According to a IDC research group ( study n tablets in enterprises, a large and increasing share of tablets deployed across U.K., French, and German companies are the only devices that employees are equipped with to perform their business activities.

“The majority of tablet users in enterprises currently have at least another device to perform their business activities,” says Marta Fiorentini, senior research analyst, IDC EMEA Personal Computing. Additional devices are usually desktop or portable PCs, smartphones, workstations, or, depending on the employee’s role, specialized handheld or point of sale (POS) devices. “However, a large share of tablets is already used by employees as their only work tool, either replacing traditional client devices or for functions previously not supported by any computing device. As digitalization transforms business processes and tablets are optimized for business functions from both a hardware and application standpoint, we can only expect an increase in the share of standalone tablets, as confirmed by the purchase intentions of the study respondents.”

According to the study, tablets are the only business device for 40% of users. This percentage, however, increases significantly for 2-in-1s or convertibles, as these hybrid products are deployed to replace portable and desktop PCs thanks to the option of being used with a keyboard. This has been observed across the vast majority of user groups since the keyboard functionality eliminates the need for an additional device dedicated to productivity tasks.

The study also shows that hybrids — in either the detachable or convertible form factor — are usually purchased with larger screen sizes than tablet slates. Indeed, while just over 10% of all slates have a screen size larger than 11in., the current percentage for hybrids is almost 30% and this is expected to surpass 50% over the next couple of years, reinforcing the assumption that 2-in-1s and convertibles can be a replacement for portable PCs. In spite of the cannibalization effect on traditional client device markets, standalone commercial tablets are also creating a huge opportunity for device makers.

“Tablets are already used by waiters instead of pen and paper, by doctors and nurses to replace paper-based files, or by pilots as a substitute for bulky manuals,” Fiorentini says. “These are only a few examples, and this is where the growth opportunity lies. IDC calculated that in 2014 this incremental market accounted for almost 6% of tablets used as standalone in the U.K., France, and Germany. We expect this percentage to increase quickly in these three countries and exceed 20% over the next 24 months.”

The use of tablets as standalone or companion devices has a strong correlation with the user’s job role. User groups usually associated with activities involving document creation or editing, such as executives, marketing, sales, engineers, or white-collar employees (including analysts, consultants, doctors, legal, journalists, etc.) tend to use their tablets — especially slates — in addition to desktop or portable PCs.

On the other hand, workers who perform all or the majority of their activities on the road, in the field, or facing customers are more likely to rely solely on their tablets. Operation agents and production workers equipped with tablet slates, for instance, use them as their only work device in respectively 55% and 64% of cases. In comparison, only 38% of executives and 44% of white-collars work only on their tablet slates.

As tablet adoption accompanies enterprises’ migration to a more mobile computing infrastructure, the study also looked at the challenges that IT departments face in managing an increasing number of devices and a multi-OS environment, says IC. While the majority of enterprises still use the default tools that come with their computing devices, most confirm their wish to move to a more integrated and ideally a single management tool. Funding has often been the main reason for delay, but where vendors can play a stronger role is in conveying the benefits of the solutions available to support easier integration and management of a growing mobile workplace.

The management of multiple operating system also remains a key or moderate challenge for half of the IT decision makers interviewed, with U.K. companies emerging as less concerned and more open to additional operating systems than their French or German counterparts, according to IDC.