Tablet Gold Rush

We are dedicating almost all of this issue to mobility because it is the platform of choice for consumers, and it is rapidly becoming the platform of choice for businesses. And with change, there is huge opportunity, for you.

Clearly the Apple iPad has caught the hardware market flat-footed. Sales of tablets have eaten into the profits of large hardware vendors who saw their consumer notebook sales precipitously drop. Today most traditional hardware vendors are scrambling to offer an appealing product at an attractive price point to entice buyers to consider other platforms.

Now the battle has moved to the business market. HP has been aggressive with its TouchPad, arguing that the tablet is tailor-made for VARs and enterprises. Cisco argues that the Cius and its unified communications tools will make it attractive to businesses and VARs. And solution providers have a long and storied history with both HP and Cisco.

But the iPad may be the device that customers want. What drove the PC revolution is driving the mobile revolution. It isn’t the platform but rather the applications on top of the platform. And Apple is the clear winner here with more than 500,000 apps.

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What’s more, 86 percent of Fortune 500 firms and 47 percent of the Global 500 are deploying or testing an iPad, said CFO Peter Oppenheimer. A recent study from Dimensional Research indicates that 78 percent of respondents plan to have tablets in their businesses by the end of 2013, and 83 percent of those businesses plan to deploy Apple iPads. While Apple’s channel is small, our research shows that VARs are making money on Apple platforms: a 32 percent sales growth for iPads and a 28 percent sales growth for smartphones with iPhones leading the charge.

While Apple has not traditionally leveraged the channel, VARs are proactively going to the company to get authorization to sell the iPad and develop on top of the iOS platform.

HP, Cisco and other tablet makers understand that the channel is the linchpin and its influence cannot be underestimated. If Apple gets some channel religion, it will become a formidable player with a strong market lead and the third iteration of its product coming out soon. And while the iPad isn’t perfect for an enterprise application right now, a few tweaks and it will be tough to beat.

Regardless of the platform, your success will lie in the integration and services you can wrap around the mobile platform. And every technology sector can build on the mobile platform. Some VARs are building out iOS and other mobile platform development teams so they can build mobile apps for their clients. More than 17 billion mobile applications will be downloaded worldwide from online application stores this year, according to Gartner. Other VARs are profiting through desktop virtualization where projects were shelved until the solution was presented on an iPad. Still others may want to jump on the mobile cloud bandwagon or sell mobile carrier services and unified communications.

And, of course, there needs to be infrastructure, server back ends, wireless and management of it all.

This is one of the most exciting times in high-tech, and the winners will profit handsomely. The time is now to figure out how you want to play and profit with this mobility revolution.

BACKTALK: Kelley Damore is VP, Editorial Director for Everything Channel. You can reach her via e-mail at [email protected].