Tablets still miss the mark for business

Tablets have some maturing to do in order to deliver on their promise as mobile computing platforms for business.

With the impending launch of the Samsung Galaxy Tab, Android will finally have a tablet worthy of competing against the Apple iPad. Both camps will fight vigorously in support of their respective tablet platforms, but the reality is that tablets in general have some maturing to do in order to evolve from a niche extravagance to a mainstream mobile business tool.

Don't get me wrong, I have used my iPad in place of a netbook or notebook for a wide variety of functions since it launched. I can get and send e-mail, surf the Web, instant message, participate in online conference sessions, stay engaged with my social networks, keep track of my calendar, and create content. In truth, there are very few things that I need to do with a mobile computing device that can't be done on the iPad.

The Galaxy Tab has many of the features and functions missing from the iPad--front and rear facing cameras, wireless phone capabilities, support for Adobe Flash, true multitasking, and an SD memory card slot. Even so, the Android tablet won't deliver all that businesses need from a mobile computing platform, either.

There are third-party apps and tools that fill the gaps and enable either platform to perform adequately. As I stated above, I already perform a wide variety of business functions from my iPad, and I can conceivably use it as a notebook replacement if necessary. However, there are still enough hurdles to make some tasks frustrating and make me wish I had my laptop.

Tablet vendors should not make the mistake of trying to make the tablet into something it's not, though. The tablet is not a netbook. It is more (or less depending on your perspective) than just a standard mobile computer converted to a flat-panel touchscreen form factor.

What Apple, Samsung, and other tablet manufacturers need to do, though, is to examine how mobile workers use netbooks and notebooks. There will always be some minority group of developers, engineers, or others who truly need a full desktop OS and the software and tools it comes with, but the vast majority of mobile business computing boils down to a few critical tasks and tablets need to be able to perform those few tasks simply and intuitively.

To be effective mobile computing platforms for business, tablets need to have tools to enable them to share internal network resources and file servers remotely from wherever the user may be. Users also need to be able to connect with database servers, CRM, and other systems that are essential to doing business for many companies.

More importantly, to be accepted as a mainstream mobile computing platform for business, the administrative tools need to mature. IT admins need to be able to monitor and protect tablets within their environment, remotely deploy apps, and push out updates. For compliance purposes, IT admins need to ensure that effective data protection security controls exist on the tablets, and have the ability to monitor and log business-related communications.

The iPad has paved the way for tablets in general, and the impending array of options will drive competition and challenge each platform to be more innovative and deliver more with future models. It may not be too long before the tablet replaces the notebook and netbook as the de facto mobile computing platform.

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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