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Tablets, Tablets, Tablets; How to decide which one (or IF one) is right for you

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Submitted by Linda Kuppersmith from CMIT Solutions of Stamford on Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Most of the reviews and general information about technology are geared towards big business and the consumer. Small business is generally left out, and we’re baffled by the omission because small business accounts for more than half of the non-farm United States GDP. Since CMIT’s focus is on small businesses, we thought a fresh perspective was in order.

The CMIT Solutions Stamford team recently conducted a one-month evaluation of the iPad2, Blackberry Playbook and the Samsung Galaxy, and these are the results.

Our main questions were these:

Q: How does the tablet compare to other mobile devices? Can it replace a laptop or netbook? 
Q: Can you really run your business life on it?

Besides having our local staff actually “play” and try to work off the tablets, we conducted a local survey of small business technology users. We had a great in person event as a segment of our new KnowITAll series and have talked with other CMIT Solutions staff across the country about their experiences. Frankly this has been a lot of fun and we’re committed to doing another research project like this in the near future.

While deciding what features to test, we noticed that we had some unique needs that typical small business clients wouldn’t. And in considering a tablet for our clients we found that many of them did also. There are a lot of tablets on the market these days, and they have a variety of features. Keep this in mind when making a decision for your business. You must identify what YOUR needs are and select the best one for you.

Evaluation standards

  • Excellent – Same as a desktop
  • Good – Works great for our needs, but not as good as a full-sized pc
  • Marginal – Adequate in a pinch, but not as good as a full-sized machine
  • Not Suitable
Feature iPad2 Playbook Galaxy Netbook
Web experience Marginal Good Marginal Excellent
Excellent email experience Marginal Good Good Excellent
Ability to interface with our Line of Business applications (AutoTask and SharePoint) AutoTask – Marginal SharePoint – Good AutoTask – Good SharePoint – Good AutoTask – Good SharePoint – Not Suitable  
Remote to clients machines Good – free app required Good – app pre-loaded Good – purchased app required Excellent
Access to MyDocuments Good – but couldn’t use MS Web apps had to use Dropbox Not evaluated Not evaluated Excellent
Acceptable typing experience Good Excellent Good (thumbs) Yes
Note Taking Good Good Good Excellent
Offline experience (when you don’t have an internet connection) Marginal Not evaluated Not evaluated Excellent
Edit Word and Excel files Good once you purchase Documents to Go Good Documents to Go was pre-installed Good ThinkFree office was pre-loaded Excellent
Performance, stability, battery life, cost, weight, size Good Good Good Excellent
Ability to have a hard network connection Not Suitable Not Suitable Not Suitable Excellent

Reviewer Comments

Galaxy

The Galaxy came preconfigured to be used with Sprint and continued to prompt for activation which was annoying. That stopped though, when we put it in airplane mode.

Email uses ActiveSync so we were able to delete mail without an internet connection. There was no free version of LogMeIn, so we had to purchase premium version for $30. We couldn’t get Skype to work, and due to location of power button, we kept accidentally powering off the tab.

PlayBook

The PlayBook came with a HDMI connector, and the video quality was equivalent to a Flip. The virtual keyboard changes based on the application you are in, which can be annoying. But although our reviewer has big hands, they typing experience was still good.

The unit came pre-loaded with Bing Maps, YouTube, DocumentsToGo and Adobe reader. It can be used as a remote control for your TV, has a remote control mouse pad and a Teleprompter. We got 2 days out of the battery without recharging, and it’s small enough to fit into the pocket of your cargo pants.

We hated the email experience as you had to tether the unit to your Blackberry and Verizon charges $20 per month for internet tethering. The touch controls were good once we figured them out, but the tutorial was poor. In the end we figured the screen was too small for Medical EMR software, which is important to a large number of our clients.

iPad2

The mail application was only good for reading and replying. We couldn’t delete or move mail into folders without an internet connection.Because Safari is the only browser available, a lot of sites wouldn’t display properly. We installed CloudBrowser app for as an alternative for Flash play but this is only an adequate experience. Safari is not supported by AutoTask, and free app available only provided limited number of functions.

SharePoint access was good, but the screen was too small to make full use of the site. Microsoft Web Apps for Word and Excel editing don’t work in Safari.

The virtual keyboard was good; we got pretty close to our usual typing speed, however virtual keyboard doesn’t automatically change with use of app so we often needed to jump to an alternate keyboard for frequently used alternate characters like “@”

The OneNote app we tried was only okay, and so many normal things you want to do require an internet connection; so when you don’t have it, it really reduces what you can do.

Conclusions

In the end we all agreed that although our netbooks are not as “fun”, they do enable us to do more of the out of office business functions that our roles require. We also agreed that the increased cost (we can get a decent netbook for $300-$325 while the tablet will go for $430-$900) was not worth it even if it could do everything we needed it to.

There is however the “fun” and “cool” factor to be considered. I for one, opted to keep my iPad2 but I’ve written this article on my trusty old netbook. As for our small business clients? We went through a number of our key clients discussing whether they would find value in one of the tablets we evaluated, and a number of them felt it would worth talking about.

This just goes to prove again that the variety we see if the marketplace is needed as everyone’s needs (and wants) are different.

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