by October 10, 2011 0 comments

After the stupendous success of Apple iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab, just about every vendor has been busy bringing out their own tablets in the market. In fact, tablet mania is at an all time high now, so much so that several new tablets were launched just as we were sending this issue to press! So tablets are definitely here to stay. They are a great personal companion for social networking, reading books, watching videos, email, music, and so on. These however, are not features that would appeal to organizations, bringing us to the question of the relevance of tablets for corporate customers. Since tablet is a mobile device, the question of whether to go for one, and finally, deciding upon the right one, can be answered by comparing them against the other two hot mobile devices in the market-notebooks and netbooks.

Tablet or netbook?

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Netbooks were a great companion to laptops when they were launched. Given their cheap, compact, and lightweight design, they were good for doing basic productivity work on the move, like email, spreadsheets, word processing, etc. Netbooks are still a great companion, but it’s the tablets that have caught the fancy of senior management in organizations. They can do most of the tasks that a netbook can do, and more. In fact, nowadays, tablets are building in functionality that would help integrate them into the corporate environment faster, like integration with popular mail servers, VPN client to access the office network remotely, and so on.

There would still be people who would prefer a netbook to a tablet, like those who can’t live without the keyboard, touchpad, and plenty of disk space. Sure you can buy a separate keyboard for a tablet, but then that’s another additional accessory to lug around, whereas it’s already a part of the netbook.

Can tablets replace notebooks?

Not really, because tablets are not really meant for heavy productivity or content creation workloads, which is something that laptops can do very well. Because of their touch interface, it does not make much sense to use tablets where heavy typing work is involved. Being extremely portable, tablets are more suitable for content access/consumption type of work. So their worthiness as a replacement for notebooks is doubtful.

Multitasking for instance, is one major area where the laptops and netbooks score above tablets. You can do multi-tasking on tablets, but it doesn’t work as smoothly.

So the bottomline is that tablets can be a great supplement to notebooks, but it can’t replace them. Tablets are great companions on the road where you need to quickly check and respond to your mail, read an important document, surf the net to look up some important info, etc. Plus of course, if you want to do other things as per your personal taste, like read a book, play Angry Birds, listen to music, and so on. Tablets today act as part-professional, part-personal devices.

Points to consider before buying a tablet

The OS: Currently, there’s a hot battle raging between Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, with others like BlackBerry OS, and Microsoft’s Windows 7 Mobile OS just entering the race. The important thing to remember here is that unlike desktops, notebooks, and netbooks, you can’t change your OS on a tablet. If you buy Apple’s iPad, you’ll be stuck with iOS, and likewise for others. So do your research properly on the capabilities of an OS before zeroing in on a tablet based on it.

OS is also important if you plan to have your own custom application designed for the tablet. For that, you’ll need sufficient skilled developers available who can do the work for you.

iPad at Your Service!

How the Oberoi group of hotels is integrating iPads in its IT infrastructure.

The famous 70+ years old chain of hotels and resorts, which is well known for providing the right blend of service, luxury and efficiency is spearing ahead in the effective usage of technology as well. We interacted with the Corporate Manager IT Infrastructure of the group, Ashish Khanna, to understand whether their IT had any space for the upcoming tablets, and we were not disappointed. The senior management at the Oberoi group uses iPads for pulling their mails and a few of the group’s sales people also use it for making presentations. Now, Khanna is also exploring the possibility of enhancing guest experience with the help of iPads.
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Interestingly, these devices weren’t formally introduced into the system, according to Khanna. “To be honest these devices are disruptive in nature and started proliferating automatically”, he said. People look at these devices primarily as a status symbol than first identifying the real need for them before buying.

A key reason why these devices have started proliferating in the corporate world is that Apple provides built-in support in the iPad to connect to all the major mail systems. This helps increase adoption because email is the first thing that every corporate executive requires when moving to any device. “We realized this need of senior management long back and integrated our mailing system with iPads in the first place”, said Khanna.

Being a chain of hotels, the group gets a lot of foreigner guests who bring such devices with them, and then expect support for them if they run into trouble. It therefore becomes a challenge to support these devices, especially at remote hotels, where the IT staff is not up-to-;date. “To overcome this challenge, we conduct training on these platforms remotely for our IT staff.”, said Ashish.

Moving ahead, the group is also seriously exploring the use of iPads for generating guest delight by deploying them in hotel rooms to control all in-room equipment, along with controlling IP TV, etc.

Applications: The whole beauty of a tablet is the fact that you can run so many applications on it. On last count, Apple’s App Store had over 300,000 available, which is the highest among all tablets. While quite a few of these have been exclusively developed for the iPad, most of the iPhone apps also run on iPad. For Android, there are only a couple of thousand apps for the latest edition of the OS (called Honeycomb, or Android v3.0), but still they cover all the main bases. Older Android apps also work on Honeycomb though and thus the Android tablet would have access to over 200,000 apps.

One more thing to keep in mind is that you might go for multiple tablets from different vendors in your organization. If you do that, check whether the apps you require are available for multiple platforms.

Screen size: The screen size should be balanced for portability and usability. For eg, a 5” tablet is too small to be considered as a tablet and at the same time a 12” tablet is not good for portability. So there should be a balance. As for screen resolution, the higher the better. Many tablets come with a resolution of 1280 x 800, which is same as most 14 or15” laptops

Touch screen: Tablets with resistive touch screen are not finger friendly and you’ll need a stylus for operating it properly. Tablets equipped with capacitive touch screens do better on this count. The new more important and useful feature is the multi-touch capability on the touch screen.

Processor: All tablets are based on ARM processor technology. Different companies have produced their own versions of the ARM chip design and many of them are now dual-core, like a lot of PC processors. Apple’s iPad 2 runs the Apple A5 chip, while Android tablets generally use Nvidia’s Tegra 2 processor.

Connectivity: All tablets support Wi-Fi so you can wirelessly connect them to your home network. However, many tablets also support 3G so you can put a mobile Internet-enabled SIM card into it and use the Internet while on the move. The 3G versions are generally more expensive and you would have to subscribe to a data plan.

Cameras: Many tablets these days have 2 cameras–regular and front facing. The purpose of the latter camera is for video-calling so you can use Skype or apps like Google Talk. The rear-camera can be used to take pictures or, as on mobile phones, video. Indeed, many tablet cameras are capable of taking 720p high definition video, so check that out if it’s important to you.

Storage: How much storage you require depends on what you want to use your tablet for. 16GB is more than enough for storing music and photos, but large applications and HD video require a lot more memory.

If you’re not going to store a lot of music or video, the smaller sizes will be fine. Storage expansion slots like microSD/microSDHC slots do go a long way in future proofing the tablet as far as storage is concerned.

Auxiliary connections: Many tablets can also connect to monitor displays and televisions via an HDMI cable. This is great if you have video content on your tablet that you can then play on the bigger screen. Some of the newer tabs like the Motorola Xoom have an HDMI out option.

The dimensions: You’re going to be holding your tablet for a long period of time (or in one hand) and hence the weight and thickness should be a consideration to keep in mind.

The next trend being observed is the introduction of convertible tablets. These are essentially netbooks which if required can be screen flip adjusted to form flat screen tablets. Some of these devices should be available for our next shootout.

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