The use of tablets in business will skyrocket. And what makes this growth even more amazing is that we haven’t really seen the impact of tablets that are actually designed for commercial use! We have a bunch of consumer devices that have literally invaded the organization. Imagine what’s going to happen when we get tablets that are designed with commercial feature sets that actually appeal to managers and IT professionals.
One trend we have to consider prior to the device issues is who pays for them. The age of company provided tablets is dawning. This means that the focus on lowest possible price will be mitigated, and the focus will change to what is the right configuration and capabilities. Higher cost isn’t necessarily a problem. Yet, what many of us are interested in is how will the device’s features differ between the versions? There’s a lot to talk about on that front. And certainly many points of view as to what the “right” features are.
1. Ports & Connectivity
Let’s start with the need for ports and connectivity. Working in the enterprise, or even an SMB, puts the user in a connected world that demands more than just WiFi and 3G/4G solutions. And there are two sides of the connector discussion.
First there is communication links, and that still means Ethernet. While I’m a full proponent of a world without wires for connectivity, in many commercial situations, that Ethernet cable is important. This creates a connector size issue, as the RJ45 port is kind of tall. So a dock or dongle seems the best solution to me.
Second is the need for USB and other common connectors. I do believe that a true commercial tablet will have USB and Micro USB on the device itself, as the physical size is manageable. A corollary to this discussion is the need for true docks and other means of adding functionality. It’s more than a keyboard, its notebook style docks.
2. Security Features
The second important area of difference is the security features. A commercial device, based on the myriad statutes, compliance demands, audit requirements, and other legal issues has to have disk encryption, access control (ideally two factor authentication) that is more than a simple password, and integration with tools like Active Directory and Identity Management. As more companies look to use a combination of endpoint security software and identity driven service levels, it’s critical to leverage the existing infrastructure. The key buying question may come down to selecting a device that supports Cisco ISE or Active Directory, not just battery life and screen resolution.
3. Storage Capacity
The last big difference is one that some may think unimportant, but 32 GB is just not nearly enough storage for real use. Yeah it’s okay for songs and low resolution pictures, but if we want to talk commercial grade tablets, let’s start at 64GB and go up from there. Yes, it’s more money and uses more battery life, but commercial users hate to play the “what won’t I need on this trip” game with their data. Anyway, isn’t this the era of “Big Data”?
So that’s my take on the three big differences. Let me know if you have another part of the actual product (no services conversation on this one) that you think will be changed by the move to true commercial tablets.