On the heels of a major upgrade to their mobile software, Apple recently unveiled their newest version of the world’s the most popular tablet.  The new “iPad Air” is a thinner, more powerful version of the company’s flagship device.  But will the combination of the sleek new operating system and more eye-appealing tablet translate to the enterprise as the new go-to tech for the workers on the factory floor to the board room?

Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa recently said that demand for PCs has declined. So does that mean that Apple, Windows and Android based tablet devices are replacing PCs as work devices?

One of the tell-tale signs of health of the PC industry, the back-to-school surge, was actually the worst single period for new PC sales since the global economic collapse of 2008.  While Kitagawa expects the PC sale slump to level out in the United States, tablets and Android devices in particular are seeing a big jump.

“Consumers’ shift from PCs to tablets for daily content consumption continued to decrease the installed base of PCs both in mature as well as in emerging markets,” Kitagawa stated.  “A greater availability of inexpensive Android tablets attracted first-time consumers in emerging markets, and as supplementary devices in mature markets.”

While Android’s price point might appeal to new consumer entrants to the space, what about at corporations?  Reuters reports the real showdown for enterprise should come between Apple and Microsoft.  Carolina Milanesi, another Gartner analyst — who is a little more frank about the competitive benefits of devices — said that “the iPad Air will compete with Surface Pro.  Not some rinky-dink Android tablet.”

We wrote last month that Apple’s iOS7 made technological advances that will resonate with the enterprise, specifically around security.  Interestingly, security might not be a determiner at least among upper management and might have more to do with ego.  Many analysts believe that the iPad will remain the preeminent product among those in upper management.

“They [senior executives] will continue to prefer the Apple devices over their competitors; even over the Microsoft Surface 2 devices that have been released recently,” Forrester analyst Tim Sheedy told Computer World.

“There are some IT shops looking at the Microsoft devices and thinking ‘these might be a nice IT-friendly device’. However, the reality is when looking at these new tablets, the lightweight iPad Air, you are going to see senior people in the organisation continue to bring these into businesses and ask or demand for them to be supported by the IT department.

“I don’t see shift to Microsoft Surface replacing the iPad, particularly at the executive level.”

But there are only so many executives in the enterprise and the power of mobile devices at the front line stands to make a more profound impact on the business.  So when considering moving away from PCs to extend the tablet within the enterprise at the factory floor level, Microsoft might be the more attractive option for CIOs when it comes to their staff.  The old do as I say, not as I do trope might apply here.   Matthew Oakeley, global IT head of Schroders, told Computer Weekly in an interview that he does not think the iPad will ever be a true corporate device throughout the enterprise.

“I bet a lot of people bought iPads for work but don’t use them for work,” he says.

“The real problem is that, if you run a Microsoft Windows estate, you want something that can talk to it.

“At an event I asked Steve Ballmer: ‘When are you going to solve the iPad problem? When are you going to make it that the iPad can talk natively to Microsoft?’

“And he said, ‘Probably never; we are not friends.’”

Microsoft has made an empire on strategic plays like the one Ballmer is said to have outlined for Oakeley above.  Because Microsoft software is so firmly entrenched in the enterprise space, there’s no reason for them to leave their high ground by creating iOS connection points.  Surface devices are quietly helping Microsoft hedge their bets against Apple’s dynamic and attractive product explosion of the last ten years.  Still Apple’s growth has been largely consumer driven and doesn’t have the history of twenty years of software developments tailored to enterprise that Microsoft offers.

So who will rule the enterprise? As Microsoft VP Frank Shaw demonstrated, both sides have valid arguments for why their tools should be the standard, but in the end it is going to be a matter of perspective.  Hopefully, an organization will look at what set of functions matter most and will work best for their corporate culture.  Both sets of products have their merits and knowing one own’s unique organizational needs will be the key to making what might be a better/best decision for an organization.

Those are the decisions that we at Shockoe help our customers to determine every day.

How can we help you with your plans for a mobile enterprise?