Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Taking the tablets: different form factors key to enterprise success

TBS Managing Director Steve Reynolds takes a closer look at the need to supply different solutions for different form factors across organisations.
Q. Steve, why is there a need to accommodate tablet devices? Aren't they just a new consumer platform fad?

SR. Tablet devices have grown to create a whole new paradigm as a device platform, and this is reflected by an increased interest in both the consumer and the corporate space. As I said last month, we’re seeing executives buying devices on their credit cards and taking them into the office asking why they can’t be more widely used in business.

The reason for this lies in the operational flexibility they offer. A larger, sleeker form factor with intuitive finger input can extend the style of using a traditional mobile sized device. It offers a less cumbersome way of working than a laptop, incremental portability over netbook and more capability than a mobile phone. Tablets can also be ruggedized and protected much more cost-effectively than laptops. Those are the key reasons why we’re seeing an increased demand for tablet-based solutions, and why we need to accommodate those demands.

Q. Will there be a transition and fragmentation in use. Do you advocate TBS customers using different form factors for different tasks?
Our customers currently have the option to use a range of devices: Windows Mobile, Windows 7 laptop or tablet. In the majority of cases ‘one platform fits all’ is not a term which readily applies. Field service teams repairing cables and pipes might need a basic level of information which can easily be accommodated on PDA style device. Meanwhile, the same organisation might have surveyors requiring more detailed information to plan and construct around complex projects. In this case, a laptop is the more suitable client.

We’re dedicated to supporting clients across multiple platforms and know that extra value can be given with the adoption of different form factors. A ruggedized laptop may not be flexible or cost effective, where a tablet is. A mixed estate of devices offers flexibility which is vital in catering to specific needs across all departments of large organisations.

Q. You also mentioned last month that device boundaries will blur. How and why will this happen, and what will be the effect of this blur?
Boundaries will blur when desktop systems become mobile-aware. Tablet connectivity is currently superior to laptops due to the employment of mobile operating systems, as opposed to the desktop operating systems which are employed on netbooks or laptops. Radio connectivity in tablet devices means they can always be connected, giving an extra degree of flexibility.

This is reflected in Windows 8, which looks and feels like a mobile platform, and enjoys a significantly better connectivity experience than its predecessors. Over the course of the next 18 months to 2 years, we’ll see laptops developing richer operating systems which are also mobile aware. The result will be a blur in device boundaries.

4. So different form factors are the future, but will one eventually rise above the rest to be all things to all people?

I personally don’t think one form factor will emerge to take over everything. Operating systems will blur but the most popular device in the consumer space will always be the phone. In the enterprise space the phone will still rule, closely followed by tablet technology, and then laptop technology. Laptops are currently favoured over tablets, but I expect to see enterprise embracing tablet technologies over the laptop in the long term.

5. Will this make enterprise solutions simpler, or more complicated?
This simplifies solutions without question. Applications will run much more intuitively because they are specifically designed for a platform. The Times application on the iPad makes for a better consumer experience and this smooth design experience can be extended through to enterprise applications.

Emphasis will be on design, user experience and ease of media consumption; rather than raw development. The successful companies embracing mobile are the ones who recognise this.

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