7 Questions to Consider Before Investing in Tablets for Business
Small-business owners prefer tablets over laptops — at least that’s what a recent survey from The Small Business Authority tells us. But are they right for every company?
Based on over a dozen recent articles, white papers, and industry research reports, we’ve compiled a list of key questions for IT managers and others to consider when deciding to invest in tablets.
What’s More Important: Mobility or Functionality?
Think about mobility vs. functionality, and how much do your employees need of either one. Are they always on the go and mainly need just email and PowerPoint? Or do they need more complicated programs and a large screen to view them in? Most tablets fall into either the 10-inch range, such as Apple’s iPad, or the 7-inch category, like Google’s Nexus 7 tablet. This makes tablets easier to carry around than most laptops, but not as adept for working with complex programs, or viewing and displaying things.
What Tablet Apps Are Best Suited for Your Business Goals?
While mobile operating systems are constantly evolving, they’re not quite as feature-packed — yet — as a full laptop. As a recent Gartner study indicated in its “Top 10 Commercial Business Applications for Tablet Devices,” you should review which apps your employees use and need most.
There’s a wealth of choice among tablet operating systems: Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android mobile operating system, BlackBerry’s OS (soon to be BlackBerry 10 in early 2013), Windows 7 (soon to be Windows 8 in October), and more. Any of these could be great choices for business, but it’s important to note that the iPad and Android-powered tablets are the two head honchos in the tablet game today, meaning that developers tend to create more apps for these platforms because they reach greater audiences.
Are They Battle-Tested for the Job?
Many software programs have an app version. For instance, both iOS and Android offer Microsoft Office Web apps through an application called CloudOn, where users can use Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on the run. The new Windows 8 tablets will likely have an even better version of Office available as an app.
There are also other great business apps that the enterprise can use, such as BoardVantage, a collaboration app for boards of directors, and Cisco WebEx, which allows iOS users to access a Web conference from their iPad. Sometimes native apps can be handier than their Web or software version — and some programs are only available as apps.
But using app versions on a tablet versus the full software versions on a laptop can be like night and day. Take the CloudOn app, for example. Sure, you can create, edit, and save/send documents, but the options are far more vast on a full version provided by laptop computers. If all you need is to create quick documents, spreadsheets or presentations, and feel comfortable doing so on a small touchscreen, then by all means, go the tablet route. But if you need to create complex graphics or multimedia, the computer is probably still the way to go.
Will Tablets Adequately Support Storage Needs?
Storage capacity figures heavily into deciding if tablets are right for your business. Laptops typically have greater storage capacity and processing power to handle multi-tasking. Tablets, being smaller and thinner devices, lack removable storage. But tablets have some advantages that get around the problem: Several Windows and Android-powered tablets let users transfer data from a USB hard drive while the iPad allows data transfers to cloud-based storage services.
What Peripherals Will Accelerate User Adoption?
Typing or navigating on certain business apps via tablet can be difficult without a keyboard, mouse, or larger screen. Many useful tablet accessories try to address this. If cost is your main reason for turning to a tablet, remember to add in the expense of accessories — in some cases the total cost will be the same, if not more, than a laptop or desktop computer. But if mobility is your driving force, the tablet, naturally, is the way to go.
Can Tablets Deliver the Right Level of Network Connectivity?
Tablets are supposed to be spiffy, quick, and on-the-go. But hold on… All tablets offer Wi-Fi connectivity, but not all offer 802.11a— the bandwidth typically employed in a large office setting. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 is one that does provide 802.11a. Be sure to check bandwidth if connectivity speed is a priority.
Are You Jumping In for the Right Reasons?
For whom is the tablet best suited? As hardware and software features for tablets evolve, they are more likely to find a place in the enterprise. But a Gartner study that focuses on tablets in the enterprise makes a good point: Most tablets today are still media tablets, but with growing business applications.
If you have to switch between multiple programs or work in a design-heavy field, strictly using a tablet is probably not ideal, as larger screens and full-feature software programs are crucial. But if you’re regularly on the go and are in need of making presentations for customers in a field like sales, a tablet would be a suitable alternative to a clunky laptop.
Read The Small Business Authority study here: Survey Depicts Rising Popularity of Tablet Use in Small Business Community.
Read the Forbes article here: Tablets Will Take Over Sooner Than You Think: Five Telling Trends.
Read the Gartner Study here: iPad and Beyond: The Media Tablet in Business.
Image via Staples.