Federal IT CIOs: Tablets/Smartphones Trump PCs/Laptops

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The tablet computing/smartphone phenomenon is reshaping the federal government IT market and in the process taking its toll on laptop and PC purchases.

Federal government IT decision-makers plan to purchase 10 times as many tablets and smartphones than laptops and PCs combined over the course of the next two years, said Doug Bourgeois, vice president and chief cloud executive for VMware in a keynote address Friday at the XChange Public Sector conference in Charlotte, N.C.

Fderal IT CIOs see tablets and smartphones not only as a "cost- reduction" opportunity compared with laptops and PCs, but a "productivity enhancement" opportunity as well, said Bourgeois.

[Related: EPlus: BYOD, Mobility Changing IT]

The tablet/smartphone data cited by Bourgeois is from a survey of 152 federal government CIOs and IT managers conducted in December 2011 by MeriTalk. The survey was funded by federal system integrator Carahsoft and VMware.

"This is a force that has already begun and it is going to continue to gain momentum," said Bourgeois of the increased tablet and smartphone usage in the federal government. "I wouldn't say it was a big surprise, but when you see the results it tends to be an eye-opener."

Those eye-opening MeriTalk survey results show that that federal government agencies plan to add a whopping 533,000 tablets and 355,000 smartphones in the next two years.

"People are experiencing this [smartphone and tablet] environment in their daily lives and are bringing that expectation to their work life in the government," said Bourgeois. "End users are bringing these devices on their own into the [federal government] environment.”

Federal employees are in many cases buying their own smartphones and tablets and then using them at work, said Bourgeois.

"The government is looking to save money," he said. "As long as the government doesn’t need to procure a smartphone for every employee and allows those employees to bring their own device and have access to meaningful applications, they are saving money. The employees want it and the government wants it too because it saves money."

Fifty-one percent of the federal government IT executives surveyed said not having tablets and smartphones could "impair government's ability to attract and retain top talent."

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