A tablet is no fun—nor does it serve any practical purpose—without mobile apps. So it’s no surprise that new devices and platforms are routinely launched with triumphant claims of vast libraries brimming with nifty new apps—or at least the promise of them.
Indeed the Metro App store is one of the ways Microsoft is promising that Windows 8 will break through and take market share from Google/Android and Apple. In part, that’s because the Metro Apps will work not only on tablets and smartphones, but cross over to PCs as well, as we discussed in an earlier post.
Analysts: size of ecosystem matters.
Gartner, at least, thinks the stack of apps available for a tablet can make or break it, market share-wise. Clarifying the firm’s recent predictions on the tablet market, Gartner Research VP Carolina Milanesi tells ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley that it’s “not just form factor but the richness of the ecosystem of apps [that is] part of the value proposition to users.” (Read more on that in James Kendrick’s April post exploring what makes a tablet a tablet.
It’s worth noting here that Gartner predicts sales of nearly 5 million Windows 8 tablets in just the final quarter of 2012, when the devices are due to hit the market. They apparently think the ecosystem for even ARM-based Windows RT devices, which will run only Metro-ready apps on mobile devices (not PCs), is sufficiently rich enough to be widely popular. Lenovo has shown some prototypes of its Windows 8-based tablet due out this fall.
Perhaps the analysts are basing that opinion in part on promising business app “concepts” discussed in Foley’s ZDNet blog post on their debut at Microsoft’s recent Convergence Conference. (You can see this prototype of a Windows 8, Metro-faced ERP app if you’re willing to register at Microsoft’s Convergence 2012 site.)
Lessons from real life.
It does seem that a critical mass of apps—and developer confidence—is mandatory for a tablet’s success. Jon Koetser’s VentureBeat piece on developer tablet OS choices cites grim predictions for BlackBerry tablet sales as a solid reason to avoid developing apps for the RIM tablet’s underlying QNX platform. And similar stories abound for the HP’s short-lived Touchpad, though many claim that developers, given the quirkiness of WebOS, shouldn’t take the blame for not creating enough apps.
In the enterprise: same story, different characters.
In the enterprise world, app availability is a more complex issue. Tablets designed for more serious uses—those that, unlike consumer models, sport pens, rugged exteriors, better connectivity, more open architectures and other attributes—may not depend as much on pure entertainment or some social media apps. Productivity, collaboration, and decision support solutions will carry more weight, however, so serious tablet contenders need those weapons in their arsenals.
In its guide for choosing business-friendly tablets, PCWorld BusinessCenter puts operating systems—and specifically the app ecosystem associated with them—at the top of the criteria list. Like many other industry watchers, authors Jacobi, Perenson and Mastin see Windows 8 as a legitimate contender in this category, based on current intelligence about the tablet debuts slated for fall.
How will you evaluate your organization’s next tablet choices? The apps that are practically available to you will clearly play a role in your decision. Which will be most crucial—dedicated, device- or OS-specific apps? General-purpose communication and productivity apps? Non-native web apps? Let us know what you’ll be considering, and what you’re most excited to see.
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