Spark up a conversation with anyone interested in IT or gadgets and the conversation can quickly turn to tablet computers
While tablet computers have existed for many years (the idea goes back decades and Microsoft first demonstrated a tablet running Windows in 2001) it’s the launch of Apple’s iPad which really made people take notice.
Since its launch in January 2010, Apple has sold a lot of iPads. So many, in fact, that the device is having a real affect on sales of laptop and desktop computers. And there are plenty of competitors too - companies like RIM, Dell and ViewSonic have come to market with their own tablets. High street names like Next and Asda have even started stocking them.
But why should businesses care about tablets at all? Aren’t they just gimmicky gadgets, lacking ‘serious’ uses?
Well, for a start, people who buy tablet computers for personal use actually often want to use them for work as well. Perhaps they want to check their emails on it (switching on a tablet is usually much quicker than booting a laptop), look at websites, or even use specific applications (apps) that can be downloaded and installed on their tablet.
In fact, you could argue that tablet computers are helping to blur the already fuzzy line between personal and business computer use. People may bring them into the workplace without permission, without even thinking they need to let anyone know.
If this is happening in your business, it can create challenges: who’s responsible for the security of information stored on tablet computers owned by your employees? What happens if a tablet containing sensitive data gets stolen? These are questions you can handle via discussions with your staff and by having a clear mobile device security policy.
When people bring their own tablet in to work, it’s because they see opportunities to be more productive using their own equipment rather than what’s available to them in the office.
So at the very least, it’s worth understanding what tablet computers can do and how you can get the most out of them. Then you can decide whether it’s worth introducing them into your business.
There may be times when tablets can make your staff more productive. In some situations, they can be a good replacement for a laptop or netbook. In others, they can be a valid extra device for people to use. For instance:
As your staff start to see the benefits of tablet computers and if you decide you want to start using them in your business, it will be important to develop a policy to cover how these new devices should be managed.
But it's a measure of the possibilities of tablet computers that businesses are really starting to think seriously about how they should be using them. There's certainly no doubt that they're moving beyond the ‘eye candy’ stage to become common devices in the workplace.
Popular content about mobile devices and computer hardware: