Photo - KT Ong, GM, Commercial Business, Dell Malaysia
The arrival of touch technology has revolutionised consumer device usage and looks set to do the same for enterprises - in fact, according to IDC, global tablet shipments are expected to surpass shipments of laptops by end of this year and outsell the entire PC market by 2015. Tablet shipments are expected to grow 58.7 per cent year-over-year reaching 229.3 million units this year, up from 144.5 million units last year.
Here in Malaysia, Gfk Malaysia retail audit findings showed that some 36 models of tablets by 18 key brands were available in the market in 2011. However, in 2012, the number of brands in the market expanded to 35, with an array of 84 models to choose from. According to Gfk, the rise of tablet adoption saw around 823,000 units of the gadget being snapped up by consumers in Malaysia in 2012, reflecting a whopping growth of 87 percent or 384,000 units more compared to 2011. Their data showed that the total worth of the tablet industry in the country reached US$415 million last year.
Put simply, touch technology is pervasive in people's lives, both personal and increasingly, professional lives. Stemming from the success of consumer touch devices, a new generation of touch-enabled enterprise grade devices holds the promise for businesses of being able to support and maximise a new era of always-on connectivity and an empowered evolving workforce using the latest tools and capabilities to work remotely, flexibly and productively in a secure and managed way.
To invest in and deploy any new technology, businesses must always ask a number of difficult questions to help decide if the business requirements will be met with the right benefits and at the right level of investment. Touch technologies are no exception; however, the one big difference is that this is not just a software upgrade and an extra handful of features. Instead, it is vital that enterprises understand and consider that, by revolutionising form factors, touch is really about upgrading the way business is done and workers operate.
New generation of business tools
New touch operating systems bring to life a new generation of business tools that not only seek to meet the demands of an evolving, tech savvy and 'tech expectant' workforce, but also represent the route to genuine productivity gains by enabling workers to get their job done anytime, anywhere. For businesses, this is a strategic decision as much as a technology decision and, as such, they should ask 'how can touch drive productivity and device choice, while addressing security, manageability and ROI?' If all the answers stack up, it could be a simple decision.
Providing a touch-friendly interface is essential for businesses. Not only does this drive an effective workflow and responsiveness of quality business-class tablets, but also enables ultrabooks, laptops and tablet-laptop hybrids all to support more traditional output tasks.
Understanding how and where employees are productive is vital in deciding how touch-enabled devices can be used to maximum advantage. For knowledge workers, productivity can be increased by having one device that can function as both tablet and laptop.
In the retail sector, sales people can approach customers with a proposition which can be immediately demonstrated on a tablet device. Quick and flexible access to information means deals can be closed on the spot and communicated to head office immediately.
The healthcare sector also benefits from touch-enabled devices, as portable technology enables doctors, nurses and staff to access and update patient information immediately, streamlining and improving patient care overall.
Whether it's improving patient care by accessing patient records immediately or increasing transactions by processing them at point of sale, touch-enabled technologies offer employees easy input devices which are portable and desirable while meeting the specific demands of their business or occupation.
In addition to productivity gains and supporting the workforce, enterprises also want to incorporate security and manageability features when choosing touch technology. Enterprise-class touch-enabled technologies can address the security risk factor and compliance complexities stemming from trends like BYOD by presenting employees with the type of technology they most want to use while also meeting the demands of IT.
Touch technology is great for productivity but keeping devices, data, connections and networks safe without restricting workflow and preventing employees from getting their job done is a permanent concern and focus.
Regardless of the internal IT resource available, it's probably fair to say that no IT team has the capacity to continually monitor for every single growing and emerging cyber threat. The adoption of touch devices in the enterprise represents a growing number of emerging cyber threats. Therefore, a level of reassurance is a "must have" for businesses and protection against core threats including viruses, malware, spyware trojans and device damage or loss is vital.
In addition, the mobile and flexible working enabled by touch technologies like tablets, mean that data no longer resides on one device, but moves across devices and into the cloud. Therefore, data protection must move beyond simply protecting the device to protecting the data as it moves with end-users. It's no wonder that data protection and encryption are the top concern of IT managers when it comes to endpoint security.
To enable secure collaboration, data protection needs to be all-encompassing, easy-to-manage and must extend across multiple platforms from devices to removable media and public cloud storage. Aside from platform coverage, it's key to choose encryption technologies that won't interrupt existing IT processes or negatively impact system performance. Security can be additionally strengthened through advanced authentication measures, port control options, physical hardware lock and optional tracking and recovery services.
A Different Way of Managing
IT professionals need simple, intuitive, and automated tools to more efficiently deploy, manage and secure end-user devices and support their changing workforce.
With the arrival of a host of new touch devices, IT managers face the challenge of managing a growing number of devices without a growing budget. To effectively manage such a wide range of devices, management solutions need to be centralised with automated processes that provide cost reducing solutions. A unified system allows enterprises to drive efficiency by reducing time-consuming tasks like deployment, monitoring and updating systems.
It is also important to recognise the specific management needs of each business. While certain characteristics are vital in a management solution, every business has its own device mix and unique end point demands which need to be met.
A Degree of Choice
It's clear that touch functionality is more than an upgrade. It's a response and catalyst to the evolution and development of computing. The traditional desktop and laptop PC is evolving just as the traditional '9 to 5' office based working routine is changing.
Employees increasingly expect to work wherever and whenever they want and to be assessed on their productivity rather than presence. With practicality, efficiency, reliability and security now dominating workforce demands, a new generation of laptops, tablets and hybrid devices are fast becoming the business tools of choice.
Touch functionality is set to be a major element of these new tools, with a new level of usability that bridges the gap between tablet and laptop. Consumer usage of touch devices in their personal lives has set an expectation in all areas of their device use, whether at home or in the office.
Versatile device designs such as tablets with detachable keyboards and tablets that convert into laptops, will appeal to the increasingly mobile workforce that want the convenience of a tablet with the input productivity of a laptop.
Assessing the Value
Businesses adopting touch solutions can trust that their devices will be highly flexible and scalable. Whether upgrading their existing systems or undertaking full migration, enterprises can choose an approach that best suits their needs and budgets. With ultraportable devices being put in the hands of flexible workforces across the globe, selecting the right devices that are secure and durable is crucial to getting the optimum cost of ownership.
Using the right technology to enhance employee productivity and efficiency over time not only delivers growth to the bottom line, but a happier, more satisfied workforce also drives profitability. Empowering employees with device choice and providing the right technology to help a more flexible working routine helps to minimise staff churn and attract the best talent.
Understanding the Evolution
Touch functionality is one of the latest IT innovations in the spotlight. Designed to enable more flexible ways of working, it could be the ideal operating system to define and deliver true business-class productivity underpinned by device freedom, reliability and mobility.
New software, hardware and services, look set to provide 'best of both worlds' technology by providing enterprises with peace of mind around device and data security and manageability, while delivering productivity tools in desirable form factors to help meet the demands and expectations of an evolving workforce.
- KT Ong is General Manager for Dell's Commercial Business sector in Malaysia.
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