We've done a couple of posts now on using tablets in business/enterprise settings. In our final post in this series we're soliciting ultimate feedback. There's an interesting trend going on in the consumer tablet space now, with attention shifting away from 10-inch form factors down to 7 or 8-inch models. I suspect things will be different in business/enterprise markets though. For those of you who see a use for tablets in the workplace, what is the ideal form factor? I'd love to hear your responses in the comments. Go as far as you want on the spec list too - down to silicon, storage options, dimensions, etc... Upcoming tablets are obviously set in stone, but your input could definitely help shape future designs.

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  • euskalzabe - Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - link

    I use a 10" Asus VivoTab RT right now which is quite good size wise for MS Office work and the battery is crazy good of course. Performance is acceptable. After working with this machine for months now, I've found that my next hybrid should be a) around 11.6" like the Surface and at least a quad Cortex A15 (though if possible I'll wait for the A57s to bring performance up a notch again). Reply
  • vLsL2VnDmWjoTByaVLxb - Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - link

    I work for a law firm, and we've been testing out various tablets for workflow. You'd think our work environment would be perfect, lets of documents, lots of redaction, approval, editing. Mobile is perfect, we have attorneys out to client sites, court, CLEs, etc.

    And yet nothing compares to a good laptop. The software of tablets are hobbled. The speed is hobbled. Battery life? about 20-40% better, for sure, but just working on the devices is pretty painful compared to full-featured laptops. This frustrates our attorneys, because they really think that tablets can and will be the solution, but it's just not close to being a mature solution, yet. They are too much hassle for anything content creation+ professional and time sensitive.

    Anyone else have experience in the professional realm? PDF editing, on the level of Acrobat Pro, is mandatory. I'd love to find better solutions for them. Apparently weight and battery life are very important to them.
    Reply
  • DrCheap - Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - link

    I do similar work, but often with graphics work thrown in. What I have been using so far are convertible laptops in the 12-13" range. Battery life ends up a bit mediocre and they tend to be heavy and clunky, but I get full laptop cpu power, can use swappable batteries, and have a tablet/digitizer screen for doing markup work. I am praying the new haswell tablets finally get these to the battery life and weight I have been dreaming of. Reply
  • miahshodan - Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - link

    For something simple like sales you might get by with less, but for something where you will be doing substantial work on a tablet I would say:
    ~10 screen, but with a 16:10 resolution, like the 1920x1200 one on the nook hd+
    windows 8 x86 on Haswell with a detachable keyboard that can be used like a laptop
    docking station that connects to a larger monitor, Ethernet, better keyboard and mouse, etc.
    128GB or larger SSD
    6-8 GB ram

    to me anything less than 8" is not much better than a 4.5-5" phone that I will be carrying anyway.
    Reply
  • Decaff - Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - link

    Personally, I believe the perfect form factor is the detachable. But it should go a step further than most designs (a keyboard with battery) and provide a complete docking solution which would allow me to use it as a Workstation. Having a Surface cover available as well would just be the icing on the cake.

    I am still hoping to see some of the Intel tech that allowed the screen to change size depending on whether it was docked or in tablet mode, by introducing black bars when in tablet mode, in order to enable gestures. That would allow for a 10-11" tablet, which could scale to 12-13" in laptop mode by extending the display almost to the edge of the frame. So far, it has only been demo'ed in prototypes, which is really a shame IMO. I really like the concept and hope to see it commercialized soon. Naturally, the screen should come with a proper resolution like 1080p. The time for low res displays should really come to an end by now! No need to go overboard in Retina like resolution as it just sucks down battery driving and lighting all those pixels.

    Spec wise, I think a Bay Trail based design would be sufficient, combined with 4 GB of RAM (perhaps with the option of 8 GB) and a 256 GB SSD (maybe a 128 GB variant). Atom would be to keep price down while hopefully providing enough performance for normal desktop tasks. I often find 256 GB to be the sweet spot, unless you need to carry many video and other large files with you often.

    Naturally, money not being an issue, a low power Haswell would be awesome. Yet, personally I seriously doubt that it would provide enough added benefits for my own usage. The Bay Trail Atoms seem to hit the new sweet spot in computing performance for me. The new AMD Temash processors also look interesting and may also be quite viable.

    For me, the tablet must be thin and light (iPad is the gold standard) while providing suffecient battery life. Those are the primary concerns, as long as the system is "good enough" to run everything else.
    I really don't think many people have much use of a fullblown Haswell processor anymore. The computing landscape is changing rapidly, and raw compute power is not just that important anymore for most users. The parameters are changing, and the manufacturers better get with the times. Classical Innovator's Dilemma really.
    Reply
  • yougotkicked - Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - link

    Personally, if I were using a tablet as part of my desktop work environment, I would want at least a 10" display. Using it as a note taking tool and web browser as I currently do, I think 7" is about perfect, I just wish the majority of websites and apps made more efficient use of the display space, in my experience many sites don't have mobile-friendly CSS rules at all, and those that do still sometimes include floating nav-bars and menus that waste screen space.

    I really wish tablets would come with a good system for mounting accessories to them. I ultimately just want a good tilt-stand for my tablet, and I hate the Ipad style covers. Rather than ship tablets with stands built into them (which I'm sure would be awful) I think a simple fastener to which stands, speakers, etc. could be mounted to would be perfect. The example that comes to mind is the near universal screw-on fastener cameras & tripods use.

    I definitely think we need to start seeing USB3 ports on tablets more often, not being able to connect your mobile storage device to your mobile computing device is absurd.

    This last one is a bit greedy, and there have been some good efforts towards it already, but I really would like to see a more effective way for tablets to communicate directly between one another. NFC is too slow for anything but sharing contact info, bluetooth is better but still not quite good enough. Ideally we would see wi-fi adapters with mesh networking protocols allowing tablets to set up a meshed WLAN. This would make file transfers between tablets at reasonable speeds possible, and make tablets much more reasonable replacements for printed handouts and such.
    Reply
  • StormyParis - Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - link

    The question makes no sense: it depends on your work. I know you're a white collar spending the day in an office... a blue collar, a peripatetic worker, a field engineer... will have totally different needs regarding for example:
    - Windows
    - Battery life
    - one-handed usability
    - screen legibility outside
    - ruggedness
    - pen support
    - ...
    Reply
  • MrSpadge - Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - link

    I think it really depends on what the device is meant to do.

    If it's for carrying around constantly and not for doing anything computationally demanding locally (like in that hospital example) the tablet has to be light and small foremost. There's probably a market for 7" and 10" here, maybe also a bit higher if it's still light. Such devices probably won't differ much from "consumer" offerings, all they'd need to be "enterprise" would be the software to make it all work seamless. Which is.. quite a challenge and a huge investment.

    And then there are devices which should replace current PCs / laptops in conjunction with docking stations and other periphery. Here the mobility provided by the tablet form factor would be more a "nice to have", but performance and features are critical:
    - can we fit 28 W CPUs in there?
    - storage options like having a large HDD in the keyboard dock, msata slots etc.
    - convertible form factors
    - IPS screen or better, otherwise the "let me show you.." just doesn't work well
    - I don't think you need to go crazy with resolutions, despite this being very hip, especially since there are going to be legacy applications in business
    Reply
  • nunomoreira10 - Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - link

    Ideally the Samsung active tab but for 300 dollars less.
    and an oled screen if possible.
    Reply
  • Sushisamurai - Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - link

    In the private healthcare setting, if you were to replace the admin/patient file laptop computers with tablets, you would at least need:
    X86 support
    Fast, responsive UI
    VM capabilities (I'm assuming windows would be fine)
    Docking options (thunderbolt being the most ideal, as USB 3.0 can't daisy chain that many peripherals at once, including video) - TB would also give you options for cord adapters, say Ethernet for the clinics with wireless Internet concerns
    At least one USB3.0 port
    Detachable keyboard to go from one place or another, or a thin BT keyboard
    10" form factor would be okay, as it would be usable on a portable area (house calls) or at the office.
    Cellular connectivity
    Reply

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