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There’s a lot of hype about tablets these days. Are they a viable option for business applications?  Yes. Tablets can be a great choice in many use cases due to their high portability, zero boot time and great user experience.  Special considerations for deployment include the amount of data entry, your ruggedized requirements and peripheral integration capabilities.

The short answer is yes. Tablets are quickly gaining popularity in the business setting because of their ease of use, portability, long battery life and instant access to business information. These computers typically sport excellent screens, built-in GPS chips, accelerometers, cameras and plentiful connectivity options — letting you create rich, intuitive applications that your users will love. Whether tablet computers are right for your project depends on several considerations:

The business process: Tablets are excellent for content consumption and light authoring applications, including sales force automation, field service, training and data capture. The devices’ light weight and boot-free operation make them great for quick inventory checks, product configurators and look-ups, dashboards and inspections.

The tablet form factor starts to break down in use cases that include heavy alpha-numeric data entry, although, arguably, most truly mobile devices aren’t made for content creation.

Your ruggedized requirements: Most tablets are consumer-oriented devices that aren’t meant for hard field use and can break easily. There are some aftermarket solutions available to mitigate this (hard and cushioned cases, screen protectors, etc.), but in general, today’s tablet PCs will have a lower life expectancy in demanding environments.  Rugged tablets that are available include the Motorola Solutions ET1 Enterprise Tablet and Panasonic Toughpad Family.

Peripheral integration requirements: As tablet PCs are a relatively new category in mobile computing, 3rd party vendors haven’t yet caught up with all the peripherals that you may require. You might be able to use the tablet’s built-in camera for some low-volume, close-distance barcode scanning, but you will have to resort to limited-availability Bluetooth peripherals for most of your other needs.

Overall, we have an extremely positive outlook on tablets as a form factor, and expect them to become more prevalent across a greater variety of enterprise mobile apps.

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  1. David Clavey

    Regarding “The tablet form factor starts to break down in use cases that include heavy alpha-numeric data entry”

    I think the The Microsoft Surface RT Tablet makes an interesting Hybrid with its detactable keyboard for medium alpha-numeric data entry. And its inclusion of the Office Apps. What more does the average Office worker need ?

    Mind you it does beg the question “What do I do with the keyboard when I’m not using it”.

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  2. Joe Granda Post author

    Very good point.  Windows 8 devices like Surface and Slate do offer a good keyboard alternative.  At that point they become small laptops. 

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    1. Joe Granda Post author

      Very simple.  We have not had requests for this form factor and platform for this app.  Typically in a supply chain environment, you want to integrate barcode scanner or rfid. That allows you to quickly handle your inventory.  So why not use the camera to handle the bar code scan?  It works fine at the grocery store to price compare.  However warehouse staff and technicians would quickly get frustrated with the camara scanning that would be extremely slow and difficult to manipulate.  Therefore, the devices typically used are fit for purposes devices that are either Windows or Android based…typically rugged.  Motorola and Intermec own this space from a device perspective.  For instance they have pistol grip devices that can easily scan. 

      With all that said, if we had enough demand we would make it available.

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