NASCAR Team Drives Dell Windows 8 Tablets

Windows 8 tablet sales remain slow, but NASCAR team JTG Daugherty uses the devices to speed collaboration and put more competitive cars on the track.
10 Hidden Benefits of Windows 8.1
10 Hidden Benefits of Windows 8.1
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The future of Dell's PC business is currently in flux, but the company's Latitude 10 tablets are helping at least one customer speed ahead: NASCAR racing team JTG Daugherty.

Thanks to the tablet's portable form factor and the collaborative tools in Windows 8, the Latitude 10 has changed the way JTG Daugherty prepares for races, said Matt Corey, the team's IT admin, in an interview.

Windows 8 adoption remains low, but Corey said the Latitude 10 is a "one-stop shop" for certain team members. When JTG Daugherty's car chief is working on a car, for example, the Latitude is much easier to carry around than a laptop. It's also more functional: Typing notes into a non-touch PC is awkward when a person is halfway inside the hood of a car, but touch-based Win8 apps such as OneNote make the process more fluid.

What's more, the chief can then walk to an office and dock the tablet to a 24-inch monitor. This saves team members from having to carry multiple devices -- such as a tablet for the garage and a laptop for deskwork.

[ Microsoft's $900 million Surface RT write-down was not the only troubling sign in the company's rough earnings report. See Microsoft's Struggles Grow: 9 Key Points. ]

"One of the good things about running Windows is that you have the standard desktop and the apps," Corey said. "With the ability to use it as a computer and a tablet, it's like everything [the car chief] does goes with him."

OneNote also allows multiple team members to share notes and collaborate. By hooking into the cloud, JTG Daugherty can keep the driver better connected to race engineers during practice sessions, for example. Corey notes that teams have limited practice time before a race, and that every second of improved communication helps to better tune the car to the specifics of a given course.

"Sometimes they communicate by tapping in notes, sometimes using a stylus to draw, or sometimes using the tablet's camera to take a picture," he said, illustrating the tablet's versatility as a collaboration and data-gathering tool.

These sorts of applications couldn't be easily performed with a conventionally designed PC, and demonstrate why tablets have gained popularity as workplace devices. For Dell, the Latitude 10 is an attempt to get in on this action.

PC sales, once the foundation of Dell's business, have become a major point of concern. The company has looked to Windows 8 devices such as the Latitude to pick up the slack, but so far, Dell -- like virtually all Win8 OEMs -- has endured mixed results. On Wednesday, Dell shareholders will decide whether to accept CEO and founder Michael Dell's buyout proposal, a decision that could have significant bearing on the company's identity, including its PC ambitions.

Corey said adapting to Windows 8 "went a lot smoother than expected." He said some team members required more practice than others, but that even the least tech-savvy have become "whizzes."

That said, the team didn't convert its entire operation to Windows 8. It also uses Dell ruggedized notebooks with Windows 7. Enterprises have been hesitant to deploy Windows 8 for a variety of reasons, ranging from the productivity employees would lose while adjusting to the new user interface, to compatibility issues with older applications. JTG Daugherty shared many of these concerns.

"We didn't want to rock the boat too much," Corey said. "We had to get everyone up and running in the easiest way possible."

Still, he said, expanding Windows 8's role on the team is "definitely a possibility in the future."