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Choosing the right tablet for business

Posted on 18 Feb 2013 at 09:00

The tablets market is booming, but can these devices cut it in a business environment? Stuart Andrews looks at the pros and cons of each platform

Whether it’s the ongoing consumerisation of IT, or just companies looking for a more flexible approach, businesses are beginning to take tablets seriously.

IDC expects global tablet sales to hit 117.1 million this year, rising to a staggering 261.4 million units by 2015. Rival analyst Gartner expects business purchases of tablets to triple between now and 2016.

While nobody believes tablets will entirely replace laptops and PCs, most manufacturers and analysts now expect them to play a big part in enterprise IT.

If you have to manage a tablet device in your existing environment, then you want it to be as easy as possible

There are good reasons to join in. For roles in which mobility, flexibility and access to business data are more important than processing power or a large workspace, tablets are arguably the most convenient and usable device around. However, without the right rationale, planning and support, buying a fleet of them could be an expensive mistake.

The right device for the job

For Jamie Burgess, client solutions specialist for Microsoft, it’s vital that the decision to buy tablets is backed up by a real business-use case, so that companies "understand what the user is trying to do".

Some tasks can be managed with touchscreen devices and applications, while some are better suited to a laptop or even a desktop PC. Hybrid and convertible devices might seem to offer the best of both worlds, but if someone spends most of their day working on spreadsheets or setting up reports then a tablet makes little sense. Businesses should break down users into groups, and assess the potential benefits or otherwise for each group.

It may also be worth considering tablets as part of a wider shift in IT strategy. If you’re moving from on-premises solutions to a cloud- based approach, or from single-user desktop PCs to a more flexible, pooled-resource model, tablets could fit in. An iPad or Surface with Windows RT is no magic bullet, but it could be the right tool in the right circumstances.

iPad 4


Once you’ve decided who actually needs a tablet, the next question is how to manage them. "Manageability is one of the key things that IT managers have been concerned about in the past," says Adam Griffin, Dell’s global tablet product manager. "If you have to manage a tablet device in your existing environment, then you want it to be as easy as possible."

This is where the choice of tablet and operating system becomes crucial. "If you have a client infrastructure that’s based around Microsoft Windows and you bring in an Apple or Google tablet, then you have to manage that separately. The reasons why businesses have done so, even though it’s a slight inconvenience to them, come down to what they see as the productivity benefits."

The iPad has advantages here, in that iOS has become a key focus for Bring Your Own Device schemes, and Apple has worked hard to support management features in iOS andt OS X. The recent iOS 6 update supports S/MIME secure email, locked-down profiles and the ability to lock an iPad to a single app, plus a supervised mode, which gives administrators the power to change iOS device security and usage profiles over the air.

There’s much you can do with Apple’s free Configurator tool, provided there’s a Mac or OS X server in-house, and the OS also offers good support for VPNs and deployment of in-house apps through the Developer Enterprise Program. Smaller companies may get away with only Apple Configurator to manage a small fleet, although larger or more demanding enterprises will find a range of mobile device management (MDM) tools available.

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User comments

Remote Desktop

Some people at my workplace use their own iPads when they travel. As we are migrating to a hosted platform, they use an app called iTap which lets them connect via RDP to their hosted desktops and the network as a whole.

By james016 on 18 Feb 2013

Where's the playbook?

The playbook is the only tablet that was designed from the ground up to be used by (blackberry weilding) businessmen rather than the general public. Why was it not included?

By JamesD29 on 18 Feb 2013

Horses for courses

A pretty decent summary, but why drag RT into it?

Surface Pro is the 'Business Solution' RT is for consumers....

By wittgenfrog on 18 Feb 2013


That is certainly the case but people have and may innevitably buy the Surface RT anyway as a cheaper option as a BYOD etc and therefore can't potentially be ignored.

Agreed though...odd that Surface Pro was not even metioned!

By EagleHasLanded on 18 Feb 2013


I don't think Surface Pro is mentioned as it hasn't yet been released here in UK.

By Simon_FD on 18 Feb 2013


Point taken, but I'm inferring 'Business' to mean kit bought by the business FOR the business...

As for BYOD I can't imagine anyone would want to use their own kit at work, except to look flash :-)

Whilst its OK for presentations etc., try using your Departmental Budget Spreadsheet\Application on a 10" screen. I dare you.

By wittgenfrog on 18 Feb 2013


Point taken...if you can't get your hands on one it would be foolish to make a decision. Hopefully MS can get their act together and release it in the UK soon!

By EagleHasLanded on 18 Feb 2013


I am currently using a Samsung Series 7 Slate (XE700TA1), which was a Windows 7 tablet, which Microsoft then gave away at the developer conference with the W8 preview.

We bought it with W7 and upgraded...

It is fine as a tablet and I am currently using it as a desktop replacement. It comes with a dock, which has keyboard, mouse and 24" display attached to it.

On the move, in meetings etc. I use the tablet side, in the office, I use the large monitor for most things, with either a Metro app or Outlook on the internal display.

It works very nicely, even if the Series 7 is a bit chunky and heavy.

I'm certainly looking at this method of working as a permanent alternative.

By big_D on 19 Feb 2013

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