Twenty years ago, everyone brought pen and paper to meetings. Five years ago, it was the laptop. Now, look around the conference table and you’ll see smartphones and tablets. If you haven’t already purchased but are considering a tablet for business purposes you are probably wondering “which one?”.
We’ve done your homework for you. Here is what a group of certified tech geeks thinks about the tablets on market.
Probably the Microsoft Surface Pro. It’s a natural extension of the MS apps that most people use in the workforce (power point, excel, word…). –Casey Flinn, Blackbaud Product Manager
iPad….duh, right? –Steve Maclaughlin, Blackbaud Idea Lab Director
I’m biased because I own an iPad and haven’t used an Android tablet for the past 4-5 months. For me, the iPad is a great business tablet. I stay in touch and connected through integration with Microsoft Exchange and Google’s email and calendar. In the past few weeks, I’ve used my iPad to connect to WebEx conferences, FaceTime with coworkers, update my OneNote folders and Evernote Notebooks, and take a picture of my receipts to attach to an expense report. I love that Verizon wireless is built in keeps me connected. It doesn’t replace my laptop, but I sure get a lot of use out of it. –Tom Maszk, Blackbaud VP of Product Management
When I look at any piece of technology (business or personal), my first instinct is to evaluate the hardware and software eco-system around it to support the tablet in question. There are many great choices for tablets available in the market today – the two most obvious and notable ones going head to head at the moment are the Apple iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab. For business usage, my top priorities would be email, word-processing, spreadsheets, wireless networking options, protective cases (if you’re a road warrior), support, fragmentation of future OS releases and overall performance. While both are great tablets from a technical spec point of view, I feel the iPad comes out stronger with the app eco-system, which has become even more interesting with even Microsoft announcing Office 365 support for iOS along with solid support google apps in addition to apples own iWork suite… and the much larger range of hardware accessories available – and this translates to many more choices for business software options as well as hardware accessories. For me, the iPad comes out ahead on all fronts. –Raheel Gauba, Blackbaud Brand Manager
Trick question! Technology, business practices, and human capital are interdependent, and in an ideal world all three are closely aligned as part of a larger technology and organizational strategy (in practice achieving this alignment often proves quite difficult). Misalignment between any of these three will make the proverbial three-legged stool wobble.
That said, my experience is that tablets often fall under a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy in most organizations, and tends to be highly personalized to each user. The exception to this rule in the nonprofit space tends to be mobile tools for canvassers, volunteers, or major gift officers, who typically use specialized apps or web applications (e.g. a mobile major giving toolset).
With that in mind, I use an iPad and live inside of a few key apps to do my day-to-day work
- Dropbox – managing files across devices, access to documents when on the road, or quickly sharing files with others
- Evernote – centralized space to collect and share meeting notes
- Toodledo – for managing priorities and to-do items, whether I’m in front of a computer, tablet, or on the road with an iPhone
- MindJet Maps – for developing quick business process or architecture diagrams, or capturing notes in a visual format
- TweetDeck – to keep track of trends and interesting topics in the Twittersphere
- CamScanner – for quickly turning paper documents into PDF and backing up to Dropbox
When evaluating new apps and systems, I look primarily for ease of use, ability to collaborate with others, and interoperability with phone (I use an iPhone 4s) and desktop. –Bo Crader, Blackbaud Services Principal
Today’s tablets (Android, Microsoft, Apple) represent a combination of portability and access (e.g. Intranet, applications, data) that has never existed before. However, each of the main vendors fit a specific niche in the market. And, to determine which one fits your business needs, you have to first identify what strengths you’re looking for.
- Microsoft: Great network and application interoperability if your business is a Microsoft shop. Ease of access to Office products and a great user experience. However, it lacks a vibrant user and developer community today. So, if you’re looking to extend the user experience through applications, you will currently need to look elsewhere.
- Android: Possibly the most open system from a customization aspect, Android devices have the user and developer community that Microsoft lacks. In my experience, they require a bit more of an advanced user, though. And, they lack direct support for key Microsoft Office products.
- Apple: Apple easily wins the fight for overall usability and network of developers, in my opinion. There is an extensive list of business applications available for iOS devices, making it easy to extend this table to do more than Internet browsing and word processing. It is not an open platform, however, and does not have easy integration into Microsoft Exchange/Sharepoint-based businesses.
As a business traveler and frequent presenter, I look for a device that is: 1. Easy to use, 2. Has the applications that I need today, and 3. Constantly innovates for what I need tomorrow. My pick right now is the Apple iPad. While traveling, I can easily connect to any network, provide presentations directly from my tablet, open and edit critical documents, and still find time to read a book or catch a recent TV episode while in flight. I have never had difficulty finding a work-related application (e.g. whiteboard app, Webex, Office) or connecting to important business applications (e.g. email). (And, I can still let my kids play with it when I get home.) –Linton Myers, Blackbaud Solutions Architect
I’ve talked to many different organizations about the technology they use – for their staff, volunteers, or community members. When it comes to tablets, I’m afraid my answer isn’t a clear cut “buy this”. What’s the best tablet for business? The one your users (be them your staff, your volunteers, or your community members) are comfortable using. Tablets, like all technology, serve you best when they are used to their potential. You can have the coolest tablet (or database, or mobile app), but if those who need to use it don’t know how, it doesn’t seem very cool anymore. It’s how we use our tools that makes a difference, not just which tools we have. –Amy Sample Ward, NTEN CEO