There is a craze right now in the business technology world to go tablet. Tablets for Desktop replacement, tablets for manufacturing, tablets for embedded… Tablet computing has become synonymous with the future.
At Logic Supply, we’re seeing tablets used in some really amazing ways and interesting places. But is it proliferation for proliferation’s sake? Do tablets always make sense? Certainly they do in some situations, but when do they not? I wanted to take a moment and look at the times when tablets might not be the right choice and ask a few questions you might consider as well.
Do you need a keyboard?
Right out the gate this the oldest complaint about tablets. If you are using a tablet for viewing and limited input, they excel. If you are doing dedicated data entry or writing, the tablet is inferior, especially in terms of Words Per Minute (WPM). While it can vary, generally efficiency is decreased by about a third. In other words, if your WPM is 60 on a keyboard, it’s likely you are getting 40 WPM on a tablet. Peripherals can mitigate this, but then the advantages of mobility are lost. There is a really interesting usability study here, if you want to know more.
What do you need for Inputs and Outputs (I/O)?
Tablet’s mobility and form-factor often works against them in terms of inputs and outputs. Some have only the proprietary input, others have a single USB or SD port. However, what happens when you need more or different ports? Bluetooth and wireless I/O is becoming more prevalent, but on a regular basis manufacturing peripherals require specific ports, like COM or serial, that you will just not find on a tablet. There was a Logic Supply project recently where a standard 10 USB ports was required, and a tablet just would not cut it.
Are you still using Optical Drives?
There has been a move to kill the optical drive, but it remains interestingly resilient. The DVD and CD as a medium hold on and tablets are just not great at handling them. There are a handful of expensive DVD drives for Android tablets, but then it’s back to the mobility impairment of peripherals.
Will you immobilize your ‘mobile device’?
Mobility, the great strength of the tablet, runs headlong into the walls of loss mitigation. Interestingly a number of solutions have arisen, hardened cases for tablets which lock them into place to protect them from damage or walking away… but then what is the benefit of the tablet? If you are going to the trouble and expense of locking a tablet in place, is it really the right choice? There was a situation we came across where a client had enclosed a tablet in a steel frame, which was in turn bolted to the desk, all because they had lost 2 previous tablets to theft.
How much Screen do you need?
What you are looking at is a really good indicator of if you are using the right device. If you are tracking spreadsheets, working in an ERP, or the like, screen size can be your friend or your enemy. In an environment where your need to reference things quickly and on the go, you can’t beat a tablet. In fact, doctors are a great use case, logging prescriptions and taking notes about a patient on the fly. However, when the doctor needs to log reports or consult with other doctors on x-rays, is the small screen of a tablet the right choice?
What does using a Tablet say?
We’ve seen a number of smaller shops using consumer tablets as POS machines, visitor check-in devices, and digital signage devices — the latter involved velcro — to good, bad and indifferent effect. The price point, application ecosystem and ease of use makes the tablet an ideal entry level device, but it’s important to think about the ramifications. How does it effect your company appearance to use a tablet? In some cases it can be a hip choice, in others it’s disconcerting to see a professional using the same product as what’s for sale at the nearest big box store.
What do you do when you hit it big?
The goal of every company is to grow, but how that effects the technology we choose is important to consider. Is buying a new tablet when you expand sustainable or at a certain point is a custom, or specific, appliance a better option? It’s worth looking at your use and thinking about how it scales up.
The Final Question
At the end of the day, it’s not a question of “Are tablets good or bad?”, it’s “Are they the right tool for the job?” Step back and look at your environment and decide if a mobile tablet solution is the right choice. It the answer is yes, that is great. If the answer is maybe or no, consider not shoehorning tablets as a solution.