Just Because Your Enterprise Has Tablets Doesn’t Mean You’re Fully Mobile

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Lesson No. 1 for understanding what you read or hear in the news: “Don’t let the headline writers fool you.”

And that sage bit of advice is good for almost any subject, not just politics. For example, a Jan. 30 headline in PCWorld declared in big, bold type that “Once skyrocketing tablet sales growth sees a slowdown.” Maybe it was a successful headline in that it grabbed readers’ attention. But it fell far, far short of the worthier goal of accurately informing readers about the critical truth of the subject of the news story; namely, that tablet sales are still booming, and are slowing down only in reference to last year’s even more remarkable sales growth rates and in response to the already heavy saturation of the market, especially in the U.S.

First, the numbers.

According to IDC Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker, global tablet computer shipments grew to 76.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2013. And that represented a 28.2 percent increase in tablet shipments over the fourth quarter of 2012. The people responsible for virtually every other industry or business line in existence would cut off an arm to achieve that kind of growth. Thus, the “sales growth slowdown” notion is more than a bit misleading. And it’s only accurate in light of the 87.1 percent growth rate in the same quarter a year earlier.

So make no mistake about, tablet computers continue to be the biggest growth arena in the technology world. The only real question about the future of tablets is just how many different ways people and, more importantly, businesses find to use them effectively. And the truth is, we’ve only begun to scratch the surface.

Tablets Make a Lot of Sense in the Enterprise Setting

Tablet computers likely will never completely supplant desktops when it comes to use by enterprises. But they make abundant sense in settings where users move around a lot yet need to have their data and their connection to important technology networks always at their fingertips.

Anyone whose job requires them to get up from behind their desks and move about to check on operations, meet with bosses, direct employees, make presentations to customers, call on clients, input critical real-time data, troubleshoot breakdowns and mixups, manage logistics, monitor inventory and supply levels, or a host of other tasks, inherently understands the value of tablet computers.

The only limitation on the use of tablets to date has been their limited data storage capacity, software incompatibility issues and, in some case, spotty connectivity performance. But all of those problems are surmountable for enterprises that select warehouse management or fleet management solutions with full mobile capability.

The Meaning of Full Mobility

But what does it mean to have full mobile capability? Lots of companies tout their mobile solutions’ expertise, but not all are expert in every aspect of mobile technology, or in how to make mobile technology work seamlessly and profitably in all conditions.

That means software with an intuitive graphical interface that’s easy for anyone to use and that operates on any mobile platform, from iOS to Android, Windows Mobile and Blackberry. And it means software that allows movements to be tracked in real time and granular to the level of an item’s location in a warehouse or a specific compartment on a particular vehicle.

Above all, full mobility means having the ability to accommodate offline situations, because even today communications coverage is not complete. A fully mobile solution takes that into account and is designed with real-world constraints in mind so you always have the data you need. Even in offline mode, you have what you need to perform logistics processes. Then, when communications come back online, the solution is designed to make the most of online time for quick syncing.

The bottom line is that your enterprise – your warehouse, shipping office or fleet operation – isn’t mobile just because you bought a bunch of tablets. If you don’t have a battle-tested software solution that is fully mobile, as we’ve described, then you don’t have the 24/7 command visibility you thought you did.