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When it Comes to Tablets, It's All iPad

4486492241 93d7441ffa mAs tablets find their way into the enterprise, your job is to decide which ones you want to support. On its face, it might seem like the HP TouchPad and the RIM PlayBook might be more enterprise-friendly, but if you look at the purchase statistics so far, it looks like it's all about Apple's iPad and everyone is just an also-ran.

Apple was of course the first to market, so it has an advantage, and it also has that inexplicable Apple mystique around its products that other manufacturers just can't seem to match. But if you want proof of Apple's domination, CNET reported in an article this week on a study by Robert W. Powers and Associates of potential tablet buyers that found an astonishing 94 percent said they would go with iPad.

That might be a bit high, but it's too big to ignore even if you think it's related to consumer buying (as opposed to corporate). That's because increasingly individual users are making decision about the devices they want to use at work, and if this survey is to believed, they only want the tablet from Apple.

James Kendrick writing on ZDNET, believes if you want to capture the tablet market, you have to appeal to the great mass of non-technical end users who tend to shop at big box stores like Best Buy and Staples. These folks, Kendrick argues, are ignoring any tablet but iPad and driving these numbers.

In fact, All Things Digital reported this week that in spite of HP's best efforts to get consumers to bite on a TouchPad, Best Buy is sitting on a huge inventory of the HP offering. According to the article, Best Buy took 270,000 TouchPads at the beginning of July when they launched, but so far, even with incentives and discounts, it has only been able to sell 25,000.

Overall, according to numbers in a recent Wall Street Journal article (may require a subscription), the sales numbers break down like this:
Manufacturer # Sold Launch Date
Apple iPad 28.7m April, 2010
Motorola Xoom 690K Feb, 2011
Rim PlayBook 500K Apri, 2011
(HP launched the TouchPad in July making it too soon to have numbers. It's also worth noting that the article ignores the Samsung Galaxy Tab.)

Regardless, even given Apple's obvious head start, the numbers for Apple's competitors are just dismal. What's interesting is that when I was at the giant CeBIT Technology Conference in Hannover, Germany last spring, there were tablets galore on display, many of which were trying to differentiate themselves from the iPad by making them the IT-friendly alternative.

To this point, it doesn't seem to matter. Users know what they want and they want iPad.

So what does this mean for developers and IT pros? It probably means you're going to have be supporting iPads -- if you aren't already. You may be looking at hiring iOS developers to build applications (or you may want to see if your enterprise application vendor is already offering an iPad option; many are).

It's always best to be prepared, and if the tea leaves are saying it's all iPad, you might want to be paying attention. If the curve gets ahead of your shop's ability to keep up, don't be afraid to get some consulting help when you need it because the technology picture changes very quickly and it's all too easy to fall behind.

For now, the lesson is clear and simple. Just about anyone who wants a tablet, wants an iPad and you need to be aware of that and prepare accordingly.

Photo by Grant_Robertson on Flickr. Used Under Creative Commons License.
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