Small Business Guide to Tablets

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted July 20, 2011

Tablets are all the rage in technology circles this year with vendors big and small singing the praises of the Post-PC era.

Apple's Steve Jobs kicked off the modern tablet era with the iPad, and it's a phenomenon that has inspired a long list of copycats and wannabes. While many people in the tech industry are pushing the new Post-PC vision for tablets, that doesn't necessarily mean that a tablet is right for your small business.

A tablet can fit into many different use cases, or it could simply be overkill and overlap with your existing equipment. A tablet could help to mobilize your small business, or it could just be a route to siphon some of your hard earned cash into yet another needless gadget.

In our Small Business Computing buyer's guide, we'll examine the basic reasons why a tablet may make sense. Buying a tablet isn't just about hardware though, it's also about choosing a mobile software platform. So we'll also provide you with a few pointers on how to choose a mobile platform. Apple's iOS isn't the only game in town anymore, and buyers have more choices than ever.

Do You Need A Tablet?


Answering that question isn't as easy as the tablet vendors make it seem. After all, your small business likely already has notebook computers and smartphones right?

How and where does this tablet thing fit it in anyway?

For some people, a tablet is simply a third screen that they will carry. That's a view shared by none other than Dell founder, Michael Dell. On a recent investor conference call, Dell was asked about his views on tablets. Dell responded that he sees it as a third screen (behind the notebook and the smartphone screen). As such, in his view, Dell wasn't going to be able to sell a lot of units as he doesn't see the tablet replacing the notebook or the smartphone.

Motorola Xoom tablet, small business tablet buyers guide
The Motorola Xoom tablet.
(Click for larger image)
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On the other side of the tablet coin are vendors, like Cisco, that actually do see their devices as being notebook replacements. When a tablet is paired with keyboard, it sure does look like a notebook. Tablets however do not have the same storage or processing capacity as a notebook.

How do people use tablets today?

Earlier this year, a study from the Gartner research firm, found that tablets were used up to 12 times a day for an average of seven minutes per use. The Gartner study found that people were using tablets for almost everything they do with a notebook, though the heavy-duty and more detailed work was still being done on a notebook with a keyboard and mouse.

Does your small business need a third screen?

When considering any technology purchase, it's essential to make sure that it answers a number of questions. Here are five questions to answer when thinking about whether a tablet is right for your business.

  1. Will the use of tablet improve the efficiency of your small business?
  2. Will the use of a tablet make (or save) your small business money?
  3. Do you find that your notebook PC is too slow to start when trying to show something to a customer (sales call or otherwise)?
  4. Do you find that your notebook PC is too bulky to bring along when traveling/visiting/demoing onsite or offsite?
  5. Do you use your smartphone for email more than your notebook and wish you could actually see websites and work on applications with the same ease of use?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then considering a tablet might make sense. If however, your existing notebook PC and smartphone combination already deliver the speed and mobility that you need and want, a tablet will likely just overlap what you already can do, without providing a noticeable benefit.



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