I had a chance to play around with the new BlackBerry PlayBook tablet from RIM. My first impressions were that, although it didn’t seem impressive with its form factor size being smaller compared to the iPad and others, it did have the potential of tapping into the professional market. A host of tablets being released are centred around the leisurely activities of consumers -their entertainment needs. The BlackBerry PlayBook appeals to the the professional business field where office tasks take priority.
RIM has kept the PlayBook at a price range slightly lower than the iPad, $499 CDN. Given its petite size, I was given to the thought that RIM had to compromise between size and cost. They, in my opinion, chose to reduce the cost over having a larger form factor size. As for the user interface, it didn’t seem all that impressive to me. It lacks set-top buttons, which is a good thing, but the inefficient scroll of the finger from down to up across the screen is meant to be similar to the home button of the iPad where one exits the present application. This didn’t appeal to me at all. I prefer a simple one touch restore of the previous application.
Bottom-line: If you’re a BlackBerry fan, this is the tablet for you. It offers a robust business experience meant for the professional at a reasonable cost. If you prefer a larger form factor size and a more engaging user interface, this probably isn’t the right tablet PC for you.
With the decline of first quarter PC sales in 2011, tablet PCs are becoming the new primary computing device. A recent survey conducted suggested that around 25% of computer users now use their tablet as their main device for checking email and surfing the Internet. So is it likely that the tablet PC will replace the good old desktop computer? Well, let’s have a look.
Neither a Laptop Nor a Smartphone
By far, the most popular tablet is the iPad. The price and software options make it the front runner of all tablets. That’s not to say that other tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab or the Blackberry PlayBook aren’t worthwhile. I’m sure they have certain advantages, but Apple has really seemed to have knocked their device in this category off the playing field. In the past, laptops seemed like the right solution to a portable PC. Desktops were just that, they were meant to stay on top of your desktop, whereas laptops provided the student, the travelling business man, and the IT pro desktop mobility. Laptops now out-perform lower end desktops, and with that power comes a lot of heat being generated by the hardware. Some thought that the hot bottom surface of the laptop disqualified it from being called a “laptop” as it could not be comfortably placed on one’s lap. Hence, the secondary classification called notebooks. But laptops weren’t really notebooks either. They were heavy and had a screen that popped up and blocked your view of the meeting or the class lecture. Another solution proposed: netbooks. Small, light, and exactly what we need? Not really. They too were hard to use as the keyboard was typically small and during typing the hand would hit the mouse pad and mess up everything.
Here in comes the perfect in-between: the tablet. It’s actually way lighter and has the basic functionality of a laptop and a smartphone combined. The touch interface actually solves a lot. No need for a popup screen that blocks the view. An iPad can use its smartcover to prop it up so that one can write using the touchscreen (something one needs to get used to) and it doesn’t block the view.
Functionality and Use
The tablet seems to be the true notebook as its physical form resembles that of a real notebook. Like a paper pad or portfolio, it is easy to carry around from office to office or from class to class. The essential use of a tablet for a home user would probably come under using it as a casual email checking device or quick web browsing. Its ecosystem would probably entail a kitchen, living room, family room, and bedroom. Tablets are good for e-reading as well, so a quick check of the newspaper in the kitchen or a silent read in backyard would be one of its uses. That may not seem like much, but keep in mind that a tablet is an instant-on device. There’s no boot up time like a laptop or a desktop PC. So the quick access allows users in the home to not be hindered by a delay in turning it on. Tablets can also be used for viewing photo albums. Although media players and HTPCs allow the viewing of pictures on a TV, the feel and experience of a looking at high resolution pictures on a tablet is quite reassuring, kind of like flipping through a real photo album.
There are a host of business apps that allows creation from AutoCad to tracking statistics of sales and profit on the device. I believe development will yield better functionality and use in the coming years as tablets progress from their infancy to a wider range of implementations. I am setting forth a note taking process for my IT consulting business. My handwritten notes will be taken on my iPad and I will sync them with Google Apps. Here, I’m involving a digital process of record keeping and utilizing the Cloud at the same time. EMR systems are allowing doctors to take their notes on a tablet device and sync it with their server database as well as online Cloud storage. The flexibility of tablets is huge.
Future of Tablets
The prospects of tablet PCs seems to be bright. From the medical field to academics to professional business use, tablets will set a new paradigm in human interaction with technology. Tablets did make an early appearance in the year 2001, but they didn’t cook up a stir due to Microsoft’s lack of user interface cohesion. This rebirth, incited by Apple, seems to be more promising.
The iPad marked a new chapter in computing when it debuted in 2010. Selling millions, it spurred a new species of computer technology, tablets, and quickly made its presence known in the IT world. This past week, the iPad 2 was announced by the tablet bearer himself, Steve Jobs, in which he stated that 2011 would be the year of the iPad 2. What does that actually mean and how does it translate for business productivity for small to medium businesses? Let’s take a look at how the iPad can be used for business needs.
Aside from the usual software like Safari, Contacts, Mail, etc. The iPad does offer realistic solutions for the SMB block. First off, the iPad integrates with Microsoft Exchange as well as Lotus Dominoes and other standards-based messaging systems to allow mail to be connected with your company’s mail server. It supports most of the common VPN protocols so that you can connect it, through the Internet, to your company’s network.
To fit into your specific business needs, you would have to have an app well designed for it. But there are “generic” apps for any business. For example, if your business is focused on material production, AutoCAD WS allows you to view, edit and share 3D CAD files. This can translate to you showing your design schemes of your products that you have designed for the customer, in a dexterous and interactive way. The modification of these files and the ability to change 3D perspectives can really add to the “sell” of the product. This can be typically handy if you’re in a meeting and need to share your diagrams with your clients. The iPad 2 can be coupled with a separately sold connector allowing you to share your screen and your AutoCAD designs to a projector or screen VIA an HDMI connection, thereby giving the meeting room a visually tangible side. The iPad’s sleek design is sure to wow your clients or customers and can pay your company’s reputation a good dividend let alone the presentation power it holds.
AutoCAD for iPad
If you need to keep track of your product, MicroStrategy is an app that produces visual reports and graphs of your most important business metrics, such as product profits and sales.
The form factor is also to take note of. Being a tablet it is essentially a flat touch screen without a physical keyboard of any sort. When needed the keyboard comes on the screen and you are able to touch the keys on the screen to give your input. The sleek design makes any owner look savvy, but looks aside the weight of being just 1.5 pounds makes it easy to carry. The new iPad 2 comes with a special cover that doubles as a back rest to allow you to use it on a desk. So in terms of being a laptop replacement, the iPad does offer that flexibility.
For IT specific needs, something I would love to have, are apps like Wyse PocketCloud. It allows you to RDP into your computer and performs remote operations. There are other remote apps like iSSH that allows SSH, Telnet, and Terminal connections.
Apple has a division that not many people know about that can aid businesses with their needs in terms of Apple’s service. It is called Joint Venture and is specifically designed for SMBs and how Apple’s products can better help them with their business. Furthermore, the iPad’s ubiquity gives it the potential to have many more business apps in the future. I don’t see how the iPad won’t touch upon most areas of business, given its growth rate. Apps aren’t cheap to design specifically for your company, but rest assured that the creative potential of the iPad and the geniuses at work in Apple can make any business utility come to reality.