The Ultimate 'Business' Pad Defined

The tablet I want might not be what my employer wants--and that might not matter all that much.
We've seen more than a few CIOs talking about tablets rather than laptops for their users. That's gotten me thinking: Exactly what would I want in a tablet? I have a good laptop courtesy of my employer, and I have an iPad that I bought myself.

With simple email and calendar connectivity, the iPad now replaces my laptop on one- and two-day business trips, but it's not quite where it needs to be to be a full replacement. Here's what it still needs. First, the easy stuff.

-- The iPad's screen resolution should be higher, full HD--say, 1920 x 1028. The visible screen should take up another inch or so of the surface area--11-inch diagonal is fine. Both enhancements would be appreciated by eyeballs that have spent more than 30 years staring at computer screens.

-- It'll need more solid state local storage--north of 300 GB is fine. Let's keep it encrypted. It also needs a file system that's more accessible than the iPad's; complex document composition requires that.

-- Of course, it has to multitask, turn on instantly, and run the basic business utilities, including document, presentation, spreadsheet, and graphics/picture editing. All those apps need to run locally, not in a browser. I don't care if Microsoft makes the apps, but the apps need to read and write compatible file formats.

-- Email and calendar are musts, and the browsers need to be HTML5-compliant. Flash and other standards would be nice.

-- In terms of processor speed, if I can take a video call while an HD movie is streaming, both on encrypted channels, that's probably enough for anything I'd use it for. Is that single core, dual core, or quad? I couldn't care less.

-- Cameras on each side of the tablet are nice, though I'd be tempted to award points for not having a camera pointing at me. I have a face made for radio, as they'd say in the good ol' days.

-- The battery life should let me work pretty constantly for about 12 hours. Overall, the tablet needs to weigh no more than 24 ounces.

-- The list of connectivity requirements are long but not out of the ordinary. It'll have high-speed Wi-Fi, of course, LTE, of course--with fallback to lesser standards as needed.

-- It needs to be a great phone, supporting both personal and work numbers simultaneously. For the phone, it'll be a Bluetooth headpiece.

-- For desktop productivity, the tablet should support wireless monitors and keyboards; mice too, I suppose, though the pad itself is a pretty good pointing device. Printers, cameras, projectors, and other such devices should all connect wirelessly, seamlessly, and at full resolution. There's lots of work going on for very-high-speed personal area networks, so none of this is unreasonable.

Here's the potentially unreasonable part, at least from IT's point of view: I don't want my employer owning this thing. I want to own it, and I want to carve out a virtualized portion of my space for the company, not the other way around. That, I believe, is a significant part of what makes the iPad so appealing to executives.

On my corporate BlackBerry, I've practically worn the letters off typing and retyping my password--probably a good hint to would-be thieves. I'm not complaining; IT should set the policy around its data and, therefore, on its devices. But that sure wouldn't be a policy I'd set for my data. And what I want is one set of devices--one smartphone and one tablet that are the center of all things I do that need or want computer connectivity.

If you divide a day roughly into thirds for work, sleep, and personal life, mobile connectivity is now just as useful in my personal life as it is in my work life, so I want a choice as to who runs the show on that device. I pick me. My sense is that your user community is going to feel the same way.

It probably benefits the company if I do have just one device (or set of devices); I'm much more likely to always be reachable and have the right information available at all times. For some businesses and employees, security requirements won't permit such an arrangement, I get that, but I bet that number is relatively small. This, then, is the challenge for managing mobile devices going forward, and so far, I don't hear of too many companies attempting to address it.

Art Wittmann is director of InformationWeek Analytics, a portfolio of decision-support tools and analyst reports. You can write to him at [email protected].

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