Tablets will slowly gain acceptance in the enterprise, and in the long term could possibly could replace laptops as a primary computing device, a Dell executive said this week.
"I think the tablet dynamic will have an impact within the enterprise," said Brian Gladden, chief financial officer at Dell, during the Credit Suisse 2010 Technology Conference.
Tablets are mostly incremental devices to do enterprise work, and users still have primary devices such as laptops, Gladden said. Though it may be too early to measure the full enterprise impact, in time, tablets could be used on a wider basis to perform corporate functions, Gladden said.
"Is there a point in time where it become cannibalistic in the enterprise? Probably," Gladden said.
Dell this year re-entered the handheld market with the introduction of a mobile Internet device called the Streak, which has a 5in screen and runs Google's Android OS. The device is mostly targeted at consumers, but the company is pitching it to commercial customers like hospitals with specialised software that provides secure access to remote documents.
The Streak has been successful, and Dell will come out with a range of new tablet products for enterprise customers, Gladden said. Dell is predominantly in the enterprise business, and wants to focus its energies on corporate customers.
"I think we'll have ... capabilities and hardware, whether that's a 10in Windows-based device that starts to look and feel a lot like a laptop, or whether it's an Android device that fits into the virtualised desktop sort of environment and runs current applications in a different operating system environment," Gladden said.
The carriers will also continue to be an important partner as Dell dives deeper into the mobile space, Gladden said.
"As you look at 3G, 4G-enabled devices that will be ... a prevalent resource for a salesperson for instance, clearly you'd want to have a carrier as a part of that offering," Gladden said.
A number of companies are already using tablets like Apple's iPad for functions like remote access, email, document creation and inventory gathering. The iPad has also been used as a virtual desktop and a tool to demonstrate products at trade shows.
Gladden also said that the company was looking at putting low-power processors designed by Arm inside servers.
"I think there are parts of the market where [Arm processors are] going to be very relevant. Those are things we are in the process of understanding, looking at and building capability around," Gladden said. "It will evolve over time and I think there will be multiple platforms and I think we'll be part of that."