CES 2011 and the doom of enterprise tablets

The Consumer Electronics Show is soon to begin in Las Vegas, and the break-out product this year appears to be tablet devices. There has to be at least 100 new tablets being announced by the usual suspects (Dell, Acer, Samsung, etc.), but now even television-maker Vizio is entering this market with its VIA Tablet and VIA Smartphone. Most of these are based on Google’s Android, but there are others like HP’s WebOS-based PalmPad, a few Windows 7 tablets, and RIM’s PlayBook.

(Wait — RIM? At a consumer electronics show? Whatever happened to the “business” oriented device?)

The simple truth is, there hasn’t been an enterprise tablet market. When Avaya, Cisco, and RIM announced their tablet plans and showed off the fancy demos, they’re trying to ride the wave created by Apple with its iPad. They’re attempting to do in the enterprise market what Apple had done in the consumer market. Apple now enjoys tremendous first-mover advantage in the overall tablet market share, but the invading Android army is encroaching.

What’s likely to happen is that tablets from Avaya, Cisco, RIM, and maybe even HP, may end up as casualties in the crossfire between Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android.

Companies like Avaya, Cisco, and RIM make their profits on licenses, hardware, and professional services. The telephony servers and data routers are what sells in the enterprise. If they’re trying to sell an “enterprise tablet” priced at near or above $1,000 each, with all the bells and whistles, but partially or fully proprietary, then they better be ready to hear a lot of rejection. Because the iPad and competing Android tablets are gaining traction in the enterprise market already. There’s no stopping the flood of Android tablets at cheaper (consumer- and enterprise-friendly) prices.

Just look back at history as it’s often our best teacher. The automobile industry was once dominated by American automakers like Ford and GM. They’re the first movers. Then came the flood of cheaper, affordable Japanese imported cars. What happened to the American car companies?

Or the boom of the PC industry when Apple reigned supreme until IBM and its clone PCs flooded the market.

The only way to survive is to innovate like crazy, as Apple does, or flood the market, as Google does. Neither has been or can be achieved, in my opinion, by Avaya, Cisco, and RIM.

In essence, it’s not wise for Avaya, Cisco, and RIM to pick fights with Apple and Google. Lose the desire to make an “enterprise tablet” and focus on delivering enterprise apps on existing tablets.

For more coverage of CES 2011, visit my gadget blog at gagagadget or follow @gagagadget on Twitter.


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