Time moves quickly in technology, and nowhere more so than in mobile devices. Five years ago, it was all BlackBerry, all the time. How things change. Not only do Apple and Google-based phones dominate the marketplace, but an entirely new mobile device has appeared: the tablet. Which tablet device will help your business be most productive?
In tablets, the overwhelming market leader is, as you are almost certainly aware, Apple's iPad. Quite simply, this ultraportable computer has put an Apple product into the hands of millions of employees for the first time. An iPad is less capable than a laptop, but it's lighter, its battery lasts longer, and it has much lower maintenance and training costs for a business. It's always connected, putting email and web never more than a finger's reach away, and basic productivity and industry-specific apps are available.
Pros: Biggest screen (so far). Well supported. Number of apps available. Easy sync if you’re using a Mac.
Cons: Most expensive (so far). Larger and heavier.
Google and Microsoft are not sitting idly by, however, happy to concede the fledgling market to Apple. While Android-based tablets made by Samsung, Motorola, and others have had little impact thus far, Google themselves have recently introduced their own, the Nexus 7, at a price point of less than half the iPad's. It's a much smaller device—a 7-inch screen as opposed to the iPad's 10-inch screen, with both the advantages and disadvantages that might suggest: more portable, less real estate. While the Nexus 7 is geared towards consumers—it doesn't offer built in cellular service, for example—it will get a lot of the same kind of business tasks done that an iPad will, and it seems likely that this is only Google's first salvo.
Pros: Price. More customizable. Smaller size.
Cons: Smaller screen. Not always on the internet (it has no 3G).
Meanwhile, Microsoft, which has been trying to gain a toehold on any slice of the portable device market for more than a decade, is still trying. Its imminent Windows 8 operating system is designed to be part of a new ecosystem of PCs, tablets and phones, offering a consistent experience across all business devices, yielding greater integration and productivity. Or so Microsoft hopes. To aid with this, Microsoft will be introducing a tablet of its own, the Surface, in late October. There will be multiple models, with pricing yet to be announced. In addition, many traditional PC manufacturers, such as Lenovo and Acer, will be entering the market with Windows 8 based tablets of their own.
Pros: Should be more integrated with your PC. Top of the line model may offer full computer capabilities.
Cons: A lot of apps may not be available initially.
Tablets offer business owners and employees great flexibility and connectedness, as well as low post-purchase costs. The iPad is, for the moment, the biggest game in town, and at this point it's a mature, high-quality, well-understood, well-supported platform that exists in a broad ecosystem of apps. Google's Nexus 7 presents a cheaper alternative with its own substantial app library, and Windows-based tablets will be well poised for integration with desktop computers given Microsoft's long history in the enterprise. If you are thinking about purchasing a tablet for yourself or your staff, there's much to consider.
Ivan Drucker and Caroline Green are the principals of IvanExpert, Inc., a Mac-focused technology consulting firm. IvanExpert advises small businesses in the New York City area on how to leverage their tech to be more efficient and productive. They can be reached at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.