The rise of the tablet computer has had a dramatic impact on all areas\u00ad of computing, but as these devices enter the enterprise \u2014 many of them uninvited\u00a0\u2014 they can bring with them as many challenges as they do benefits.\nBecause of this CIOs would be wise to consider not only what devices they think will benefit their organisations, but also when they will support them, and how.\nIn some cases adoption could lead to radical changes in network support, but avoiding an official embrace is likely to cause more problems in the long term.\nSome 22 million tablets are expected to find their way into European hands this year alone, and although many, if not the majority, will make their way into consumer pockets many will appear in enterprise briefcases and meeting rooms as well.\nResearch published in March by analyst\u00ad Forresterfound that although around a quarter of enterprises are preparing for tablet use, very few were actually using them. This preparedness is wise: the tablet will make its way into businesses, and firms may feel forced to support them.\nAccording to the research 70 per cent of firms are worried about the extra security burden that supporting consumer devices in the office causes, and around 60 per cent are worried about supporting the new devices.\nEmployees will want to connect their unsupported devices to internal networks, systems and software, meaning that there must be adequate provision for them.\nOf course, their portable nature means that the enterprise could be leaking important information via the tablets, while also putting itself at risk of exposure to compliance and data protection regulators.\nForrester found a serious shortfall in enterprise support: just two per cent of firms are supporting their users\u2019 devices, while 17 per cent are trialling their own choice of model \u2014 whichever that may be.\n\nAlthough there is a wide choice of dev\u00adices available, the words \u2018tablet computer\u2019 bring to mind the iPad: Apple\u2019s device is credited with kick-starting the market and continues to lead it.\nIt does have its limitations, of course: a lack of Flash support, no USB sockets and the Mac operating system will make for an unwieldy fit at most enterprises, yet where tablets are in use it is the iPad that makes a showing.\nCommon at meetings in the creative sector, the device, in both its first and second incarnations, has sold out almost immediately and continues to win over hearts and minds.\nSamsung, which entered the market with the impressive Galaxy Tab, was unable to put forward any enterprise users, despite repeated \u00adrequests, while the BBC, a known user of iPads, drew short of commenting on the use and advantages of the Apple device.\nWhere it is in use, the iPad is being used well, according to analysts. At Forrester there is an overriding feeling that the early leader will retain its hold on the market and will see off an increasing range of stiff competition. One Forrester analyst, Sarah Rotman Epps, has continuously flagged it as the dominant market leader.\n"The competing products we\u2019ve seen announced so far from Motorola, RIM, HP, and others, while impressive, have \u00adfatally flawed price and distribution strategies, which leads us to our call that of the 24.1\u00a0million tablets that will sell to US consumers in 2011, at least 20 million will be iPads,\u201d she says.\nBut these are early days, and Rotman Epps says other devices are likely to follow.\n\u201cThe tablet wars are far from over. We have yet to see a play from potential disruptors like Amazon, who could enter the market at a lower price point, or Sony and Microsoft, who could offer radically differentiated value propositions,\u201d she adds.\n\u201cThings could get rowdy. But for now, Apple still defines the tablet market, with a product consumers will desire at a price that\u2019s hard to beat.\u201d\nThe consumer distinction is important perhaps, because while few companies will have handed out tablets to their \u00adusers, many will have accepted an increasing \u00adresponsibility for supporting them.\nThis may improve meetings, productivity, and to an extent outside perceptions of the business as being bleeding edge or trendy, but it may also weaken enterprise security and could, at least in large numbers, create a load on the network that sees other systems\u2019 performance compromised.\nChris Spain, vice president for product management at Aruba Networks, says that an increased use of tablet computers and smartphones had taken IT departments from supporting just one set of assets to supporting users with up to four devices each, and warned that if left unchecked this could lead to institutionalised anarchy.\n\u201cThere are new tablets coming out every\u00ad month and making their way into enterprises. The IT team is challenged because it does not own the devices, but cannot ban them either. It has to scale to meet them, to support them, and to provision for them,\u201d he explains.\nNot supporting the devices, or at least not being prepared for them, means that firms will have to make fresh provisions for them each and every time a new tablet appears on the network.\nThis, of course, will create an ongoing burden for stretched IT departments and could lull administrators into accepting devices that do not belong to staff or are being used maliciously.\n\u201cIf you provision for devices you can regulate their use and apply different policies to each one,\u201d says Spain. \u201cYou can control the bandwidth they use and the material that they can access. Not doing so leads to institutionalised anarchy.\u201d\nMore enterprise-friendly tablets are due to follow the iPad, and both Research in Motion with its BlackBerry PlayBook and HP have \u00addevices lined up for business use, while the Motorola Xoom and Asus Eee Pad Transformer, which run Android 3.0, and the Windows 7-based Acer Iconia W500, will all launch by the summer.\nHow well these fit into the market \u00adremains to be seen. Both HP and RIM already have an enterprise presence and the latter is deep into the heart of the enterprise communications network with its BlackBerry smartphones.\nThe introduction of a Windows-based tablet will have obvious enterprise appeal, as will the release of the Motorola and Asus Android models.\n\u201cHewlett-Packard is planning to launch its TouchPad tablet this year. The tablet is based on the WebOS operating system just as the smartphones sold by HP\u2019s Palm business unit,\u201d says Gartner analyst Van Baker.\n\u201cGiven the success of the iPad, many have speculated that there is no room for another tablet competitor beyond Apple and the Android tablets.\u201d\nHowever, it is the WebOS that may win the TouchPad its place in the enterprise. Baker says that HP had promised that its tablets would link into Palm OS smartphones as well as enterprise PCs, which will make supporting them easier.\n\u201cThe company has made it clear that it is not an alternative to Windows but will be a supplement to Windows on their PCs when it arrives,\u201d he adds.\n\u201cThis alone will dramatically boost the appeal of WebOS to developers because it will dramatically increase the number of \u2018sockets\u2019 that developers can sell their applications into. WebOS on the PC should increase the number of applications available for the platform once it arrives.\u201d\nBaker believes that RIM and HP will challenge the iPad and the already popular Android alternatives, and that the strong eco-system around both could present a challenge to Apple. But first, he says, they may have to compete with each other to gain a foothold in the market.\n\u201cThe iPad 2 is a very strong product in the market. It is a compelling platform in a beautifully designed package. The product has a growing number of applications that are tailored to the iPad,\u201d he explains.\n\u201cApple\u2019s position will be hard to assail in the market. HP may find that the competitor they are up against in the tablet market is actually RIM more than Apple if they target the enterprise with the TouchPad."\nThe iPad has already won business fans, such as fashion firm Burberry, where it has been adopted internally and externally.\n\u201cApple technology is completely integ\u00adrated throughout our global organisation. They have so many different pieces of technology that suit different environments and needs and really showcase our multimedia content in exactly the way we would want it to be seen or heard,\u201d says Burberry chief creative officer Christopher Bailey.\n\u201cTheir greatest expertise is their ability to talk to so many different people, every\u00adone from a three-year-old to a 70-year-old can play with their products because their designs are so engaging and instinctive.\u2019\u2019\nHow the other entrants expect to challenge this perception will vary, but those that do are likely to win enterprise contracts that see their devices rolled out to thousands of business users.\nThen, when industry really does start taking its tablets it will be their real benefits that make them easy to swallow \u2013 as opposed to the sugared coating that the iPad\u2019s style may provide.