Mobile Trends: Why Tablets Mean Small Business - Page 2

By Jamie Bsales
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Android Devices Hit the Small Business Sweet Spot

Tablets with 7-inch screens, most of which currently on the market are powered by Google's Android operating system, are likely the sweet spot for many business buyers. Unlike the iPad with its nearly 10-inch screen, the size and weight of devices, such as Samsung's popular Galaxy Tab, make them easy to slip into a jacket pocket or small purse.

"Perhaps the most compelling appeal of an Android tablet to a business person is the wealth of available business-related apps -- many of which are free," said Begun. For example, for accessing multiple email addresses (namely your personal and work email) on the go, his favorite is the free K-9 Mail app. DataViz's $14.99 Documents To Go app lets you view, edit and create Word and Excel files, as well as edit Google Docs and Adobe PDF.

Begun also likes Evernote ($5 per month), a cloud-based service that lets you manage multiple lists and instantly capture images and sounds -- and then sync all of this information to virtually any other computer or device.

The Android OS also supports sites and apps that employ Adobe's Flash standard for rich-media, interactive content. In addition, custom application development is easier for the Android platform. "If you have access to programmers who can create custom apps for your business, a distinct advantage that Android tablets have over the iPad is that it's much easier to install 'unofficial' apps onto Android devices," explained Begun.

Apple iPad Eyes Small Business, Too

Of course, Apple isn't about to cede the lucrative business market to competitors, and the company's dedicated Apps for Business site proves the iPad isn't just a consumer device. In addition to mail/calendar/contact apps that come preloaded, you also find a range of office-document viewers and offerings like Pages, which lets you create, edit and share reports.

Other software apps include Roambi-Visualizer for seeing important business metrics in compelling graphs and charts; the handy Dragon Dictation app for recording meetings and transcribing voice to text; and thousands more. Right now, the iPad has an advantage over Android devices in the sheer number of apps available, although the gap is closing.

Apple is also quick to point out that the larger screen on the iPad makes it easier to interact with than smaller tablets -- and make it a better presentation device for client and sales meetings. In addition to its out-of-the-box Microsoft Exchange support, the iPad features full encryption of stored data files, so if the device goes missing at least your sensitive information is safe.

And speaking of security: The openness of the Android platform is a double-edged sword, as it potentially opens the platform to malware infections. "The stringent Apple iOS Apps approval process makes the iPad inherently a more secure platform," noted Begun.

Microsoft Still in the Mobile Race

The dark horse in the tablet race may just be Microsoft, which ironically seems like a late-comer to the slate game (that's what you get for being a decade ahead and then moving on). But with the powerful mobile processors being offered by Intel and AMD, device makers are able to deliver a full Windows 7 machine in a thin tablet form factor.

The advantage, of course, is hassle-free interoperability with your Windows PC, plus the capability to use the applications you already know. In that regard, Windows 7-based tablets are compelling, as there is a much larger universe of Windows business applications in the world than iPad and Android apps combined -- a library it will take years for the other platforms to rival.

Another benefit of going with a Windows 7 device is that, with the proper accessories, it can serve as your only computer. Manufacturers are working on docks and accessories that will let you pop the slate into a cradle to have a full-size screen and keyboard when at your desk, then pop out the tablet for use on the go -- all the while having your familiar Windows PC and a single set of native applications and files. For some business owners, the novelty of an iPad or Android slate may wear thin as they find themselves juggling multiple devices and multiple versions of files.

Jamie Bsales is an award-winning technology writer and editor with more than 18 years of experience covering the latest hardware, software and Internet products and services.

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This article was originally published on March 22, 2011
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