Magazine Article | February 23, 2012

Tablets In The Field: The End Of The Laptop, Or Just Another Option?

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

By Sarah Howland, Editor In Chief, Field Technologies magazine

Since the introduction of the iPad, many people have been asking the question of whether or not the tablet is the ‘laptop killer.’ I’ve asked myself this question quite a few times over the past two years, specifically as it relates to the mobile workforce. The answer I’ve come up with is yes — I think in a lot of ways, the tablet form factor has become, and will remain, the form factor of choice.

Consider this data from ABI Research: worldwide annual tablet shipments are expected to top 120 million in 2015, and more than 22% of companies in the United States have already formally deployed tablets (meaning the tablets are company purchased versus employees simply choosing to use their own). Furthermore, 78% of companies plan to deploy tablets by 2013. Now obviously not all of those deployments are related to the industries we cover, but many certainly are.

Why has the tablet form factor become so incredibly popular? For years companies selecting a mobile device have debated the pros and cons of laptops and handhelds. Laptops provide full-scale computing power and are conducive to data entry intensive applications, but are somewhat cumbersome for many field workers to carry on the job. Handhelds offer greater portability and are easier for techs to carry with them and use throughout a job, but also have a much smaller screen size and don’t provide the same level of computing power. With the tablet, an alternative has been introduced — one that combines many of the best features of each category.

What About The iPad?
The tablet offers more computing capability and a larger screen than a handheld, and is more portable than the laptop, with techs being able to easily carry it in to a customer site and use it throughout the service call. Many tablet manufacturers offer devices that are equipped with full Windows or Android OS (versus a mobile-specific OS), enabling your techs to do anything on a tablet they could have done on a laptop. Many would even argue that the media tablet sector, like Apple’s iPad, can do everything the average mobile worker’s laptop would need to. And with tablets being the hot form factor, new applications are being designed and optimized specifically for the form factor on a daily basis.

There may be certain applications that require a heavy amount of data entry for which a laptop is still the superior device of choice, but those applications seem to be fewer and farther between. And, with all of the docking and external keyboard options that exist, tablets are still an option in these instances. All in all, I think tablets are here to stay — and will continue to beat out laptops in the device selection process for many companies. What do you think? I’d love to hear your take on this subject. You can email your thoughts to