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The New Breed of Tablets from Cisco, Avaya and RIM - will they matter?

avayaflare.jpgCisco, Avaya and RIM are all rushing out "tablet" devices now for the enterprise market - but will they actually matter?  Will enterprises really want to use these high-end and high-priced tablets versus all the new consumer tablets like the iPad and all the various Android and Windows tables in the queue?

Don't get me wrong ... it think it is awesome that Cisco, Avaya and RIM are all coming out with new tablets. Ever since getting an iPad back in early May it has become a constant companion on my travels around and I use it for so many different purposes.

The touch interface is also so incredibly "natural"... I watch my daughters using the iPad and just have to think: "Why shouldn't computers just work this way?"

Any user interface improvements that improve the communications user experience are very definitely a GOOD thing!

So I commend Cisco, Avaya and RIM for coming out with tablets.

I just still find myself wondering why I might want to pay to buy one of these tablets. I had this exchange yesterday with analyst Brian Riggs on Twitter: briggstablets.jpg

As I said, I already have a SIP client on my iPad (and there are several options, in fact). I already have Skype. I already have WebEx and GoToMeeting for collaboration (and many other apps). Sure, I don't have video on the iPad - yet - but there are a range of Android consumer tablets coming out that do, and I wouldn't be surprised if Apple announces an iPad with a video camera sometime soon. Apple loves FaceTime right now... I wouldn't be surprised to see the iPad join the game.

I think Brian's point is the key:

avaya, cisco are betting they can do comms on tablets better than apple, etc.

And to a point, they are probably right. Real-time communications IS different than traditional web communications. This is very true.

There is, though, this one wee minor detail:

Apple has an entire ecosystem of developers building apps!

If Apple can deliver a hardware platform that provides the necessary devices (like an embedded camera for video), I would see the developer community rushing to use it. (And the Android community already has multiple devices coming out.)

On a more personal level, I've found my iPad to be much more like my mobile phone... it's a device I take with me to both personal and business functions/meetings/events. It's a "converged" device in that it reflects the blurring of the lines between my personal and business lives. I don't know that I'd want yet-another-device to carry around.

There is certainly the case that in large enterprises where you go to work on a "campus", the ability to have a work-specific device like this that you carry around could be valuable. But even there I'm not sure that I wouldn't also want my personal information, etc. with me. And isn't part of the value of a tablet that you could bring it home with you or while you are traveling?

Again, I commend the vendors on trying out a new form factor and user interface... I just find myself wondering why people won't simply want to use the consumer devices that are rapidly proliferating.

What do you think? Would you use a tablet from a communications vendor? Or would you want them to instead have apps that run on consumer devices?

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