Media Tablets and Beyond: The Impact of Mobile Devices on Enterprise Management
The growing smartphone base combined with huge sales of media tablets is forcing a reassessment of the client platform and IT best practices to support it. Controlling burgeoning costs driven by device heterogeneity and bring-your-own-device models, while maintaining agility, is imperative.
This research assesses the impact of the tremendous growth in media tablets (see Note 1) and other "off desktop" form factors on enterprise IT management best practices. Fundamental changes are afoot that will radically change many of the long-held approaches toward the management of client-side devices.
- Users' increasing attraction to unsupported electronic tools will push IT organizations to offer new types of support.
- Supporting upper management's interest in tablets will gain the IT organization an ally that can help with the creation of best practices for tablet support and with the further investigation of new uses for tablets.
- Proliferating media tablet devices with relatively short life spans will increase organizations' support and capital expenditures.
- New application platforms and application delivery methods will require the IT organization to respond with new device management approaches.
- The emergence of hybrid form factors (trend) will stress IT support and force consideration of new approaches to device allocation, such as bring your own device (BYOD).
- The emergence of a heterogeneous environment will transform the IT organization's relationships with vendors.
- Adopt a broader set of multiplatform applications and tools to address the constant change in user media tablet preferences.
- Consider a BYOD program to offer user choice and flexibility while helping control technology expenditures per employee.
- Consider an application strategy that involves a greater use of browsers and emerging HTML5 technology, but recognize that native applications may still be needed.
- Establish a managed diversity program to accommodate the needs of a diverse and empowered user population and to mitigate the support burden of an inevitably heterogeneous environment.
With the introduction of the iPad, media tablets emerged from more than 20 years of obscurity and have grown to become a prominent device category. The consumer nature of media tablets supplied by vendors whose first priority is not the enterprise has forced IT to re-examine how it manages the portfolio of devices it supplies to end users. Several key media tablet impacts lead to specific recommendations for IT.
Source: Gartner (January 2012)
Impact: Users' Increasing Attraction to Unsupported Electronic Tools Will Push IT Organizations to Offer New Types of Support
Today, users have broad access to inexpensive yet powerful mobile consumer devices with strong capabilities to interact with enterprise systems. Users of such products are more technically savvy than ever, and are more capable of working around IT controls to use these devices in a business context when they believe the electronic tools provided by IT are insufficient. That said, end users want to cooperate with IT and desire formal support. When the use of such tools was limited to the executive suite, special considerations were granted; however, now the trend is pervasive and IT organizations must respond by providing some support, and many are beginning to do so. The challenge is that the normal best practices for the Windows desktop/notebook don't apply because smartphones and media tablets do not act like the traditional Windows-based products and drive new support requirements (e.g., iCloud synchronization). New ideas are needed, and changes in the management of end-user technology are needed. The status quo is not an option.
- Reassess security models to accommodate greater user choice. New tools to better detect and classify the type of device wanting access may be required. Security may be overengineered in some cases. Security may need to be more context-driven, versus unified.
- Consider new application delivery and mobile device management tools to avoid constant application and management tool upgrades. It is important to adopt approaches that are flexible and can adapt to the constantly changing device preferences of end users.
- Most enterprises will likely need to adopt a layered approach that extends from loose management via written guidelines through tightly managed mobile environments depending on the end user constituency and related legal compliance and security risks.
- Consider where and how to apply BYOD programs. To enable users to adopt what works best for them, while not burdening IT with excessive costs and support for device churn, individual ownership may be an optimal approach.
- A managed diversity program needs to be enacted. Gartner's foundational matrix approach to device support is key to managing the new world of increased device options for end users.
Impact: Supporting Upper Management's Interest in Tablets Will Gain the IT Organization an Ally That Can Help With the Creation of Best Practices for Tablet Support and With the Further Investigation of New Uses for Tablets
Upper management has shown keen interest in media tablets. We have seen many examples of IT providing media tablets to the executive suite, sometimes as a goodwill gesture, but more often because upper management believes that the lightweight, instant-on, user-friendly devices will be readily adopted by a culture in which minimized carrying bulk and weight is valued. What IT has found is an interested community that has embraced the category and found new uses for the technology. Often, this constituency is also using the device for personal activities (e.g., mapping/navigation, e-books, Web browsing) in nonbusiness settings. The winning proposition for IT is that it now has a more direct link with management regarding the challenges of supporting this new technology and the trend that blends business and personal use that usually accompanies mobile devices.
- Provide tablet computers to upper management to increase awareness. This investment provides benefits because it involves management in both the new ideas and new challenges around managing media tablets, which abide by different rules than the traditional PC.
- Educate upper management on the implications associated with the use of consumer-grade technologies, such as iCloud, for sensitive enterprise information, as well as the options to manage these capabilities.
- Implement board books on tablets. One of the more popular applications transfers board books from paper to media tablets. The benefits are electronic updating and the ability to erase contents if the device is lost. Be aware that implementation on nonemployee board member tablets will present other management challenges.
- Meet with management to learn of its knowledge of emerging products. Media tablets are not only technology curiosities, but also are productive tools. Constant engagement with management regarding their findings in using the technologies will benefit the business.
- Conduct high-level what-if brainstorming sessions with key executives to explore how media tablets and other off-desktop devices could add value to their business units.
Impact: Proliferating Media Tablet Devices With Relatively Short Life Spans Will Increase Organizations' Support and Capital Expenditures
The short life of these devices and constantly changing user preferences force IT to face the twin problems of support staff strain and burgeoning device portfolio costs per end user. Left unchecked, IT staff could become responsible for answering support questions on five to seven different operating systems as well as myriad app store products, and for managing the rapid cycling of an increased number of hardware products. Furthermore, user demands to own a portfolio of products with a short life span threaten IT's ability to manage costs per user. Users also may keep older products and supplement them with new ones with new capabilities, and expect IT to broaden the range of devices it supports.
- Implement managed diversity principles to mitigate the strain on support staff. This Gartner best practice promotes both cost and responsibility sharing with the end user, while maintaining IT control over security and costs. Investigate re-engineering support processes, as discussed in "Best Practices for Supporting 'Bring Your Own' Mobile Devices". Contingency plans and international considerations must also be reviewed.
- Move to a BYOD approach to cap capital outlays per end user. Moving device ownership to end users can limit enterprise expenditures while permitting end users to employ media tablets and other devices that fit their work styles.
Impact: New Application Platforms and Application Delivery Methods Will Require the IT Organization to Respond With New Device Management Approaches
Media tablets and smartphones come with different platform architecture from the PC. All applications are sandboxed, meaning they can see their files and only their files. So, without breaking platform rules, it is impossible for a single application to manage the entire system image as can be done on Windows-based products. Often, background processing is limited, so IT cannot autonomously update the device; the user must be involved to some degree. With the advent of the application store, which is based on elective downloads of applications, rather than push applications, image management becomes more user-controlled than IT-controlled. Compliance is enforced by comparing device inventory with master lists and, where differentials are detected, having the system constrain enterprise access. The advent of external cloud-based data and state synchronization models (e.g., iCloud and Windows Live) adds a new level of complexity and risk to this equation.
- Consider tools that deliver applications via app stores versus the traditional PC push-based model. IT must investigate a fundamental change in how it delivers applications to devices. Rather than the traditional push-based management tools, new vendors must be sought. Vendors like Partnerpedia, which sets up private application stores complete with independent billing systems for a variety of platforms, could become more commonplace during the next three to five years.
- Contact device management vendors regarding future plans, although they have been slow to address new trends in the past. We believe that traditional device management vendors are aware of the trend toward new management approaches.
- Purchase tactical products until product and vendor consolidation occurs. Vendors participating in this new area have come from many related markets, including security, mobile cost management and virtualization vendors. Consolidation of functions and vendors will occur during the next three years. Picking the winners now is difficult; therefore, enterprises should concentrate on short-term solutions until consolidation makes the winners and losers more clear.
- Push vendors on how cloud-based data and state synchronization can be managed or controlled in a mixed consumer and enterprise setting. Demand more fine-grained control over which applications can and cannot use this capability and support for either a private cloud or enterprise-managed alternative.
Impact: The Emergence of Hybrid Form Factors (Trend) Will Stress IT Support and Force Consideration of New Approaches to Device Allocation, Such as BYOD
Today, there are PCs, notebooks, tablet PCs, media tablets, smartphones and other types of devices that are often seen as separate markets, some of which are business-centric and others are consumer-centric. However, as usage shifts to more mobile scenarios and as user expectations of a more seamless experience across personal and enterprise devices grow, this is changing. In addition, as media tablets evolve, new hybrid devices are emerging. The new ultrabook category will not simply be thin notebooks, but also will include designs in which the screen is a self-contained media tablet that can be removed or folded screen up on top of the keyboard (convertible). These products may, in some cases, be all Windows machines or they may become dual operating devices where the combined unit runs Windows and the detached screen could run Android. However, it is important that these devices will, more often than not, be driven by mobile-first (handheld and tablet) usage patterns, rather than by transportable desktop (i.e., notebook) patterns.
- Monitor Windows 8 and new hardware designs through 2012 and into 2013. Windows supports two interfaces: traditional Windows and the new Metro user interface found on Windows Phone 7 devices. Products will emerge that use this platform to create new, innovative ultrabook designs. This will add to the portfolio of device choices for users, thus increasing strain on support staff. Given the investment in Windows of most enterprises, this could reduce IT support investments.
- Enterprises will need to deal with these additional device choices. A pan-device Windows option could also reduce IT management investments.
- Emphasize application designs that rely more on browser delivery, especially with HTML5. If the hybrid devices support multiple operating systems, IT will have to pursue application designs that can easily move from operating system to operating system, to ensure that development investments are leveraged.
Impact: The Emergence of a Heterogeneous Environment Will Transform the IT Organization's Relationships With Vendors
With the emergence of smartphone operating systems and the huge volumes of smartphone and media tablet shipments, the days of a dominant, single operating system for endpoint devices is almost certainly at an end, albeit declining slowly. During the past 18 months, we have entered the post-PC era and, in the future, committing application development efforts to a single platform will be untenable. However, developing for an unknown number of platforms is not feasible. We will see the emergence of the browser and development focused on HTML5 as the common platform across devices and operating systems.
With the more varied environment comes new relationships with vendors that do not put the enterprise first and foremost in their priorities. Many vendors copy Apple due to its high profits, and more and more vendors may forgo the high-touch model, leaving enterprises to manage vendors that treat them like consumers. This will give Microsoft and others the opportunity to provide a more balanced consumer- and enterprise-friendly approach.
- Enterprises must adopt more multidevice strategies and products. To accommodate the many platforms and fast pace of change, IT must invest in more-flexible products. Gartner covers such products under the names of mobile consumer application platforms (MCAPs) and mobile enterprise application platforms (MEAPs).
- Analyze the enterprise relationship model with Apple and be prepared to support other low-touch (non-Microsoft) models. It is important to stand back and understand how that relationship works, given that Apple provides no road maps and often supports clients out of its stores.
- Plan for heterogeneity, not an all-Microsoft endpoint infrastructure. The world is heterogeneous and IT must recognize this permanent shift.
- Expand your definition of client system to extend from handheld through desk-bound devices (Gartner calls them endpoints).
- Push Microsoft and other vendors for additional support of heterogeneous endpoint platforms, and, where such support is not provided, consider alternatives.
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A media tablet is a device based on a touchscreen display (typically with a multitouch interface), the primary focus of which is the consumption of media. Examples of media include Web pages, music, video and games. The device can also facilitate content entry via an on-screen keyboard or a supplementary device, such as a keyboard or pen. Future iterations may also incorporate gesture and voice controls. The device has a screen with a diagonal dimension that is a minimum of five inches, and may include screens that are as large as is practical for handheld use (roughly up to 15 inches). The media tablet runs an operating system that is more limited than, or a subset of, the traditional fully featured operating systems, such as Mac OS X or Windows 7. Alternatively, it may be a closed operating system under the control of the device manufacturer; examples are Android and Apple's iOS 4. The media tablet features wireless connectivity with either Wi-Fi, 3G or both; a long battery life and lengthy standby times, with instant-on access from a suspended state. Examples of media tablets are the Apple iPad, Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab.