Blurring the Lines: Hybrid Devices in the Workplace

December 10th, 2015 by admin

Wooden desk with a gray MacBook Pro, Apple display, iPad, and Mac peripherals sitting on it

Apple announced the iPad Pro in September of 2015. Microsoft announced the Surface Book just a month later. Both devices are blurring the lines between tablets and laptops, offering interesting new opportunities for technology use in the workplace and resolving many of the issues present in the current two-device work model.

Tablets have increased productivity in the workplace when assigned to specific roles. Laptops function as all-purpose work horses that aren’t tethered to a desk. You can think of tablets like miniature Swiss Army Knives, offering a handful of useful tools; laptops are more like massive Swiss Army Knives, with more tools than you could ever possibly use. It can be a major inconvenience to lug around the larger knife, making the smaller knife better suited to some tasks. Many SMB employees find themselves carrying a laptop and tablet to work. It’s here that the Surface Book laptop and iPad Pro step in, eliminating the need to carry more than one device.

The Growing Role of Tablets in the Workplace

According to eMarketer, the number of tablet users across the globe will surpass one billion by the end of 2015.

However, they are still largely considered a consumer device, with business use accounting for just 14% of all tablet sales. Still, tablets are finding their way into the workplace. According to IDC, 40% of workers in France, Germany, and the U.K. were using a tablet as their only business device as of July 2015.

In order for tablets to succeed, the devices have differentiated themselves from the traditional laptop/desktop computer model. Tablets, for example, are useful tools for delivering presentations, point-of-sale situations, trade show booths, and recording information on the go. In such cases, a larger device (such as a laptop) is not practical or necessary.

What Holds Tablets Back

Steve Jobs was correct in saying that tablets were great for media consumption. However, he cleverly skirted issues related to content creation. Many SMB reps see other businesses implementing tablets successfully and rush out to buy their own. Unfortunately, tablets often amounting to little more than an expensive personal Netflix streaming device, only useful for small, uncommon jobs in a given work environment.

Tablets lag behind laptops when it comes to sitting down at a desk to perform day-to-day work. Their shape and design aren’t well-suited to a long day of typing, and the screens are too small to show multiple open windows. And, as many tablet owners have learned, you can’t just strap a keyboard and touchpad to a tablet and expect it to function like a full-fledged laptop.

On top of the functionality issues, IT consulting and managed services often encounter OS issues with tablet devices used in the workplace: sharing network servers, as well as files, is more difficult than with laptops or desktop computers.

Hybrid Devices: Relieving Workflow Headaches

Both the iPad Pro and Microsoft Surface Book are implementing strategies to resolve the major productivity hang-ups associated with the tablet platform. For example, the iPad Pro has taken strides in allowing multiple apps to run simultaneously so the user doesn’t have to switch apps or screens constantly, or refer to multiple devices. Early impressions indicate that it’s targeted toward creative professionals, such as video editors. The device also introduces an improved, attached keyboard accessory to address typing efficiency issues on a touch screen. However, the iPad Pro is notably missing external mouse and USB support.

The Surface Book line has traditionally performed well in the workplace, cooperating with network software and VPN connections. If you need Windows-based software to do your job, these are a great option. In addition to offering plenty of processing power and a larger screen, the Surface Book also has a trackpad on the keyboard, a big plus for some users. The trackpad is great for people who do a lot of text editing, eliminating the pinch-zoom, tap-and-pray experience many users have with tablet cursors.

These two devices, and other third-party Windows devices, have the potential to bring some SMB workplaces back to a single-device workflow. The iPad Pro takes a more tablet, less laptop approach, while the Surface Book is more laptop, less tablet. Depending on your preferences, both platforms offer enticing, game-changing options.

Your local IT Managed Service experts can provide great insights into which platform may be right for your business.

Posted in: Hardware and Software