ABC wants Apple, Android, Windows tablets


news The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has flagged plans to significantly enhance its use of tablets in its operations, stipulating in purchasing documents this week that it wants to use Apple’s dominant iPad devices, but also rival offerings running both Android and Windows operating systems.

In purchasing documents released this week and first reported by, the national broadcaster wrote that it currently used a limited number of tablets in its operations (about 50 devices), but the use of tablets “is expected to increase significantly in the near to medium future” as it made greater use of the emerging technology.

Research published in February by analyst house Telsyte revealed that Apple sold about a million iPads in Australia in the 2011 calendar year, representing around 76 percent of the total local market for the burgeoning new tablet market category it created virtually singlehandedly with the iPad. Rival offerings such as Android-based tablets from companies like Samsung and ASUS, RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook and traditional Windows-based tablets have broadly struggled in Australia over that period, with most consumers opting for the iPad option and those businesses which have formally adopted the tablet form factor in their operations also typically choosing the Apple devices.

However, the ABC noted in its tender documents issued this week that it required suppliers to be able to sell it a range of tablets running different operating systems, including the iPad but also Android and Windows. The ABC is looking to be able to procure Apple’s new iPad (also known as the iPad 3) in a model which comes with 32GB of storage and with both 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity. It did not stipulate which tablet models running the other operating systems it was after.

It’s not the first time that an Australian organisation has opted for an alternative tablet strategy, rather than simply fixating on Apple’s iPad.

In December it was revealed that students and staff of years 9–12 at Brighton Grammar School, Victoria would each be provided with an Acer Iconia Tab A500, as part of what is being publicised as the first large Android program for an Australian school. At the time, the school told Computerworld that one of the reasons it had chosen the Android platform was its support for Adobe Flash, which the iPad does not support, but also because of Acer’s reputation in the education sector and the device’s ability to support some hardware features, such as an SD card.

In addition, although education departments around Australia have broadly focused on the iPad, some have left the door open to similar Android rollouts, setting liberal purchasing policies in the area or conducting trials of both iPads and Android tablets.

The ABC’s platform agnosticism may also give the incoming wave of tablets based on Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system a boost. The platform has not yet been released in its final form, but it has been engineered from the ground up to support the tablet form factor, and Microsoft partners such as HP and Dell are planning to release tablets running the new operating system.

Joe Kremer, the managing director of Dell Australia, this week attacked the dominance of Apple’s iPad in the tablet field, telling the Financial Review that the iPad wasn’t fit for use in large organisations and that the battle to conquer the tablet market isn’t over yet. The comments provoked a fierce debate on Delimiter about the manageability of the iPad in the enterprise.

If the ABC does deploy a significant number of tablets, the rollout may have the potential to change the way the organisation supports its staff in general. The ABC currently runs some 5,600 Windows-based PCs, of which some 1,300 are laptops, and some 230 Apple machines. The deployment of iPads to some staff at Australian company Brickworks has had the result that some of the organisation’s laptops are no longer needed.

At the moment, Australia is in a fascinating phase when it comes to the consumption of tablets in general.

On the one hand, we have the massive current market dominance of Apple’s iPad. Analysts have pegged the device’s local market share at around 76 percent, but I personally believe it to be even higher. I know very, very few people with an Android tablet, and even then those that do have one often have an iPad as well, as many families have more than one tablet at this point, and many technology early adopters have several. Apple’s dominance also extends into the enterprise, where small and large businesses alike have very rapidly adopted the iPad as an amazing tool to help get their job done.

And of course, other non-Android tablet competitors such as the BlackBerry Playbook and the HP TouchPad are virtually already dead.

However, on the other hand, the tablet market is about to receive a massive new rush of blood as a number of major Microsoft hardware partners such as HP, Dell, Lenovo and so on launch new tablets based on the new Windows 8 operating system.

It’s worth considering that most of the iPad competitors at this point have come from companies which are not really known for their strength in the enterprise and business markets. Vendors like HTC, Samsung, ASUS and so on are more known for their strength in consumer-land and with mobile phones, and they have attempted to extend these skills to the tablet market but broadly failed.

HP, Dell and Lenovo, on the other hand (while they have consumer offerings) all have a massive presence in the enterprise IT and small business market, and I feel that this is where they will try hard to make their tablet play over the next several years in Australia with Windows 8.

Think about it. Apple, as an arch-consumer company, has struggled consistently to make headway into the enterprise, as has Google. Microsoft, on the other hand, virtually owns the enterprise at this point, with its Office/Exchange/Active Directory/SQL Server/Windows Server/SCCM/Kitchen sink stack which provides everything businesses and government departments need to get the job done.

Because of this situation, you end up with a weird dichotomy where Apple’s iOS devices, while hugely popular in consumer-land, have taken a while to percolate into the enterprise, and Google’s devices have largely failed, while Microsoft appears to be making inroads with, of all things, Windows Phone 7 mobile phones, which are getting nowhere in consumer-land. In short, the enterprise loves Microsoft, and this could play heavily into the tablet story.

Is the ABC thinking along these lines with its tender released this week? I doubt it. Likely its staff just want iPads at this point, and its purchasing team is keeping their options open just for the sake of it, as government-owned enterprise often do.

However, I would not be surprised at all if major Australian corporations were eyeing off Windows 8 and its bevy of hardware partners at this point, and wondering if the platform will allow them a much greater degree of control, flexibility and manageability over the tablets that they use than Apple’s iPad will. And after all, I guarantee you that a chief information officer or IT manager would have no problem contacting their local HP, Lenovo or Dell account manager to talk tablets, while the same is definitely not true for the often difficult to reach and deal with (according to what I hear) enterprise team at Apple.


  1. Personally, I think Fraser Speirs’ piece ‘We Need to Talk about Android’ is an excellent, and rational, discussion as to why anyone considering an enterprise or education rollout of Android tablet needs to tread very carefully, ATM. Of course, the situation may improve, although I’d bet that Windows tablets are more likely to get it right (coming from Microsoft, an organisation already familiar with the vagaries of provisioning across heterogenous organisations) rather than Android.

    • There’s some interesting and correct analysis regarding security in there, but the Android ‘fragmentation issue’ doesn’t really enter into this situation.
      Chances are, an organisation would deploy a single version of a device across all departments, providing support for a single operating system (eg. Android 4.0.3).
      What kind of organisation would roll out a variety of different brands and software versions?

      Honestly though, I don’t think any tablet (apart from slates running Win7) at the moment can realise much benefit over a laptop. Apple devices restricts file system access, and forces it’s software into your system to be able to use it’s devices properly, but Android, as they’re open to anyone doing anything, can be insecure. Plus, bulk-buying deals with equipment manufacturers such as Dell and HP make laptops considerably cheaper (and IMO, more versatile, albeit slightly less portable).

      I agree with you that Win8 has a better chance than any current contenders to be properly fit for organisational use.

  2. Our general Manager is pushing iPad’s for a paperless office (or at least a less paper office). I’ve asked him about Android and even Microsoft solutions…..he said people don’t want them. Well…..that’s not really the point is it? Sure, you need something people are gonna use, but it’s a business, not personal. Deal with it.

    There’s no question in my mind that the Win 8 Tablets to come are going to make a big dent in Apple’s Enterprise iPad market. The market is predicting Apple’s and even Android’s healthy share in mobile will be significantly eroded by WinPhone. I can see it happening in tablets too with Win 8.

    It’ll take time, but I think those that have accepted and provided solutions for Apple will find the ease of integration with the new bunch of Win 8 tablets likely to hit the market this year and next will be preferable over all. IMO I can see the Win 8 tablet becoming what Blackberry was to mobiles when it first came along- quite a boon for business and INFINITELY more powerful than either Apple or Android…..IF Microsoft get it right.

    • The problem isn’t if Microsoft get it right… its if Microsoft AND Acer AND Asus AND Dell AND Samsung AND (insert rest of list of OEMs here) get it right. Microsoft may well produce a great alternative tablet OS to iOS, but be let down by the implementation by device manufacturers.

      I still think Microsoft needs to just buy Nokia outright and make them the sole distributor of Windows RT/ARM tablets… unlikely to happen given the blowback they’d get from the rest of the OEMs but it feels like controlling both the hardware and the software a la Apple is the right way to go in the phone/tablet space.

  3. “I still think Microsoft needs to just buy Nokia outright and make them the sole distributor of Windows RT/ARM tablets”

    Wouldn’t do them any good. It’d be great for WinPhone 8 (Apollo) but useless for Windows 8. Nokia have NO IDEA how to build a good tablet or a hybrid. They don’t even have ACCESS to the parts required to build a tablet on x86 specs. They NEED the other OEM’s because Samsung, Asus, Acer, Dell (not really Dell actually) and (insert rest of OEM’s here) KNOW how to make good tablets/hybrids. They’ve been DOING it for many years in some cases.

  4. Why are ABC so damn stupid. Why spend on all three when u only need to bUY one samsung and dual boot windows /android on one machine. How dum are these people. Apple for Apples sake.

    • Perhaps ABC’s end user base utilises a range of technology and ABC would like to gain familiarity across the different platforms. I applaud them for this approach. The ABC web site is one of the best in Australia and deeper consumer device knowledge can only make this better. While android may not appear on too many active tablets, it is on a lot of big screen phones.

  5. Strange, I see nothing but android tablets with the geeks I hangout with.

    I’d say 76% sounds about right.

    The other 24% are real nerds.

  6. I do get the feeling that a lot will change with the release of Windows8.
    Tablets carrying windows will use windows software and most programmers in business and government are vers competent at programming for windows.
    I also see the benefit of touchscreen on desktops and see a future quite close where touchscreens for those are commonplace and inexpensive.
    Mouses have been faithful friends and will still be quite necessary when doing many things but good knowledge of keyboard shortcuts as well as a touchscreen will certainly be advantageous later this year.

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