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In our recent IT Pro Ranking of alternate end user computing systems, HP took the top spot and Apple came in at third, with Dell second. The findings, along with the academic-sounding name of the survey itself, are grounds for most of the techarazzi to ignore the findings.
While Apple is an also-ran in the notebook market, it's clearly the leader in the tablets (the survey looked at tablets, netbooks, zero clients, and thin clients -- hence the terrible name). So how rigged must our survey have been to find that HP is actually the preferred vendor? The answer is, not rigged at all - at least we don't think it was, but we also weren't asking just any schmuck on the street for an opinion.
We ask survey takers to evaluate each vendor on two sets of criteria. The first is standardized, asking about such things as product reliability, performance, acquisition cost, operation cost, compatibility with existing systems, and so on. The second set is highly particular to the subject of the poll. So in this case we asked about screen size, weight, ability to centrally manage, battery life, and even fun factor (which rated by far the lowest in importance -- IT guys are such killjoys). Using the process, you can see how IT pros are likely to prefer different vendors, than your average user.
HP ranks high on compatibility, reliability, operation cost, meeting needs, and product performance, whereas it's low on end-user appeal, product innovation, and service innovation. Others in our survey were Acer, Asus, Dell, Lenovo, and Wyse.
The survey points out the harsh reality for many IT professionals. While HP is likely to make a highly compatible and manageable product -- WebOS notwithstanding, that's not likely to matter when non-IT business leaders decide they really want the cool new device from Apple. Further, IT Pros have been of the opinion that many of these new devices would be a non-event in their company.
The saving grace may be that tablets based on Android or other operating systems have a pretty high coolness factor too. If IT pros really want to establish standards, then the thing to do is get out in front of the phenomena. Pick the devices you want to support, and if possible buy them and give them to at least some of your users. While users may have a strong preference for one device or another, giving them something they see as "free" (meaning they didn't have to buy it with their own money) is a powerful incentive. For many tablets will be like beer -- the best one you'll ever have is a free one.
Go to the report: IT Pro Ranking: Alternative Client Computing
Art Wittmann is director of InformationWeek Analytics, a portfolio of decision-support tools and analyst reports. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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