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Will tablets penetrate Indian businesses?

Satarupa Bhattacharya, Contributor

Could the arrival of tablet devices manufactured in India create a genuine alternative to PCs?

Unlike more mature markets in Europe, where PC sales are on

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the decline, India still sees growth, but how will the era of the tablet and workers bringing their own devices to work impact this?

"The PC segment in India is still expected to see more growth. Numerous households still need a PC for various purposes," said Ganesh Ramamoorthy, research director at Gartner.

He added that the fact that tablets are being imported is holding it back. "The Indian market has no local tab manufacturers to produce tablets in huge proportions for consumers yet. Add to this low prices prevailing in the PC niche, and the reason how this segment could see more sales soon seems evident." To date, tablets are having little impact in Indian organization.

Katyayan Gupta, analyst at Forrester said in India there are few organizations that are using tablets or running pilot enterprise mobility programs with tablets. "On an overall scale, tablet use for work by Indian organizations is very limited." Forrester's research on the final three months of 2012 show that only 12% of information workers in India use tablets for work for more than one hour per day. In comparison, 32% in China use tablets for more than one hour a day, it found.

Gupta said that those using tablets are using them for corporate communication and collaboration. "This includes email, IM, calendar, Web browsing and office tools. This category is followed by things like social networking and microblogging."

Even on the employee side, bring your own device (BYOD) and the use of tablets for work are very limited, said Gupta. "It's interesting to note that most of the use is happening at the director and above designation level. Due to the cost of owning a tablet and the nature of their work, most desk workers still use desktops/laptops for work."

Gupta said the limited adoption is due to lack of business case for organisations to provide or support tablets for work for all employees. "Most information workers still have a desk job, so there's no need to be mobile during office hours. They also need to create content and desktops/laptops are best suited for this." He added that there are costs associated with extending back-end applications onto tablets and building new apps for tablets. He added that a lack of in-house IT skills such as app developers and mobile data security specialists to build, operate and maintain systems complicates matters."

The consumer demand, combined with increased bring-your-own-device programmes, could eventually take them into businesses, said Gupta. "I think the push for tablets into Indian businesses will be more from the workforce (i.e., BYOD). This is what organisations need to be prepared for," he said. "As tablets become more affordable for the masses, I think employees will start to use tablets for work. But this use will be mainly restricted to content consumption with limited content."

A CyberMedia Research (CMR) report, conducted specifically to cover the Indian scenario for the tab market, revealed that the functionality, versatility and affordability will drive demand in India.

Faisal Kawoosa, an analyst at CMR, said that 2012, and predominantly the last two quarters, were significant in the India tablets market. "We have seen the market for these devices grow up substantially in 2012, for the most part in the second half, which made up for over 70% of the total sales."

Indian manufactures are moving into the sector with locally assembled or manufactured tablets, such as Micromax Mobile and Karbonn Mobiles.

Shashin Devsare, executive director of Tablet manufacturer Karbonn, said that close to 30% to 40% of tab sales are in smaller Indian cities.

Anuj Garg, technical director at Zync Global (in the Noida sector), said that the company's main consumers belong to nonurban niches. Urban regions of Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh are seeing steady orders of tabs from Noida since March 2012.