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New Rugged Devices from Zebra Reflect Shift to Corporate-Owned, Vertical-Focused Tablets

by Gina Luk | Sep 22, 2015

The tablet market is getting more business/vertically-focused. The increased business focus can be seen in the emergence of iPad Pro and a recent Microsoft Surface resale alliances with Dell, HP and Accenture around corporate customers. From the vertical perspective, Zebra Technologies wants to make tablets in industrial and non-corporate environments more rugged and secure, and is launching a new line of tough tablets, based on both Windows and Android platforms. 

Announced last week, the Zebra 8-inch ET50 and 10-inch ET55 tablets -- which can supposedly be dropped from six feet and survive, fully functional -- will come with options for Wi-Fi only on the former, and WIFI/LTE on the latter models. On the hardware front, both tablets have quad-core Intel 1.9GHz 64-bit processors with 2GB or RAM and 32GB of flash storage. 
Both tablets will  support Windows 8.1 and and Android 5.1, with Windows 10 support expected by the end of the year. (A sensible hold-off on Windows 10, as most environments in which ruggedized tablets are deployed are not likely places where early-adopter deployments are happening).

Specifically for enterprises, the ruggedized tablets support the Android Mobility Extensions (Mx) technology developed by Motorola (which Zebra acquired last year). The  Mx technology includes  enhanced Wi-Fi  and device security features, as well as, MAM MDM feature support,  and data security capabilities. All of these functions are essential for organizations looking to lock down tablet functions in task-worker or single-purpose use cases and environments. This deployment model also overlaps significantly with use cases for ruggedized devices, used by fieldworkers and required for high-traffic, frequently-interfaced devices such as kiosks, systems control panels and retail PoS machines.

With these tablets, Zebra is zeroing in on an emerging sweet spot of the enterprise tablet market -- corporate-liable, industrial and ruggedized tablet deployments in key verticals.According to Strategy Analytics, the top three growth industries for tablets over the next 4 years will include Healthcare, Real Estate and Education, Telecom and Utilities  -- markets that will grow between 9%-10% CAGR in terms of tablet shipments from 2015-2019. 

While these industries adopt tablets at a rapid rate, they will be looking for the types of ruggedized, secure features offered by vendors such as Zebra, as well as Panasonic, Samsung and others in the vertical-focused tablet space. At the same time, these businesses will more likely deploy and adopt tablets as a corporate-liable devices. Over the next 5 years, shipments of corporate-liable tablets shipments will grow at 8% CAGR worldwide, faster than personal-liable tablets, (6% CAGR) from 2014-2019. Additionally, enterprise deployments (firms with more than 250 employees) of tablets will grown in the double digits in regions such as North America and APAC. 

Contrary to the typical BYOD narrative, the biggest opportunity for tablets in businesses will be in corporate-liable deployments, as businesses look to transform traditional business operations and functions to digitized/mobilized workflows. As tablets replace clipboards with patient charts hung on the end of a hospital bed, or the process control interface of industrial machinery, these will not be BYO devices. Strict security and control enforcement will be necessary to make this new era of workflows and processes possible. 

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