Tabletâ€™s for SME Business (Can we utilize Tablet PCâ€™s and Mobile apps for Small and medium Business?)
What is Tablet ?
Although tablet PCs have been in the market for some time itâ€™s only recently they were able to make a huge impact on IT industry. A tablet PC is a laptop or a slate-shaped mobile computer, equipped with a touchscreen to operate the system with a stylus or a fingertip, instead of a keyboard or a mouse. Makers such as Fujitsu made headway in industries like healthcare more than a decade ago, while HP and Toshiba pioneered “convertible” laptops with screens that would spin and fold to transform a notebook into a tablet. Microsoft even had a specialized version of Windows XP, Tablet PC Edition, in 2004.
Evolution of Tablets
Years back tablets were utilized for specific vertical industries such as health care, inventory management, designers. Later on venders like HP, IBM, Toshiba attempt to convert notebooks to tablet make it as hybrid device where it acts as a notebook when its plugged to the keyboard dock and work as tablet after ditched from the dock. This concept had number of practical issues such as battery life, limited connectivity, cost of the hardware plus OS and application.
Rise of new generation tablets
Apple has improved its user friendliness with an eye for style. High tech, good user experience, stylish presentation can change the entire tablet pc industry. With the success of iPhone apple made next significant move by launching iPad in 2010 with same OSX OS platform and iTunes Apps store. Apples were able to convert large number of apps from iTunes to be compatible with tablets. Apps play an important role on tablet eco system. Apples iTunes apps store recorded highest number of mobile apps. Added to it all the developers are skilled and trend to develop new apps for the OSX mobile platform in Apple which was a big willing point for apple to come up with new tablet concept where they made it pretty much user friendly familiar iPhone eco system. Sooner the apple released iPad, Googleâ€™s Android released Android Tablet compatible OS to multi vendors and hardware manufactures such as, Samsung, Toshiba, Acer, View sonic released cost effective android based tablets.
Tablets market is growing faster than expected. Trend made it an undeniable device and most of the top hardware manufacturers have already released tablets. Tablet market has open door to some new vendors such as Amazon, Cisco, view sonic, companies that were never recognized as notebook or Smartphone manufacturers. Soon after market expanded Blackberry released â€œPlaybook â€œto reserve the market position in the tablet market. Researchers stated that tablet sales directly has no impact on desktop or notebook market as it has generated new market , but expected things may change and notebooks share may reduce due to the upcoming trend towards tablets.
Technology behind tablets
Tablet hardware is powered by well known ARM architecture. ARM is the most popular hardware used in mobile embedded computing devices because of its low power consumption. ARM processing power has been increased due to the demand generated by tablets. All new tablet pcs are released with dual core processors with 1gb or higher value. At same time tablet manufacturers made dedicated GPU to power display capabilities and rendering advance graphics.
Most of the tablets use NAND based memory technology, but Samsung and few more companies are working on few devices equipped with SSD based drives to provide higher capacity to tablet users.
For connectivity most of the devices are equipped with multiple radios inside the tablet hood. GSM 2G/3G, WIFI, Bluetooth is main connectivity options in tablets. But in addition to this most of them contain GPS radio to power navigation and location based apps.
Small and medium size business model
SME represent large portion of any economy, disregards to its capacity. The business strategies of SMEs can have lot of changers and variations often than larger companies, especially at their early growth phase. It is important to realize the importance of technology in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Compared to corporate businesses, SME faces few unique challenges with technology.
Technology adaption, change management and system integrations are widely spoken topics in SMEâ€™s. Selecting proper hardware and business tools for work needs a lot of research work.
Organization should consider where this can be utilized, where traditional computing can be replaced. Without huge total cost of ownership it may not be practicable to replace entire IT infrastructure. Itâ€™s a challenging task to find where we can operate tablets and archive highest ROI. Tablets are good at consuming and manipulating information, so we can use it for business analytics, KPI Dashboards, BI tools, enterprise portals.
Tablets meet Business
We can clearly state that first generation tablets were made for selected industries, latest tablets and apps deliver wide range of solutions and it can be used as Essential business tool. At the same time it can be used as a media device eBook reader and productivity tool. New tablet concept can be customized according to the requirements.
Potential business use and the business features
IT experts predict that tablets will become target platform for enterprise applications. Largest ERP vender paid huge amount of money to acquire SYBASE mobile solutions company to build SAP system integration tablets and smartphones. It was clear that sap and major venders discover the potential of been compatible with tablets.
At the moment my organization utilizes tablets for mainly on sales support. Nature of our business is to sell garment accessories. Most of our key account mangers carry iPads to demonstrate and preview labels on site. It makes it very simple for us to connect our ERP system (Microsoft Dynamics) that runs on top of Citrix Xen Studio. Citrix has own tablet app named â€œCitrix Receiver â€œfor us to connect to ERP system in case we need to check live stock or confirm orders. Also we have an enterprise portal with many web apps to work with Purchasing, leave application, Travel plan and Product development request. Any Apple or Android based tablet can fulfill all given tasks and more without paying any extra and making any customization.
Letâ€™s look at some winning points in tablets to attract business users.
Mobility â€“ Ability to use any environment without connecting to any extra physical device makes it ideal in travelling. Itâ€™s possible to hold with a single hand and control entire system using second hand. Longer battery life helps to keep it up and running for approximately a single day without connecting to a charger.
Email server compatibility â€“ Tablet optimized UI and push mails makes it best email experience. Setting up email account and working with tablets are very much simpler than typical desktop OS.
With the large screen, users find it very much visible and easy to manage. Tablets are compatible with industries top exchange sync, all popular web mails and all the secure and unsecure mail protocols. Blackberry playbook provides the same BES mail client of BB tablets.
VPN and wide range of connectivity â€“ Tablets do have all type of typical connection methods such as WiFi b,g,n , HSDPA,HPUPA, to connect to internet. Business users are not only limited to internet. VPN is a basic requirement for business users to connect work place using tablets. Recent tablets are compatible with most of the common VPN protocols and dedicated apps available for unique connections such as Citrix SSL.
Data Safety â€“ Tablets and smart phones have new feature that can secure your data safer than ever. New integration offers data backup , data replication , remote data wipe in case if you lost tablet. With the remote wipe user will be able to wipe out entire tablet using the web access.
More and more business apps â€“ Business productivity apps are growing. Most of the enterprise apps, ERP, CRM systems have tablet apps on the market. Also banks and service providers have apps that are freely available for users to download from tablet apps stores.
Cloud compatibility â€“ By the nature most of the tablet apps are compatible with cloud, dropbox, box.net skydive. The latest Amazon Fire (Will be released in November 2011) is bundled with cloud storage. Apple is planning to release iCloud with data sync with own cloud solution for upcoming apple products. Windows 7.5 Mango is bundled with unlimited office data on cloud using sky drive. Rumors revealed that Google also working on Google drive to provide storage facility in addition to Google docs.
Social Media and PR â€“ Tablets have native apps to all famous social media sites. Also apps like social hub make it simple to post single update that can update multiple sites at same time. The ability to use in any environment not conducive to a keyboard and mouse such as lying in bed, low lighting when a lighted screen is the input source, standing or with one hand. Lighter weight, lower power models can function similarly to dedicated reading devices like the Amazon Kindle.
Tablet Apps for business
Tablet apps are almost like smartphones apps, where tablets take advantage of larger screen and faster processors. Soon after tablet OS been released apps developers made a quick translation from Smartphone apps to tablets. When the time tablets were introduced iTunes apps store and Android Market had millions of apps and reasonable portion of business productivity tools. At the times of writing this report most of the major ERP,CRP and enterprise apps has released or working on releasing tablet apps for users. Tablet apps are light weight, free or low cost apps, and they are so simple to install or administer. Also entire application set can be updated and patched using a single click on tablet platforms.
Tablet Key Players
Apple has changed IT industry in many ways. Most of the times Apple is first to introduce technology plus vision to make significant changes in IT industry such as graphical user interface, iPodâ€™s ,iPadâ€™s Apps Store. Apple made the first appliance with new generation tablets with the experience they learned from the iPhones. Wow factor on any apple products made quick addiction to general public and made open new market for IT venders and apps developers.
Think / Quick Office, Apple iWork
Alternative to MS office in tablets, android pro version cost approximately 15$. Also some venders like Samsung has bundle the pro version in to device. Using free version you will be able to view and edit office docs but to open new document you may need to have pro license. Application supports latest Microsoft and open office Docs, Excel, Presentations formats.
Everynote is totally free and it help to store notes , and capture website or document content and sync between browser and tablet. When you spot something interesting on web you can highlight them on browser and read it later on tablet when you are free.
WebEX/Go to meeting, Mighty Meeting
Both apps enable remote meetings, presentations and remote training to be conduct using tablets. It supports 2-way online conference facility, chat and screen sharing and more.
Skype, Viber, Fring
Skype and Viber provide VOIP audio and video calls using 3g/wifi connections. Viber can make phone calls to any smartphone that runs viber with using the phone number at zero cost. Fring is widely used to make group video calls using VOIP,
Google Docs works as both Cloud storage and MS Office alternative. It can be used to create and edit word, excel and presentations and save them on Google cloud, it works pretty smooth with real time collaboration with multiple users.
Bento is an excellent database app for small business owners; it can be used for sales support, inventory management and powerful data base system.
Apps development is not the same as typical desktop apps development. Mobile apps developer widely use Flash, Flex , Air, HTML5 and more into web based frameworks. Mobile apps are very dynamic and need a lot of attention on connectivity and screen size, also need to be optimized for low power and lower CPU consumption.
How Consumers Use Tablet PCs
Google surveyed over 1400 tablet PC owners and found:
68% of tablet users spend at least 1 hour a day on their tablet 77% of respondents report that their desktop/laptop usage decreased due to the tablet 82% of respondents said they primarily use their tablet at home more than 1 in 3 respondents uses their tablet more than they watch TV Increase on working away from office, checking email, customer presentation, sales support clearly states that business users are growing.
UI customization is limited due to vender restrictions; Compared to IOS Android is user friendly with customization. Personal apps need to be installed through apps store. Users find it bit complicated than working with desktop OS.
2. IT Policy implementation
IT policy implementation is a must for corporate to maintain compliance. With tablets it was not practicable until blackberry released its first tablet. RIM was able to enforce BES policy trough BB eco system as same as they did for BB mobiles.
1. Higher cost â€” Tablet PCs can cost significantly more than their non-tablet notebooks
2. Input speed â€” handwriting can be significantly slower than peak typing speeds
Why not Laptops?
There are many predictions such as â€œTablets may take over notebook market share Tablet PCs act as the hybrid device between notebooks and smart phones. Faster processors and rich applications made it closer to notebook experience and light weight and touch screen and connectivity features made it more towards a mobile device. Compared to notebooks tablets score higher in mobility, faster start time and longer batter life. People refer to travel with all in one device than travelling with heavy notebook plus charters.
Top Business Tablet PCs
1. Apple iPad2
iPad is the game changer in new era of tablets. Sleek design, typical apple stylish and solid hardware made a huge attempt back in 2010 to gain largest market share. Still apple records the highest portion of the market share and they continue to develop new version to sustain in same position in the tablet market. It works with iTunes ID and use same iTunes apps store.
2. Samsung Galaxy Tab
It is the Best selling Android based tablet in the market. Samsung has released 7â€ 8.9â€, 10.1â€ screen size tablets with higher technical specifications than iPad at the low price. Easy customization and open source android made it more easy to use tablet. Compared to iTunes Apps store, android has freer or cheaper apps for tablets. It works with Google ID and Android Market,
3. Blackberry Playbook
RIM share its well establish business communication eco system with tablet technology using this device. RIM has proven and most desirable push mail system connected to most of the mail servers already. Playbook is an ideal selection when users are addicted and familiar with BB smart phones. Powerful CPU, larger screen, customized calendar and few new business apps will make a good choice for business users.
4. Cisco Cius
Cisco is the new player in tablet market. Cisco is willing to redefine the way you work using customized android OS bundled with great new communication and productivity apps. Device is introduced as business tablet where it has video and audio conferencing, VPN and many business productivity tools bundled with device.
5. Amazon Tablet aka Kindle Fire (Coming soon)
Amazon kindle was known as e-book reader and they share knowledge on e-books and EC2 cloud experience with new tablet. This was just released and itâ€™s also based on Android OS and android apps. Amazon has customized UI and integrate cloud solution to new device where you get all your e-books, music and movies from Amazon cloud. Also it will back up all your media back to Amazon cloud.
Tablets may not replace notebooks, but still useful for business, specially small and medium size business. We have enough facts and numbers to prove that tablets going to be the future trend and SMEs need to pay attention where they can utilize this new trendy device with existing systems. It will be challenging where cost of device and apps customization may be little bit higher at the moment. Typical scenario cost may go down with the demand and it will be easy adoption for users. IT decision makers should study more, analyze and map with future plans and dedicate space for tablets and mobile apps development. Mobile solutions has taken over many business processors already , when your business is moving to mobile and cloud based solutions tablet can be a handy undeniable productivity tool.
By Saptha Wanniarachchi