Why Tablets Are Finally Easy to Swallow
Tablet computers are by no means new: scientists have been tinkering with them for more than half a century, while commercial versions have been available for more than two decades. But companies both large and small have been unable to make a success of this form factor. Blame the technology - stylus-based data entry, dearth of tablet-enabled applications and slow hardware - as well as the scant awareness of the possibilities of mobile computing.
Even the rebirth of tablets several years ago as Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) wasn’t embraced, due to slow connectivity and a lack of applications. Today, however, with the wide adoption of smartphones in both the workplace and general life, the world has welcomed - and, in fact, demands - mobile connectivity and computing. The return of the tablet PC as a device using a true mobile operating system (iOS, Android, webOS and so on) is catalyzing the second wave of growth in enterprise mobility. This adoption is already occurring, as users discover the merits of a tablet over the smartphone as a productivity tool.
Here are five reasons why.
Tablets are the most effective mobile form factor
Tablets - by design - strike the balance between the usability of a laptop, and the portability of a smartphone. While mobile operating systems continue to improve, their power will always remain partly untapped on a 3- to 4-inch screen. The additional real estate provided by a 7- to 10-inch tablet screen ensures that applications run well, workers are productive and computer bag straps never snap.
Tablets will finally bring to life the dream of mobile unified communications
Unified communications (UC) is another technology that has been around for some time, but which has only recently made market inroads. Small tablets will be able to integrate into a desk phone and provide a vibrant virtual keypad when docked.When fully mobile, the tablet, with its high-definition screen, will allow mobile telepresence through its built-in webcam. UC is about more than videoconferencing; it’s about collaboration. As software and networks catch up to tablets, we’ll soon be able to talk to colleagues, while editing the same document - something impractical on smaller smartphones.
Tablets improve employee efficiency and customer satisfaction in new ways
Laptops and smartphones have started to mobilise industries such as healthcare and hospitality, as well as verticals where field work is common. But tablets bring unprecedented power, ease and style. With a tablet, a physician can look up patient medical records while making rounds, improving quality of care. In a hotel, tablet wielding concierges can register guests for events or dinner reservations, increasing revenues and customer satisfaction. Field service technicians can see their next appointments and pull up technical documents while performing a repair, minimising the number of visits required to complete a service ticket. In all of these cases, operational efficiency increases, as does customer satisfaction.
Tablets remove the need for the stylus
Today’s smartphone touchscreen excels in many areas, but precision data entry is not one of them. Filling out intricate forms remains easier with a stylus, especially in dusty, dirty environments. But in non-extreme environments, touch-based tablets are large enough that fingers become a sort of “organic stylus.” Seemingly trivial at face value, this capability enables tablets to offer an attractive middle ground between touch-based smartphones and stylus-based devices.
Tablets make the mobile internet bidirectional
Smartphones have certainly been revolutionary, but they still, by and large, provide only a means to consume information from the internet. The tablet’s larger size and precision mean that workers will be more willing to create content on their mobile devices. Emails will go from being short responses to more substantive correspondence, with attached documents created on the tablet. Individuals will also be more adept at entering information into a corporate application - such as a customer relationship management (CRM) application, enterprise resource planning (ERP) system or human resources (HR)-oriented time-and-expense application - using a tablet. Making it easy for employees to move data to and from their tablet is something the smartphone lacks. This added dimension of a tablet will increase the business velocity of the mobilised workplace.
Tablets, mobile internet devices, slates, slabs: whatever we call them, this generation of tablet computers has finally been accepted as a credible and viable solution for the mobile application paradigm in the enterprise. This acceptance, combined with virtually ubiquitous wireless wide area network (WAN) and local area network (LAN) coverage, and the recognition that mobile enterprise applications can provide an increasing value to employees and organisations, suggests that tablets will drive forthcoming trends in enterprise mobile computing.
Philippe Winthrop is founder and managing director of The Enterprise Mobility Foundation, the organisation behind The Enterprise Mobility Forum. The forum is the fastest growing social network and content portal exclusively dedicated to enterprise mobility