Mobile computing in the enterprise could see some dramatic changes given the plethora of mobile tablets slated to hit the market this year.

Thanks to the introduction of Apple's iPad, which surpassed 3 million units sold within three months of its introduction, enterprises are beginning to look at these devices in a new way--as a potential replacement to the desktop computer.

Tablets have been around for some time, but they haven't been able to mimic the experience or computing power of desktops. While next-generation tablets such as the iPad don't have the computing power of desktops either, cloud computing — the ability to grab software and solutions from a remote server — fills in that gap. Cisco recently unveiled a business tablet based on the Android operating system that is designed to deliver virtual desktop integration with a range of Cisco collaboration and communication applications, including high-definition video streaming, real-time video, multi-party conferencing, email, messaging, browsing and the ability to produce, edit and share content stored locally in the cloud. Cisco is banking that this 1.15-pound 3G/Wi-Fi device will dramatically lower capital costs and cost per user when it comes to desktop maintenance.

Tablets also can bring more useful applications to businesses because they can access Apple- and Android-based applications created by developers that are building simpler, business-class productivity applications.

Of course, it's early in the game. Battery life remains an issue, although Cisco boasts an eight-hour battery. One can't be plugging away at the tablet and have to continually recharge the battery, especially in the field. Product life also is a question enterprises need to ask themselves. It might be cheaper to outfit a worker with a tablet instead of a desktop, but not if they have to be continually replaced. Surely the tablet will be new territory for enterprises. It will be interesting to see how they are adopted early on and whether they ultimately play the same role that smartphones play — as an adjunct to the desktop — or become an outright replacement.

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