Enterprise Buyers Guide for Tablets: Connectivity, Pricing and Contracts

Your guide to choosing the best tablet PC for your small or medium business

At least 40 per cent of tablets sold in 2014 will be linked to a communication service provider (CSP) contract, according to Gartner. The research firm said CSPs will shift their current subsidy strategy for mobile broadband from notebooks to tablets to take advantage of the hype surrounding these new devices.

Tablets are likely to benefit from the subsidies already seen for high-end smartphones with enterprises focusing on Wi-Fi only devices.

Gartner analyst, Carolina Milanesi, said some enterprises will prefer Wi-Fi only devices as a way to contain costs. Milanesi said tablets subsidized by a CSP are likely to be linked to 24 or 36 month contracts which means organisations will upgrade when the contract is up for renewal.

Gartner expects the average selling price for a tablet to drop below $450 from 2012.

WAN 3G/4G: Many tablet users require WAN capability. Integrated offerings typically include High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA), Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), WiMax or Long Term Evolution (LTE) technologies. These capabilities permit data to be transmitted and retrieved in real time. Gartner warns the addition of these technologies tends to increase cost and reduce battery life.

LAN 802.11n: Wi-Fi capability is inherent in most tablets, but the 802.11n standard is the fastest version available and operates at more frequencies. Selection of this standard feature should come at a negligible cost.

Connectors: The desire to make tablets as thin and lightweight as possible has led many vendors to place only a single connector on the device. However, if additional connections (through capabilities such as USB) are required, more connectors are essential. Also, if it is necessary to project video out, a High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) connector is desirable.

Bluetooth: Although most smartphones have Bluetooth support, many tablets make this optional. Bluetooth 2.1 is essential if unified communications features are involved via headset. Bluetooth 3.0 is relatively new and is focused on file transfer. However, file transfer may be accomplished via a number of alternative means, such as Wi-Fi.

Virtual Private Network (VPN) Cisco/Juniper: Because of their high security, VPNs must be ported to any platform and thoroughly tested. Two of the more popular VPNs, from Cisco and Juniper, appear on some operating systems. If broad access to back-end systems is needed, these VPNs must be supported.

A guide to application management

One of the most compelling features of tablets is their ease of use, for which this technology raises the bar. However, Windows tablets have been slow to gain market share, especially when compared to Apple’s iPad.

Gartner analyst, Ken Delaney, said this is because the Windows interface struggles with the optimization of pure touch interfaces for pen input. Also, the traditional controls of Windows do not perform well on small screen sizes.

Legacy application support

Enterprises that invest in tablet applications find that some vendors do not support previous versions of applications as they introduce new products, forcing them to recompile or change the applications. Delaney said it is important to obtain from vendors a commitment of support for applications through at least two iterations of a product.

Adobe Flash

Many tablets are based on non-Windows operating systems forcing enterprises to port Adobe Flash to show offline video. Apple has chosen to support HTML5, instead of Flash. However, many legacy web sites still employ Flash. For some applications, Delaney said the inclusion of Flash may be essential until HTML5 is more widespread.

Many organisations rely on virtual desktops or server-based legacy apps to avoid storing sensitive data on tablets. Gartner recommends secure access clients such as Citrix Receiver or Wyse PocketCloud.

Manageability

Most tablets have only basic, bundled device management and security capabilities such as Exchange ActiveSync. Delaney said third-party products usually supply more sophisticated management and security products.

“A key evaluation parameter for some buyers is whether the device being acquired is supported by the most popular management and security toolsets,” he said.

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