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Apple, Microsoft, Google: Who will dominate the enterprise tablet market?

23 Jul 15

Global tablet sales have hit a plateau but there is an increased demand in the enterprise market, according to the Forrester Research five-year global tablet forecast.

Forrester predicts tablet sales will grow from 218 million this year to just 250 million units sold by 2018.

In Q2, Apple sold 12.62 million iPads, which is a 23% drop compared with Q2, 2014 when the company sold 16.35 million.

According to J.P. Gownder, Forrester Research vice president and principal analyst, there are some key reasons for this generalised market volatility.

A lack of replacement behaviour is a key trend, with many consumers holding onto older tablet models due to a lack of genuine new innovations and the fact that older models still work well, he says.

Despite the drop in tablet sales, enterprise tablets are growing as a percentage of the market. This segment has grown from 6% in 2010, to 14% this year, and will increase to 20% by 2018, Forrester says.

Already, more than half of information workers use a tablet for work, and 55% say their choice of bring-your-own-device is driven by the fact that their company hasn’t provided them with a tablet, but they either need or want to use one.

As firms invest in company-owned tablets at an increasing rate, Forrester predicts Apple, Google, and Microsoft will battle it out over the next few years to be the enterprise tablet leader.

In the OS race, while Apple is the software innovation leader, Microsoft, with Windows 10, will become the new enterprise standard and offer the most innovative hardware, Forrester says.

Google's affordable price point and security offerings will keep Android in the race, the analysts predict.

The enterprise segment is being driven by a variety of factors, says Gownder. Increased vendor partnerships and innovation is a key driver, he says.

“Apple's partnership with IBM has led to the development of numerous enterprise applications for iOS.

“Microsoft and its partners - particularly Dell, with its enterprise focus - have made Windows into an important OS for enterprise tablets, a trend that will accelerate with Windows 10.

“The Android ecosystem has begun to benefit from the Android for Work initiative, solving some of the security problems associated with the platform,” says Gownder.

Another factor is worker’s increased demand for tablets.

“Workers themselves say they value tablets, with over half of information workers using one at least weekly for work.

“And many companies now co-opt the energy of consumerisation - the inclination that drives workers to bring their own tablets to work - by providing company-owned devices,” Gownder says.

Furthermore, tablets are being used by a variety of workers in a range of industries.

“Not all workers are desk-bound, and tablets are finding their way into the hands of many different types of workers: Package delivery drivers. Retail sales associates. Car-return specialists at the car rental companies. Menus at restaurants. Field technicians.

“Growth in these and other scenarios expands the addressable market for enterprise tablets significantly,” says Gownder.

Forrester Research says, while tablet sales slow, the installed base of tablet users will continue to increase sharply, from 580 million this year to 782 million in 2018.

Gownder says, I&O leaders need to build a multi-year, multi-device strategy around equipping the workforce with appropriate hardware, including tablets. 

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