The hand-held market’s evolution is starting to take serious shape, and IT planners can start to answer the question “which tablet(s)/pad(s) are right for us?”
From an IT point of view, the two primary vendors going forward will be Apple, with the iPad, and Microsoft, with the Surface (whether you choose to standardize on the actual Microsoft offering, or one using Windows 8 from another vendor).
Both of these vendors have laid out a clear definition of what their device is, how it’s expected to be used, and therefore where it fits.
The various vendors of Android tablets/pads, or the BlackBerry PlayBook from RIM, remain also-rans, as they are all “me, too” devices without a clear design philosophy or purpose in mind.
Apple’s vision of the iPad is as a device primarily doing two things: running an app to do a job, or acting as a device to consume and display information.
Although you can run Apple’s iWork offerings — the Numbers spreadsheet, the Pages word processor and the Keynote presentation tool — and they work well on the pad, general office work isn’t part of Apple’s design philosophy.
Your IT function creating custom apps for parts of your business is. So, too, is using the pad for very light editing of documents, but fundamentally viewing them.
In Apple’s world, if you need a full blown light-weight portable computer, you use a MacBook Air — which has a full-blown keyboard, and can run Microsoft Office.
Microsoft’s design philosophy is of the Surface as a very portable computer. It’s a hybrid device trying to straddle the Air (or Intel-based Ultrabooks) and the iPad.
Running Microsoft Office 2013 on Windows 8 Metro — the configuration recommended for the Surface — shows how the conversion to pad-type operation is only partly done. This is still an environment that isn’t fully either touch or keyboard/pointer.
For people who need a PC in their hand, though, it’s a viable option — although trying to do most business functions will require it to be set down so the keyboard can be used.
So: custom app solutions? Either could be used.
Viewing platform: iPad actually does a better job.
Need a sort-of PC for office work: go with Surface.
Both will co-exist nicely in the workplace. Here’s one of those both/and situations: put the right device in the right hands and keep your TCOO (total cost to own and operate) and your frustration levels in check.