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We recently learned from two of the biggest distributors of technology devices that tablets are among the fastest-growing product lines both domestically and in Europe. Tech Data (Nasdaq: TECD ) and Ingram-Micro (NYSE: IM ) both pointed to strong demand throughout the entire technology space and the surprising strength of tablet sales, especially to corporations. Although Ingram-Micro CEO Greg Spierkel reported that much of the sales were to corporations with a large base of outside traveling salespeople, it looks as if the financial industry will also soon be a large source of customers.
News leaked this week that JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) will give all associates in its global investment-banking division Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPads as part of a pilot program at the bank. The program will allow JPMorgan Chase investment bankers to use applications made for the group. They'll also be used in client presentations, for e-mails, and for delivering other confidential information.
This news follows the recent release of the bank's iPad research application. The app is designed for JPMorgan Chase's institutional clients and will initially provide easy access to its research reports and analysis. The app will also provide updates on new reports and will allow clients to easily set up filters for the research they need on demand. As JPMorgan Chase continues to develop the app, it is expected to become a much more interactive tool with which analysts can chat with clients and provide additional real-time data.
Apple and the rest
When Tech Data and Ingram Micro reported that tablets made up one of the fastest-growing technology segments, they really meant the iPad. There really are only two viable tablets on the market, and Apple controls more than 90% of the space. The game of follow-the-leader in the tablet space will begin in earnest next year, as close to 50 tablets are expected to be released, including a new version of the iPad, as well as numerous tablets running on Google's Android operating system.
Although the proliferation of new tablet devices may cut into Apple's market share initially, I don't think the company is too concerned. However, I do believe the companies rushing to get these new devices to market are extremely worried, and the burgeoning fragmentation of the market beyond the iPad will only benefit Apple in the long run.
Hate to beat a dead horse, but …
The biggest loser of the growing enterprise use of the iPad is Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) . The company has long held a significant competitive advantage in the corporate-smartphone market because of its proprietary Enterprise Server that provides encryption and safety that other providers couldn't match. This type of data protection is especially important in the financial industry, and it's the reason Wall Street financial companies have been hesitant to cut ties with their BlackBerries.
However, as Apple's technology now provides a more viable alternative, the JPMorgan Chase experiment may just be the beginning of a much larger trend. Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse have recently released iPhone and iPad applications for its clients, and more banks are expected to follow. As more and more financial services and other banking capabilities become intertwined with the iPad and iPhone through Apple applications, it only makes sense for these institutions to begin the transition.
In the end, RIM's inability to get its PlayBook tablet into users' hands until well after the iPad established itself could come back to haunt the company.
A changing business landscape
Companies with strong enterprise businesses such as Research In Motion, and even traditional PC makers such as Hewlett-Packard and Dell, for a long time weren't seriously threatened by Apple in this space. However, with the iPad, it looks as though Apple has found a way to quietly infiltrate the enterprise segment, which is something that probably won't bode real well for these companies.
The tablet is still just a small piece of the larger cloud-computing theme that's gaining rapid momentum in the corporate world, but for Apple it's a small piece that could lead to a much bigger chunk of the overall business. The news of JPMorgan Chase's iPad app and employee usage may seem small now, but it makes the future potential for Apple in the enterprise space much larger.
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