By Mark Holleran, president and CEO, Xplore Technologies, www.xploretech.com
Thank you, iPad, for making tablets the most-wanted form factor.
The tablet revolution is finally here. Tablet computers have been a niche in the computer market for more than 20 years, but many have anticipated the tablet’s acceptance as a mainstream device. In 2005, Microsoft introduced the first enterprise tablet computer, with Bill Gates boldly declaring that the tablet was the future of mobile computing. Around the same time, industry researchers at the Gartner Group foresaw the future popularity of tablets. Both of these predictions were right, but they were premature. It wasn’t until 2010, with the release of Apple’s iPad, that we have seen a huge acceptance of the tablet as a viable form factor. This has caused a paradigm shift in the PC business. We no longer need to explain what a tablet is, because everyone wants one.
Today, tablets are the most popular platform in both the
consumer and enterprise marketplace because of their
wireless capability and the fact that they are an all-in-one
solution. Many of us in the rugged tablet industry recall
when one of our primary selling points was our ability
to provide mobile communications
through radios built into
our units. Today that remains a
selling point, but now our tablets
connect to 3G and 4G wireless
networks that have both
the bandwidth and speed to
support mobile devices, allowing
users to send and stream
pictures, videos, and large files
in a cost-effective way. Adding
Bluetooth and advanced wireless
capabilities into one piece
of hardware reduces the need
to carry a myriad of devices.
Tablets are able to replace the PC, the cell phone, and the
two-way radio because we can now incorporate all of these
communications devices into one form-factor design.
Additionally, tablets are in demand because, frankly,
they are the most mobile form factors and they physically
align with the way we, as human beings, operate. While
a keyboard and mouse can be connected to most tablets
for use at a workstation, data is easily input by touching
the screen with a hand, digitizer pen, or even a gloved
hand in extreme weather or hazardous conditions. The
tablet is instant-on and is easy to carry and operate with
one hand while the other hand is free.
The popularity of the tablet is also increasing the number
of applications and amount of software being created for
tablets. Huge application providers and software developers
are now developing the software needed for pen- and
touch-based functionality. And while some tablets only
support fun, small applications like those designed for
cell phones, most tablet PCs are powerful enough to support
heavy-duty software designed for huge files and large
amounts of data, just like a notebook computer. This
enables companies to deploy field workers with tablet
computers and increase their efficiency by operating custom
software designed for their specific industry.
The Touch Screen Overtakes The Keyboard
Advancements in touch screens have made tablets a
viable option to replace notebook computers. Because
of the popularity of multi-touch on smartphones, people
want advanced multi-touch capabilities on tablets
as well. They want to be able to touch and flip through
screens, or pinch and zoom to enlarge what they see.
As a result, the needed software development is finally
Not only is the tablet market trendy at the moment
(around 80 new tablets were introduced last year), but
now everyone wants to say their computers are rugged as
well. Obviously, as tablets are used in more and more situations,
there are those that require certain protections
from the harsh environments they may be placed in.
Tablets bring the benefit of being easily mounted in
vehicles as well as stationary areas. The tablet computer's
ability to be easily mounted can provide a significant
reduction in the total cost of ownership. For example,
in a typical warehouse about 10% to 20% of forklifts may
be down for maintenance, charging, etc., and tablets
can be easily removed from their docking systems and
placed onto other forklifts, so that tasks are still carried
out. Costly down time due to docking systems that don't
allow device removal can be significantly reduced or
Mobile workers in the field have long known and
appreciated the benefits of both rugged notebooks and
rugged tablet computers to assist them in their jobs. Just
as the laptop (notebook) computer's explosion in popularity
with consumers in 1995 opened up the world of
rugged notebook computers, so the current popularity
of consumer tablets is driving the increased acceptance
of the tablet form factor today. The only difference is that
rugged tablets have been in field use for the past 15 years.
And now, thanks to the consumer acceptance of tablets,
many other field workers will begin to experience the
benefits of rugged tablets in their enterprises.