As Hewlett-Packard watches Apple's iPad run away with the tablet market, it is falling back on a well worn strategy by claiming that enterprises are longing for more secure alternatives.
"Clearly, there's a need in the enterprise for a tablet that has enterprise grade security that the iPad and Android products don’t have," Todd Bradley, executive vice president of the Personal Systems Group, told CRN in a recent interview.
HP said the same thing about the TouchPad, but ended up pulling it from the market after just seven weeks due to paltry sales. Microsoft has also zeroed in on iPad security, management and the risks of lost devices, and so have tablet market also-rans like Cisco and RIM.
HP is planning to re-enter the tablet market when Windows 8 arrives, initially with an x86 model, and possibly with an ARM model. In Bradley's view, Microsoft's enterprise background and security expertise will make HP's Windows 8 tablets more attractive to businesses than iPads and Android tablets.
"I think security is actually the biggest challenge in the marketplace today," Bradley said. "WebOS brought a degree of enterprise grade security, and Microsoft will bring that same set of capabilities."
The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend is making employees more productive, but it's also a potential security liability, HP CEO Meg Whitman told CRN earlier this month.
"The notion is that these companies are someday going to let employees show up with their own device, whether it's a PC, iPad, Mac," Whitman said. "I get the notion, but every CIO I talk to says, 'Yea, wow… that could be pretty tough. And the first breach that happens, all bets are off."
Security is an understandable fallback position -- with Windows 8 expected to arrive in the fall, there's isn't much HP can say at this point to remain in the tablet discussion.
Yet it's arguable whether security has been a barrier to the iPad's proliferation in enterprises. Apple sold 15.4 million iPads last quarter, and a "very large percent" of Fortune 500 firms are using the devices in their day-to-day operations, Apple CEO Tim Cook said in the company's Q1 earnings call last month.
What's more, many iPads are going into businesses as part of desktop virtualization projects, and so they're not running applications and storing data on the device.
Andrew Plato, president of Anitian Enterprise Security, a Beaverton, Ore.-based solution provider, doubts that HP's touting of security in Windows 8 tablets will have much impact.
"No one has really tested the security in Windows 8 tablets, so positioning it as some great benefit is a hollow offer until those products have been in the trenches of IT departments and undergone some security testing," he said.
Meanwhile, Apple late last year launched its Mobility Technical Competency (MTC), a program that includes rigorous training and technical requirements for partners that want to handle large scale iPad installations.
To be eligible for Apple's MTC program, a company must have both a Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) with Enterprise Administrator on Windows Server 2008 and a Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) for Exchange Server 2010. Also eligible are companies with Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) in both security and wireless, or a single staff member with CompTIA Network+ certification.
Apple is aiming to sign up 1,000 Microsoft partners by the end of the year, and because Windows 8 tablets aren't due to arrive for several months, many have seized the opportunity.
It's in Apple's best interest to ensure that iPads are installed with strong security measures. Its overtures to the channel are a step into HP's traditional enterprise domain, but Bradley told CRN this isn't a source of concern.
"What we spend time with our partners on is how to provide the best products and services to meet customers' needs. We don't tend to react to anyone else's moves," Bradley said.