Steve Jobs tried to dismiss iPad's tablet rivals as "copycats" at Wednesday's iPad 2 launch. But whether Steve likes it or not, the tablet wars are officially on. And this battle will be decided not only by consumers and gadget lovers seeking the latest and greatest slates, but also by businesses and corporate workers looking for the next game-changing productivity tool.
You can expect to see many Android-based tablets from the likes of Motorola and Samsung, just to name a couple of manufacturers. Two of the most anticipated tablets of 2011 are Apple's iPad 2 and BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry PlayBook tablet.
While Apple is traditionally known as consumer-oriented company, RIM has in the past mostly catered to businesses with a secondary consumer focus. And like these two technology giants, their respective tablets are worlds apart when it comes to enterprise features and functionality.
Which tablet is best for your business? Here are seven key considerations that enterprise IT staffs and business users should take into account when comparing Apple's shiny iPad 2 to RIM's workhorse BlackBerry PlayBook.
Perhaps the most important factor that any organisation thinking about a tablet deployment must take into account is security.
The PlayBook tablet was designed with security in mind, according to RIM, and though the company hasn't revealed exactly how future versions of the PlayBook will secure corporate data, the initial Wi-Fi only version won't store any corporate data on the device at all. Instead, the PlayBook will access corporate resources by tethering to a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES)-connected BlackBerry smartphone.
In other words, the Wi-Fi only BlackBerry PlayBook will need to connect to a corporate BlackBerry smartphone for secure access to enterprise mail, calendar, tasks, etc. And while corporate data will be accessible via a smartphone-connected PlayBook, no enterprise data is ever stored on the tablet, making it an ideal option at least from a security perspective, as no data leaks if that device is lost, stolen or hacked.
However, the need for a BlackBerry smartphone is a clear disadvantage for organisations that don't already use RIM handhelds, and this fact will no doubt lead some companies to opt for the iPad 2 or another tablet over RIM's offering.
Organisations that already have BES should feel relatively secure in deploying PlayBooks, since no additional security measures are necessary and no sensitive information is ever stored on the PlayBook.
The iPad 2, on the other hand, connects to Microsoft's Exchange infrastructure for most of its corporate security features, as a BlackBerry smartphone would to BES. And a variety of third party mobile device management (MDM) offerings from companies like BoxTone and Zenprise are available to add additional iPad/iOS-related security features.
So, to sum that all up, the BlackBerry PlayBook should be a no-brainer for companies that are already on BlackBerry, and deploying the PlayBook shouldn't require any additional IT support beyond basic instruction, since all PlayBook-related IT policies are pushed through BlackBerry smartphones.
Organisations on Exchange but not on BES, or companies that have already invested in tools to help bolster iOS security, may be better off with iPad 2, since deploying BES and BlackBerry smartphones is currently required to access secure corporate data via PlayBook.
Also, RIM has kept tight-lipped on the subject of how future PlayBook versions, the RIM tablets with cellular radios, will connect to BES, which means organisations may have to address additional security and deployment challenges with those devices. Many industry-watchers believe the process will be significantly different and won't require BlackBerry smartphones, though RIM hasn't offered any solid details.
This could be frustrating for organisations that are anxious to deploy tablets, and it could push those organisations toward Apple and away from RIM and its PlayBook.
One obvious difference between RIM's PlayBook and the iPad 2 is size. RIM's PlayBook is significantly smaller, at 7.6 inches in height and 5.1 inches in width, compared to the iPad 2, which is 9.5 inches high and 7.3 inches wide.
As such, the BlackBerry PlayBook suits organisations that value portability over a larger display, and the iPad 2 appeals to companies looking for the most screen real estate available, regardless of portability constraints.