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The bottom line: Each one of these tablets is fine for business, although each manufacturer has differing levels of engagement with the solution provider channel.
This year, the CRN Test Center has noticed both serious challenges for the enterprise (with security on the Android platform, for example) as well as major opportunities for VARs (in the area of app and software development for the new mobile platforms.)
While the iPad 2 stands in a class by itself, both because of the enormous quality of the device as well as the massive ecosystem and universe of available apps, and its straightforward, simple and affordable SDK, there are strong competitors for enterprise and SMB solutions as well.
The Galaxy Tab 10.1, the BlackBerry PlayBook, Toshiba Thrive and ViewSonic ViewPad 10 all provide differentiation, out-of-the-box high quality and major opportunities as the world moves into a mobile computing model.
The HP TouchPad, with its native printing and VPN support, which are outstanding, and the Acer Iconia Tab A500, with its nice performance, may have some refinements that need to be made but are also strong offerings for VARs who have close relationships with those vendors.
We were very disappointed that neither Motorola, with its Xoom, nor Lenovo, with its forthcoming tablet product lines, were unable to participate in this feature despite requests. We also sought participation from Cisco, with its Cius tablet. However, a number of concerns by Cisco about conditions under which its product would be tested made it impossible under our timeline.
None of these tablets, including the iPad 2, will kill the PC. Rather, we believe strongly that while PC sales may slow for the near term, the processing power, on-board storage of PCs and historically strong price-performance will continue to set it apart from other client devices.
While this generation of tablets, though, is driving changes to use patterns, other challenges to the relatively new form factor will continue to emerge. However, we’ve found that some, like ultra-light notebooks built on Google’s Chrome OS, just are not yet as competitive.
The new mobility will continue to put pressure on VARs to adapt security models, inventory models, vendor relationships and best practices. For example, for enterprises that can’t escape HIPAA or PCI compliance, for example, changes to traditional means of auditing by solution providers will likely need to be made. Will tablets require remote-data erasing capability? Will they require encryption? And if so, what additional competencies will a VAR need to develop to support those solutions? Will vendors pick up part of the cost?
This new computing model will provide opportunities to drive value in software development—including the cloud—that can leverage the benefits of tablets. Winners and losers will emerge, and many of those will win or lose based on which platforms and vendors they choose to support and partner.