enterprises, and that figure is likely to rise in 2012 and beyond,” predicts Deloitte in its annual technology sector forecast.

Revolution or evolution?

How did tablets make their way into the enterprise? The enterprise tablet market has been in existence for about a decade, but enterprise adoption on a large scale didn’t start taking off until last year.

“In the ’90s, tablets were mostly used as handheld replacements,” explains Matt Miller, president, MobileDemand. “In the early 2000s, convertible rugged tablets were used as  laptop/notebook replacements. Now, they are replacing handhelds and laptops because they can be integrated with other devices to make them more useful in businesses: barcode scanners, RFID, credit cards scanners, cameras, etc.”

“We began our company selling tablet PCs to police departments and first responders who were afraid of computers,” says Mark Holleran, president, Xplore Technologies. “Now, here we are, more than a decade later, and tablet PCs have taken off. An amazing industry-wide transformation … has now taken place.”

Today, Holleran sees the success of Apple’s iPad in the consumer market as an indication that the tablet PC industry is poised for wider acceptance and accelerated growth. “The iPad’s success has signaled an industry shift that will continue to expand in the years to come.”

To read the rest of this article, including a timeline of the history of tablet computing, head over to Mobile Enterprise.

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