New Intel tablets could slow iPad enterprise appeal

Tablets with Intel's Oak Trail chips could find a niche in companies using the Wintel platform

Tablets based on Intel's first dedicated tablet processor may not be a monster hit among consumers like Apple's iPad, but they could find adoption in enterprises, analysts said this week.

Apple's iPad is the poster child, but Intel's Oak Trail processor could bring a new wave of tablets that are more closely aligned to security, software and hardware needs in enterprises, analysts said. By supporting the Windows 7 OS, Oak Trail tablets will blend more smoothly than the iPad into IT environments relying on Windows.

Tablets with Intel's 1.5GHz Atom Z670 processor from Fujitsu and Motion Computing went on sale this month and start shipping in June. Fujitsu is taking orders for the Stylistic Q550 Slate PC tablet, which is priced starting at US$729. Motion Computing is taking orders for the CL900 Tablet PC, which is priced starting at $899. The business tablets come with Microsoft's Windows 7 OS and include solid-state drive storage. Intel has said 35 devices based on the Oak Trail chip will become available starting in May.

Apple may be spurring consumer tablet innovation, but computing needs are very different in the corporate world, said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD. Outside the Apple ecosystem, there is a whole world of corporate applications and computing needs driven by Windows, Baker said.

"Products like these [tablets] will do well because Oak Trail provides a better experience for the user on a familiar platform, bridging the gap between corporate products and consumer ones," Baker said.

The iPad 2 has an ARM processor and offers outstanding power efficiency and performance features, Baker said. But for enterprises, iPad's software and hardware compatibility issues are more concerning than speed or battery improvements.

Oak Trail tablets differ from the iPad on hardware features, but provide the same level of comfort and compatibility for businesses that depend on a suite of applications they have developed, Baker said.

There is growing interest in the iPad in the enterprise, but Oak Trail tablets could also be a feasible alternative for enterprises concerned about security and application compatibility issues, analysts said.

"There's a security story that plays well in corporate. IT managers will be much friendlier to a Windows tablet than to an iOS one," said Roger Kay, president at Endpoint Technologies Associates. "Windows tablets will likely appeal to commercial customers, who, for compatibility reasons, want to stay with Windows," Kay said.

The Fujitsu and Motion Computing tablets offer Trusted Platform Management 1.2 (TPM), a hardware-based cryptography and authentication technology to enhance tablet security. Intel has also said future tablet chips will include VPro technology to remotely manage and disable tablets.

The Fujitsu tablet reflects the positioning pursued by Intel and Microsoft where tablets qualify as "companion" devices that complement smartphones and traditional PCs, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

"The primary target markets are largely businesses dependent on Windows that want devices which support commonly used IT management and processes, and easily synched with Windows business applications" King said.

Intel has said that device makers will ultimately release Oak Trail tablets based its Meego and Google's Android 3.0 operating system code-named Honeycomb. But Oak Trail tablets face a tough challenge against Apple's iPad in both the consumer and enterprise markets, King said.

"Whether they can make a successful run at the iPad is anyone's guess. Right now, Apple looks virtually bulletproof," King said.

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