Last week you guys did an awesome job with the discussion around the role of tablets in the workplace. There are a good number of you who have already embraced tablets for work, or who at least see the potential for the form factor at work if other hardware requirements are met. Now comes the next level, and honestly a question that I'm asked quite often when meeting with manufacturers. As far as work tablets are concerned, how important is backwards compatibility with existing x86/Windows applications?

The question obviously lends itself to a Windows 8 vs. Windows RT debate, but it's actually even bigger than that. We're really talking about Windows 8 vs. Windows RT or Android or iOS in the workplace.

While the previous question could definitely influence future design decisions, your answers here help answer more fundamental questions of what OSes to support for OEMs looking to play in the enterprise/business tablet space.

Respond in the comments below!

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  • nagi603 - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    (The points can largely be said wbout iOS and Android as well)

    Semi-long-time Windows-based tablet user here. I use my current mostly as a note taking platform, with an old OneNote (I found the ribbon menu of the newer ones horrible and simply worse in all of my use-case scenarios). So that is strike one agains RT.

    Strike two is that I also use it sometimes for work, meaning I have to have a very stable and fast-ish multitasking system with flash-enabled browser, graphical program, full Visual Studio and the such. Completely impossible on RT.

    Strike Three is that I sometimes load up some games from steam. (Point and click games are perfect for pen enabled tablets)

    (Plus strike four that the RT version doesn't have the wacom pen I use for note taking and such.)

    So backwards compatibility is a grave issue for me. Right now the only thing I might be able to use an RT tablet would be some very light recreational activities.
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    I haven't commented in the old article.
    I use my tablet for university related stuff (I'm a student), note taking in lectures, having all the material at my hands without carrying around tons of books, watching movies, listening to music or playing a game during recess or commute. I have an Android tablet that was good at the last few things. But I still carried around my laptop if there was a class where I actually had to do work (excel calculations, look up larger .pdfs...). And when taking notes became more important, I got myself a Samsung XE700T1C with an active digitizer. That is the dream computing device for me currently. The battery life is enough to last me through a day at the university most of the time. If it is a longer day, I just grab a seat next to a power outlet and charge it for one lecture and it gets through the day again. The active digitizer is a godsend for me, the power is all there and the programs we use can be run well as well. The games I can play on it are still very enjoyable, BlueStacks can be run when I want to, but I still have an Android smartphone, so that's what I use for Android apps most of the time.
    So for me, legacy support trumps price and convenience most of the time. I have some things that Android simply can't do. And I have enough that Windows does infinitely better (I have a huge library of gog.com games and older steam games that are better than 99.5% of all smartphone games) that the price difference is well worth it most of the time. I could have gotten an Atom XE500T for the active digitizer and excel support. But that thing was too limited in its performance for my games library. So I would have carried around more than one thing again.
    Reply
  • mike8675309 - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    Personally working in businesses focused on manufacturing, distribution, and shipping I see some places where tablets could fit. Some places where x86 would be crucial and others where it wouldn't make a difference. But in general it seems like a very niche market that I don't see being easy to expand until more software is available. Reply
  • apinkel - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    Simple question. Complex answer. The key is proper management... selecting the platform that is the best fit for the environment, putting effective processes in place to manage the initial rollout (training, feedback of needed enhancments, priority management, etc.), handle on-going support issues after the initial rollout is complete, having a pro-active enhancement process to insure the platform stays viable for the long term, and finally having the strength to make the hard decisions when (not if) the platform is no longer the best fit for the environment. Reply
  • apinkel - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    An addition to this point about backward compatibility that I forgot to include in my original post.

    I don't think there is one right answer to the backward compatibility issue. It really involves being aware of the environment, taking a real, honest look at the available options, taking them for test drives, and finally selecting the option that fits the best.

    And lastly a follow up to the final note in my first post. Often time the hard decisions about putting a platform to rest are made by things outside of your control. Mismanagement, mergers, or the eventual end of life of the business itself. Nothing lasts forever (at least anything that's man made) but even when this end-of-life occurs the lasting effects of that company's work (good or bad) live on in subtle ways.
    Reply
  • Granseth - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    A work tablet that is supposed to coexist with my workstation can be all OS's that manages to do the job.
    If it also would do the job of my workstation (in a kind of docking station) x86 and windows compatibility would be very important as a lot of my software is only written for Windows, and secondary but also important is the factor of economy, it's very expensive to upgrade all the software I use in one go.
    Reply
  • ZeDestructor - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    For me its purely a question of power and capability. I need a fairly fast machine that can do everything I need to do on the move:not taking, light gaming, reading, video, music, browsing, multitask properly, some programming (software and HDL for uni and hobby) and run real, full Linux. Oh and have a great keyboard.

    That really leaves me with two reliable options in the market: Lenovo's X series tablet or Dell's XT line, and of the two, Lenovo's machines trumps the Dell by having a Wacom digitizer.

    Sorry no HP love, not after the overheating turd the 2760p is they dared to release nor the truly shit keyboard on the consumer tm line. That tm2 hurt me so bad. Even worse than a MacBook keyboard. T_T
    Reply
  • bcutter - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    Work predominantly involves use of Microsoft Office, Outlook, SharePoint, Lync, Skype. In addition I prefer to stick with one ecosystem, as it works better and easy to manage plus my comfort zone. As a tablet I find Surface to be a better fit compared to others, with similar interface to my PC, use of roaming profiles and Skydrive. Multi-user, file system, network folder access is a huge plus. When it comes to creation, the traditional multi window mouse optimized desktop still rules - its the consumption where touch has slight advantage. Surface providing both interfaces makes it much more powerful.

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  • TwiSparkle - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    Backwards compatibility isn't a particularly large concern for me. The lack of a compiler/IDE on any ARM platform is. I'm currently a college student and even though ARM is less powerful I could deal with it for when I am on the go. Reply
  • Ikefu - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    I would say very important. As an engineer it goes without saying that I use large amounts of custom Windows based programs to interact with equipment, drawings, and compiling code, but its also needed in the office environment.

    For instance, many of our clients use custom programs for their training. I'm sure it could be converted to iOS or Android but when you see that many people still use outdated versions of IE (due to lack of interest in investing the time it takes to make sure all corporate internal webpages don't break) then it becomes apparent that they definitely won't want to do an OS or Architecture switch.

    For typical home use, Android or iOS work fine because there is very little the average user does that doesn't have an alternative app available to replace the Windows version (Unless you're a programmer/hobbyist like I am but we tend to be the exception and not the rule). However, in the business world there are lots of custom programs around that need to be addressed. So unless every company starts adopting cloud based virtual machine servers you can remote in to from Android or iOS I see the need for backwards compatibility with Windows applications to be essential. Someday that could change, but the platforms/form factors are still to new for many companies to make the switch.
    Reply

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