Tablets Go Corporate

Clinicians at Children’s Hospital Central California, one of the 10 largest pediatric hospitals in the country, are using Apple iPads to access and share information about patients, no matter where they are in the 340-bed facility. The hospital has 450 physicians on staff, manages about 1,800 desktop computers and has more than 3,000 users on its network.

During the summer, the Madera-based hospital launched advanced clinical systems that users will be able to access on iPads using VMware View. This will enable “follow me” desktops that can move from room to room with staffers.

Welcome to the future of business technology: the tablet era. If your company isn’t making plans to deploy, support and profit from the latest generation of mobile devices, you risk being left behind by competitors and bypassed by talented workers.

“With the recent go-live of our electronic advanced clinical system, we now have some clinicians using iPads,” says hospital Vice President and CIO Kirk Larson. “Our users frequently comment on the iPad’s portability and ease of use.

“They can easily carry the device with them and avoid the hassles of carrying a heavier laptop or searching for an available desktop computer. A clinician with an iPad in hand can quickly and easily access a patient’s record from anywhere in the hospital, thereby enhancing his or her ability to deliver patient care.”

The decision to choose an iPad over a notebook computer was based on ease of use. “The end-user device selection strategy was a very important one, and some folks identified the iPad as their device of choice,” Larson said in a YouTube video about the deployment.

“It’s light, easy to use, easy to carry and it’s quite a bit quicker than having to find a desktop computer. It’s something you can whip out of a lab coat pocket and be logged in within seconds,” according to Larson.

Children’s Hospital is not alone. Market researcher Gartner predicts that nearly 55 million tablets will be sold this year, a jump of more than 180 percent over last year. And many of those tablets will wind up at work.

The iPad leads the way, but the launch of several competing devices will add momentum. The market is being flooded with competition from all sides. Tablets on the market now include Motorola’s Xoom, Dell’s Streak, RIM’s PlayBook, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, Cisco’s Cius, Acer’s Iconia and Apple’s iPad 2.

As more users bring more tablets—and a mix of iOS, Android and Windows-based systems—to work, the effect on business and the IT organization will be profound.

Whether integrating employees’ personal tablets into workplace systems or purchasing and deploying tablets for business use, IT departments will face the challenging task of securing these devices and the information they contain.

“The thing that’s important to keep in mind is how these devices are getting into the enterprise,” says Gartner analyst Leslie Fiering, who covers mobile computing. “In many cases, the original entry is through the user who bought one for personal use and asks IT to support it. We’re seeing huge demand from the users, and also from C-level execs who are mandating that these come in.”

“Individuals are willing to buy these devices themselves, so enterprises must be ready to support them,” adds Gartner analyst Stephen Prentice. “While some IT departments will say they are a ‘Windows shop’—and Apple does not support the enterprise—organizations need to recognize that there are soft benefits to this type of device in the quest to improve recruitment and retention.”

To that end, help is on the way: VMware View Client for iPad allows iPad users to access virtual Windows-based desktops on their tablets. Citrix Systems and many others have similar applications on the market, helping to overcome the Windows-centric nature of many corporate IT environments.