Overall tablet shipments have dropped 20% in recent quarters, but workplace uses for the devices are still growing in the U.S.
Based on a survey of 300 U.S. companies completed in September, analyst firm J. Gold Associates determined that the number of companies who have over half their workforce using tablets will grow by up to 155% in the next three years.
"This indicates a strong upward trend," the firm said in an 11-page report on the survey. Computerworld received a review copy of the report.
The survey also asked about company plans to rely on workers who supply their own tablets under a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) scenario.
The survey found that about 12% of the companies surveyed currently rely on BYOD for nearly all their tablet uses, a number that will grow to 21% in three years -- a 78% growth rate. By comparison, 9% more of those heavy tablet users will be using corporate-provided devices by then.
"BYOD is not going to be that big of a deal for tablets and BYOD is exaggerated, especially with tablets," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates. As analysts have noted with the consumer market, users are keeping tablets much longer than smartphones, sometimes for up to three to five years. In contrast, people tend to keep their smartphone for 18 months.
Gold argued that tablets in the workplace are fundamentally different than they are for consumers. "For most workers, you don't need hardware innovation with tablets, you need workflow innovation," he said. "Many workers don't need a super display; they need something that's functional."
For workers, "a tablet is about doing a task instead of a general purpose device, while consumers want to do everything on it," he added.
Not everybody feels that way. Yes, sometimes, sales personnel, fleet truck drivers and others use tablets just for filling in simple check-off forms. However, some tablets are used at work to nearly replace a laptop, as Apple CEO Tim Cook recently argued in promoting the new 12.9-in. iPad Pro.
Tablets are also entering an uncertain period with the introduction of more 2-in-1 hybrid devices like the Surface Pro, which some liken to a tablet, and the iPad Pro.
Windows-based tablets showed the strongest projected growth in the survey, up to 123% in three years for companies with heavy tablet uses. Android tablets are expected to grow by 75% and iPad by 63%.
In the third quarter of 2015, Apple topped other tablet makers for shipments, with 9.9 million tablets, down 20% from the prior year, according to Canalys, a research firm. Samsung, which makes Android tablets, was second with 7.9 million tablets, and also showed a 20% decline.
The financial industry showed the greatest interest in tablets, favoring Windows devices and iPads over Android tablets, according to the J. Gold Associates survey. The healthcare industry showed strong interest in Android tablets.
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