Uncommon Wisdom

Mar 7 2011   12:23AM GMT

Next for tablets: Enterprise voice and data collaboration?

Tom Nolle Tom Nolle Profile: Tom Nolle

We’re counting down to the launch of the RIM “Playbook” tablet and wondering how competitors will manage the new iPad 2 in their plans for the fall. The challenge for them all at this point is the sense that there’s still got to be another generation of Android tablets to catch up, which means that the current generation may be obsolete even before it’s released. Not only does that hurt sales, it could discredit a complete product line by stomping on its launch and limiting early interest and market share. It’s the first announcement that gets the most ink.

Enterprises are also starting to work through the issues of tablet-based collaboration, and interestingly that’s one of the things RIM is expected to try to exploit. A tablet is most valuable as a collaborative tool for “corridor warriors,” in what my research identified as supervisory intervention applications rather than team activities.

In supervisory collaboration, a worker seeks approval or answers on a particular issue, an issue normally represented as a document or an application screen. The process demands that the supervisory/support person share the document/application context and simultaneously discuss the problem. Thus you need voice and data together.

Some tablet vendors and media types have suggested that video collaboration is the answer—tablets have the cameras after all. The problem is that video takes a lot of capacity, people don’t like random video calls that intrude on their current context, and there’s no evidence that video helps paired relationships be more productive.

Voice is the answer, but how exactly do we use collaborative voice with tablets? RIM’s answer is likely to be by creating a tight link between the tablet and a Blackberry, and that may be a good approach. We’ve noted this issue in some enterprise comments on the difference between iPhones on AT&T and the same phone on Verizon; the collaborative multi-tasking support is better on the first than on the second.

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