As the bridge between mobile devices and laptops, tablet PCs offer a range of functionality for business users. But the market is relatively new and can be confusing. Does your business need tablet PCs, or should you stick to more conventional products.
What are tablet PCs?
Tablet PCs were historically laptops with swivelling screens, which could be folded back onto the keyboard and used as a touchscreen. These did not achieve widespread popularity in consumer or business markets. The current wave of tablet PCs are slim and fast, while lightweight and easy to transport. The software is designed specifically for the hardware and for touchscreen interaction, resulting in a smooth user experience. A range of specialised software, designed to run quickly on the tablet PC’s operating system, allow tablet users to perform many tasks.
How does a tablet PC differ from a laptop?
Tablet PCs bridge the gap between laptops and mobile devices, so they tend to offer many of the benefits of laptops without the drawbacks. Their specialised operating systems result in quicker start-up times, and their battery life is significantly better than that of even the most economical laptops. Generally they allow similar tasks to be carried out including word processing, note taking and audio/video playback.
Of course, their convenience comes with a price; the operating system is often unable to run the latest software and games, and the lack of a keyboard and mouse may frustrate some users. Tablet PCs are also unable to make phone calls natively, although some specialised applications allow voice calls to be made over a Wi-Fi connection.
How can businesses benefit from tablet PCs?
The mobility afforded by tablet PCs mean they are useful business devices, particularly for executives who travel regularly. The sheer number of software applications available (known as apps, see below) make them hugely functional devices that can create efficiencies in a wide range of business contexts. Their shape also allows them to ‘lie flat’ making them ideal for using in a diverse range of environments including on your lap, meeting room table or plane tray.
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What are the disadvantages of tablet PCs in business?
Complex software, such as image manipulation software, requires more processing power than a tablet PC can provide. The lack of an attached keyboard – despite the on-screen keyboard – can slow down data entry. Tablet PCs also have far smaller screens than laptops, which may cause eyestrain when used for longer periods of time. There may also be security considerations – network administrators may find it harder to lock down and secure tablet PCs than laptops.
Tablet PCs and cloud computing
As cloud computing – or the ability to store data on, and deliver software services via, the internet – becomes more widespread, tablet PCs may well become essential business devices. There are already applications available that allow users to access work computers via their tablet PC, making mobile working a much smoother experience. Online storage accounts can also be easily accessed via tablet PCs, giving users access to potentially large amounts of important data from the palm of their hand. Please see our beginner’s guide to cloud computing for more information on the topic.
Applications – commonly known as ‘apps’ – are one of the tablet market’s biggest selling point. These are customised pieces of software, generally low-cost or free, that offer specialised functionality. Apps fit into a range of categories including communication (instant messaging, email, video calls), utilities (teleprompter, digital alarm clock), and corporate (note-taking, conference calling). Apps are one of the main selling points of tablet PCs, particularly the Apple iPad and those running on Google’s Android system, both of which have thousands available.