Enterprise tablet growth set to explode, says survey

Apple set to cash in, with nearly 8-in-10 businesses opting for iPads

The number of corporations arming workers with tablets will double early next year, a research firm said today, citing its recent survey of more than 1,600 IT buyers.

The November poll by ChangeWave Research showed that Apple's iPad will remain the dominant workplace player even as historically strong enterprise players like Hewlett-Packard enter the market.

Calling the demand for tablets "explosive," ChangeWave reported that 14% of the businesses polled said their firms are planning to buy tablets for employees in the first quarter of 2011. Currently, about 7% of all companies polled by ChangeWave said that they provide some workers with tablets.

"The total number of companies making use of tablet devices is set to double in just the next three months ... an explosive surge in demand going forward," said Paul Carton, ChangeWave's head of research, in a Wednesday note on the firms' site.

"This can be a monstrous market," said Carton in an interview later Wednesday. "What's striking about the survey results is the intensity of the leap in demand. It was much more than what we were expecting."

The 7% of enterprises currently handing out tablets was a one-point increase from a similar ChangeWave poll in August 2010.

Apple's iPad will continue to control the business tablet market, overshadowing relatively new rivals from Dell and HP, and the not-yet-released PlayBook from Research in Motion (RIM), the Canadian company best known for its BlackBerry line of smartphones.

Of the companies that said they plan to purchase tablets in the first three months of 2011, 78% tagged the iPad as their choice. Dell, HP and RIM were essentially tied for second place, with Dell and RIM getting 9% of the votes and HP, 8%.

Dell sells the Streak, a device with a 5.-in. screen, while HP's tablet is the 9-in. Slate , a business-centric device that sells for $800.

RIM's PlayBook isn't expected to ship until late in the first quarter of next year.

"Apple has a huge lead over everyone," Carton said. "You can't give Apple the early lead and expect to compete."

None of the now-available tablets are competitive with the iPad, Carton said. "It's clearly the gold standard here," he said.

The two most popular uses of tablets by workers, said Carton, are accessing the Internet and checking e-mail.

But Carton said ChangeWave's data also showed a healthy gain in using a tablet in place of a traditional laptop: People who checked that business function climbed to 38% in November from 25% in August, a 13-point surge that represented a 52% increase.

"The biggest percentage jump of all [corporate usage functions] since August lies in the number of businesses who report they are using the iPad for laptop replacement, a trend that has huge implications," said Carton.

Industry analysts have been tracking that same trend, with some reporting bullish conversations with enterprises who are aggressively swapping out laptops for tablets.

Apple executives have also boasted of their success in selling the iPad to corporations. In October, Tim Cook, Apple's chief operating officer, claimed that 65% of Fortune 100 firms were already deploying the iPad or piloting projects.

"I've never seen an adoption like this in my life in enterprise," said Cook during an earnings call with Wall Street analysts on Oct. 18. "Enterprise is historically much slower moving on adoption."

Carton also cited survey results that illustrated one reason why companies are picking the iPad, noting that the overall satisfaction rating -- the total of those answering either "very satisfied" or "somewhat satisfied" -- for the iPad was 97%.

Dell and HP users, meanwhile, were not as happy with their tablets: The former garnered a 74% satisfaction rating, while the latter collected a 69% rating.

Apple devices typically receive very high satisfaction ratings in ChangeWave's polls.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com .

Read more about mobile and wireless in Computerworld's Mobile and Wireless Topic Center.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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