The Tablet Platforms
Choosing a tablet isn't as easy as choosing a PC, where PC is synonymous with Microsoft Windows. The tablet world is made up of multiple vendors each with their own software and hardware platforms.
Apple created the tablet market with the iPad and remains the leader in the marketplace. There are now two generations of the iPad, the iPad 1 and the iPad2. The difference between them is that the iPad2 offers more graphics power, two cameras (one front, one back) and a thinner case (be sure to check out our drilldown article on whether the iPad 2 is Right for Your Small Business.
The HP TouchPad tablet.
(Click for larger image).
All iPads (and iPhones) are powered by the Apple iOS platform. Apple is the only vendor that makes iOS powered devices and the only iOS powered tablet is the iPad. That means when you choose to go with an iPad, you're also choosing iOS and essentially locking your small business into the app ecosystem that exists for it.
The app ecosystem for iPad is very robust with more than 100,000 apps -- a good number of which are dedicated just for business. There are tools that help to make an iPad into a true notebook PC alternative. And there's no shortage of advice about how to effectively use an iPad in a small business setting.
SmallBusinessComputing has also gone into details with a listing of the top 20 finance iPad apps. The bottom line for your small business is that there is no shortage of apps or resource to help you find apps for an iPad.
The iPad hardware is a key strength for Apple and is available in 16, 32 and 64 GB storage capacities. There are Wi-Fi-only versions and 3G versions that work on AT&T and Verizon in the U.S.
- Model, capacity and pricing: Wi-Fi; 16/32/64 GB; $499/$599/$699
- Model, capacity and pricing: Wi-Fi + 3G; 16/32/64 GB; $629/$729/$820
- OS: iOS
- Screen size: 9.7 inches
- Battery life: 10 hours
The Android mobile operating system, backed by Google, is another tablet option. Unlike Apple however, Android powered devices are available from multiple vendors. Also unlike Apple, each vendor can choose to have a different version of Android, which can lead to confusion on potential incompatibilities across Android devices for a given app.
Currently there are Android devices in the market powered by Android 2.2 and 3.1. The Android 2.2 operating system was not designed for tablets, though multiple vendors including Cisco have chosen to use it for their Android tablets.
When looking at Android tablets, small businesses need to look at both the version of Android and the hardware. There are many Android tablet vendors, which further adds to the complexity. In this buyer's guide we'll take a look at Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab and Cisco Cius.
Android Tablet Options
|Vendor||Device||Models||OS||Screen Size||Battery Life||MSRP|
|Motorola||Xoom||32 GB Wi-Fi||Android 3.1||10.1 inches||10 hours||$499|
|Motorola||Xoom||32 GB Wi-Fi||Android 3.1||10.1 inches||10 hours||$599 w/contract;|
|Samsung||Galaxy Tab 10.1||16/32/64 GB||Android 3.1||10.1 inches||9 hours||$499/$599/TBA|
|Toshiba||Thrive||8/16/32 GB||Android 3.1||10.1 inches||11 hours||$429/$479/$579|
|Cisco||Cius||32 GB||Android 2.2||7 inches||TBA||TBA|
Android 2.2 and 2.3 are both smartphone operating systems as well, and the same apps that run on your small business' Android smartphone will run on tablets.
RIM is the vendor that helped start the modern smartphone revolution with the Blackberry. The Playbook is an attempt by RIM to extend the Blackberry into the tablet realm. The Playbook runs Blackberry Apps and is supposed to be able to run Android apps as well (though if you're really looking for Android apps, just buy a pure Android tablet).
While the Blackberry smartphone is famous for its email, the Playbook at launch did not include native email. Instead RIM expected Playbook users to pair or bridge their existing Blackberry with the Playbook in order to get email functionality. An update for the Playbook to support native email is expected by the end of the summer.
Unlike every other tablet in this buyer's guide, the current iteration of the Playbook relies on the user to have another device, namely a Blackberry smartphone for full functionality. Plus, the tablet is only available in a Wi-Fi only hardware configuration, which means that the smartphone bridge is also the only way the Playbook can get 3G connectivity.
RIM Blackberry Playbook Stats
- Capacity and pricing: 16/32/64 GB; $499/$599/$699
- OS: BlackBerry Tablet OS
- Screen size: 7 inches
- Battery life:
HP adds yet another option to the mix of tablet choices. The TouchPad isn't just a new hardware platform; it's also a different operating system. The TouchPad is powered by HP's WebOS, the same thing that is behind their Palm PRE. HP acquired Palm, and the WebOS software for $1.2 billion back in April of 2010.
In comparison to Android, Apple iOS and the Blackberry, WebOS currently has a smaller app ecosystem. That doesn't necessarily mean that you won't find the essential tools your small business might need, it just means that there isn't as much choice, yet. As is the case with the Blackberry Playbook, the first generation of TouchPads doesn't have 3G connectivity options.
HP TouchPad Stats
- Capacity and pricing: 16/32 GB; $499/$599
- OS: WebOS
- Screen size: 9.7 inches
- Battery life: