We wrote this particular blog that you can find below, before the Touchpad fell victim to HP pulling out of the tablet markets due to lack of interest and before the Samsung Galaxy Tab was permanently banned from sale in Germany due to a patent infringement brought by Apple.
This was a blog about whether the tablet can be useful in a business context and go beyond the consumer market which most of these devices are primarily aimed at. In this sense that content is still relevant.
We also talked about where we feel the tablet market is headed. This is what we wrote originally:
With the market already crowded, we predict that many of the other tablets will ultimately fail and only those vendors with deep pockets such as BlackBerry (PlayBook), HP (TouchPad) and Samsung (Galaxy) will survive the fallout.
The HP TouchPad is an interesting looking device running webOS, acquired from Palm and looking a lot slicker than the current Android and Windows offerings. Unfortunately, much like the PlayBook, it suffers from a distinct lack of apps on its store which could hinder its initial sales. We will hopefully review this device at a future date when it should have more applications available.
In hindsight we were right about many of the pretenders to the Apple throne falling by the wayside. However, we were slightly optimistic in predicting the staying power of the major vendor’s offerings. The Touchpad, aside from a £99 price tag attracting an artificial and temporary rise in demand is dead. The Galaxy Tab will suffer from the patent disputes and will likely end up the same way as will many other IPad copycats.
This leaves the Playbook as the most prolific contender. We have provided our first review of this device below as was previously written. We do not think much has changed.
Is the IPad for work or rest and what about the playbook?
Over the last few years tablets have taken the consumer market by storm, driven and dominated by the two IPad models that have created a new computing category and forced all of the major suppliers into releasing products themselves.
The question is are they useful from a business perspective and are they a viable alternative to laptops/ desktops? This is a question we will try and answer in this blog.
Within the company we have a few IPad’s and have played around with the PlayBook (pun intended). We cannot comment on other devices currently available but it’s safe to say these two are the models (along with the HP TouchPad) currently garnering the most interest in the business community.
Let’s get the hype out of the way first
There is a danger that the optimistic analyst estimates for the tablet market are unrealistic, in much the same way as the nascent Cloud Computing model, which has been blown out of all proportion.
Already we are seeing companies such as IDC announce the category as being weaker than all the hype suggests off the back of a sequential drop of 28% in the three months to 31st March.
Don’t get us wrong, at CNC we believe there is a place for tablets in the business market but, like all of the technologies we recommend and sell, an element of caution is required before you jump ship from the tried and tested such as your pc’s and laptops.
The Contenders verses the Also-Rans
The Ipad is the clear leader in the tablet market and other vendors are going to struggle to get anywhere close. With 425,000 apps on the App Store Apple has a massive head start on the chasing pack.
In our opinion many of those who have entered the fray have done so with incomplete products that lack the complete solution that is the IPad. The Apple device just feels slicker and of a higher quality when compared to the pretenders to its crown.
For now let’s go over our initial impressions of the IPad and PlayBook:
- The primary use of the IPad is as a complementary tool in our sales and marketing. They are ideal devices for small face to face meetings where you are perhaps used to lugging over reams of reports and documents for reviewing and discussion.
- A file or presentation viewed on the clear and sufficiently large IPad screen has a clarity and elegance that beats a paper print out. If you are in a dynamic industry, it’s likely that you will now see representatives from your customers, suppliers, partners and competitors pulling out IPad’s rather than binders.
- What a tablet doesn’t do well is frequent typing and editing of documents. If you produce a lot of Word, Excel, PowerPoint files you will still need your laptop or PC to comfortably get the job done. If you try using your tablet for this you will quickly become frustrated with the touchscreen and long for the return of your traditional keyboard and Mouse.
- The IPad is also great for viewing emails and calendars and can synchronise with Microsoft Exchange if you have this set-up. Although the same principle applies as above, typing e-mails on the go is a lot easier than tapping away on your phone.
- It does not support Flash which means a lot of websites do not display as intended, however the increasing proliferation of apps for the most popular sites along with newer sites using IPad compatible technologies such as HTML5 means that this is becoming less of an issue.
- It’s an obvious extension of the Blackberry phone, with no 3G option it is designed to pair with a mobile. If you have a Blackberry you will feel comfortable with the interface and functionality.
- If you don’t have a Blackberry phone there is no way to manage your emails, calendar or Playbook so therefore this tablet is probably not for you at this stage.
- The screen is smaller than the IPad, we use our tablets for reviewing documents with our customers and we feel the playbook is just too small for this purpose. It is more of a personal productivity device.
- The apps unlike the IPad, there is currently a limited supply of apps available for the PlayBook and this includes business tools such as Citrix Reader.
- It can play Flash which the IPad does not do. However, many websites are not yet optimised for tablets so this brings with it a number of other issues including performance and security implications and battery life.
- It can do true multitasking which, unlike the IPad, keeps an app running when you switch to another.
Are tablets right for my business?
- Tablets should not be seen as a replacement for laptops or PC’s.
- If you are referencing and sharing documents, a tablet (especially the IPad) is a great replacement for paper documents.
- For any tablet, security will not be as tight as it will with a windows based device, you cannot control what the user does to the extent you can with their laptop/pc so be prepared for higher management and support costs.
- Tablet users will be exposed to a lot of cloud services such as DropBox and this could lead to your company files being stored in these providers data centres for access by the tablets rather than on your local server, so be aware of the implications of this from a privacy and security point of view.
If so, which One?
- If your company has Blackberry users the PlayBook is essentially an extension of the phone, provided you can look past the minimal apps available, this could be the tablet for you.
- If you do not have Blackberry users in your company you should stay away from the Blackberry until suitable apps for email and calendars become available.
- If you have specific user needs for productivity, collaboration or user specific tools such as SalesForce you are much more likely to find tablet based applications for these on the Apple App Store.
The smaller screen coupled with the threadbare assortment of apps available means we cannot currently recommend the PlayBook above the IPad as a viable business tool with the exception of Blackberry Phone users who may appreciate the tight integration and familiarity between the two devices.
There is more to follow
In a future blog we will explore some of the IPad apps we have found useful from a business perspective here at CNC. These include:
Apps that allow you to use Microsoft Office and other apps straight from your IPad.
Apps that allow you access the file structure of your server and view and edit these files.
Apps for word processing, spread sheets etc.
Apps that allow you to store, share and collaborate on your documents in the cloud.