Tablet Wars: Online/Mobile Banking Will Never be The Same

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3 May 2011
Jacob Jegher
iPad mania has swept the globe. Android based Honeycomb tablets are starting to pop up like weeds. The Blackberry Playbook was launched recently to very mixed reviews. What does this all mean for the banking space? Is banking on a tablet considered online banking or mobile banking? The answer is both and neither. Tablets are unique devices with distinct capabilities and form factors. They typically share operating systems with mobile phone devices (e.g. iOS), however apps developed for tablets can take advantage of capabilities not found on mobile devices. The greatest difference is screen size and resolution. Sure, you can fire up that iPhone app on an iPad but you will have to contend with bite sized functionality in a little window that looks like a phone. It's often cleaner and nicer (not necessarily quicker) to open up a web browser and load up the standard online banking login. Of course the best bet would be a native app developed specifically for the tablet. Do tablets impact consumer banking, small business banking, or corporate banking? The answer is all of the above. I'm going to focus on small business and corporate banking for the purposes of this post. Bob Meara put together a post recently on consumer banking, and we will publish another shortly. Consumer online banking has not evolved YET to the stage where a dashboard experience is commonplace. This is of course changing as PFM becomes more popular and as software vendors gear up for providing dashboard experiences (e.g. see this announcements from Intuit). The cash management and business banking user experience has suffered greatly (and still continues to suffer at most banks). However, readers of this blog know that there have been several key moves in the industry towards next generation solutions and the evolution of corporate banking portals (e.g. see this blog entry, Peeking Out From Under The Hood - Next Generation Online Cash Management). Tablets are going to have a massive impact on corporate and business banking. Here are a few reasons why:
  • Senior executives are on the go. The use of a tablet will be dictated by the role of the business user. The individuals who spend their time initiating payments aren't targets. The users that approve the payments and who travel frequently are prime targets.
  • Senior executives have fancy toys. Yes, there are productivity benefits to tablets. Let's be honest though, gadget guys/gals like the latest toys. Every flight I take is loaded with business users on iPads. Every recent conference I have attended has users banging away on their iPads. Since I'm an analyst I should give you real stats. Apple's COO reported in the fall of 2010 that two-thirds of the 100 largest companies in the world on the Fortune 100 list have begun deploying iPads for enterprise use.
  • Online banking portal evolution is a natural fit with the tablet experience. There is a lot of complex and personalized data that needs to be displayed to the corporate user. The dashboard experience found online lends very well to the tablet (in a web browser, or ideally as a native app). As banks build out their portals they have to prioritize mobile and tablet experiences.

What brand of tablet is going to steal the heart of business users? What should banks be developing for? Should they build native apps or rely on the browser? This is where the debate starts. iPad was first to market and dominates the market. The Blackberry Playbook is brand new, and Android based devices just starting to be readily available (e.g. Motorola Xoom, Acer Iconia, Asus EEE Pad Transformer). My personal opinion is the iPad is out there now and isn't about to go anywhere anytime soon. My bank clients tell me that most of their corporate users are heavily reliant on Blackberrys (no surprise there). With that said, it wouldn't surprise me to see some uptake of the Playbook, particularly as it matures. It's emphasis on data security is huge. Native cash management applications or small business banking apps for either of these operating systems would be ideal. RIM knows however that the iPad is going to be a really tough device to take on, regardless of how secure the Blackberry Playbook is. Yesterday RIM announced the acquisition of Ubitexx. This will allow firms with Blackberry Enterprise Servers (BES) to support other devices like the iPad or iPhone. It's a huge and risky move for RIM, but it's win-win. RIM has accepted the fact that iOS devices are selling like hotcakes to business users; corporations get to stick to the popular and secure BES.

I will attack the subject of tablets in an upcoming report on business/corporate mobile banking. I will also be speaking on the subject at the AFP Conference this fall in Boston. In the meantime, please pitch in your thoughts and opinions.


  • Very interesting topic. Good point regarding smartphone v tablet user functionality which will be key in this sector. I would like to pick up on the subject of mobile data security where the article talks about the battle between Apple and Blackberry, but Android seemed a little left out of the discussion. So the question is, are the Android tablets capable of gaining relative market share in the field of online/mobile banking against the likes of the Apple's and Blackberry's of this world the same way they have done with smartphones? (comment edited by moderator)

  • Jordan, thanks for your comments. Android will likely gain popularity for consumer banking on tablets, I question adoption for business/corporate use. However, Android apps will run natively on the BB Playbook so that may prove to be interesting -

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