Tablet vs. laptop computer—which would work best for you, your employees, and your business? Here are capabilities, disadvantages, and IT tech support issues to compare before you decide which device to purchase.
Are you considering buying a tablet instead of a laptop computer for your business? It is tempting, right? Ads and product placements in TV shows make tablets look trendy, ultra-portable, and efficient. But the bottom line in the laptop versus tablet decision is which will work best in which situations for your specific business needs.
Are Tablets Miniature Computers or Big Phones?
Although the big companies want you to believe that tablets are like miniature computers, in reality, they’re more like giant-sized phones. Apple, for example, is working hard to unify and standardize the tablet and computer experience but the effort is only slowly progressing. Other companies are doing the same but it’s a hard limitation to overcome.
Because of their size and 100% reliance on batteries, tablets have to do a lot with little. The apps have to be written in such a way that they use as little battery as possible while giving the consumer as much firepower as a traditional computer. For tasks like internet browsing, checking email, and other basic computer tasks, tablets have become an appropriate alternative to laptop computers. But for specialized business uses, tablets mostly fall short.
IT Support for Business Tablets Could Be an Issue
Before we go much further, let’s address the “adulting” part of this question. Tablets are small, lightweight, and make your employees look really good as they embrace the newest of technology. But here’s a really important consideration for business owners —your IT company or department is going to have a tough time supporting tablet devices in the traditional ways.
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If your company is large enough to work with an IT company or you have an IT department in house, you probably know that when a problem arises with desktop or laptop computers, they can simply remote into the device and fix the issue. Or, they can have you show them the issue or they can provide training to you so you can get back to work quickly.
Although some tablets have solutions that allow this, Apple does not. There is no remoting into an iPad. There is another option that we’ll look at in a minute but going to all tablets may increase your support costs because more work must be done with IT hands physically on the device. And what happens when a tablet fails while the employee is in the field?
Mobile Device Management (MDM)
If you’re using a fleet of tablets for your employees, you don’t have an option. You must have an MDM (Mobile Device Management) solution in place. MDM allows you to push a set of rules to the devices. Don’t want people changing the network settings? Push the policy to the tablet remotely. Apple or Google just came out with a software update? You can push a command to all tablets to update.
You can even personalize the rules for each tablet. This is the only way to efficiently manage a fleet of tablets. Plan to pay around $3.50 per device per month for the best in class MDMs.
Pro Tip: Buy all of your iPads from Apple directly. This is needed to make sure all of your tablets adopt into your MDM solution.
What Others Are Doing
Might as well learn from the success and or failure of other businesses, right? Here is some anecdotal evidence. I own a commercial IT firm servicing a significant number of businesses of all sizes. Not one of them has converted from desktop or laptops to all tablets. Many have talked about it, but when faced with the real-world challenges, it didn’t make sense.
What we find most often is that businesses are looking for opportunities to replace older computers with tablets, but they are conservative with those decisions. If there’s even a little doubt that a tablet would work, they stay with laptops.
Pros and Cons of Tablets vs Laptops
- Cost: Most people don’t need a high-end tablet. You can get an outstanding tablet for less than the cost of a business class computer.
- Simplicity: Tablet apps are usually easier to use so it’s easier to train employees.
- Portability: For anybody not behind a desk, a tablet’s small size comes with many advantages.
- Some apps are well developed: Sales teams, for example, will find the apps available to them healthy and refined.
- Standardized: With an MDM, an IT person can set up and lock down all tablets the same way. This lowers support costs.
- The onscreen keyboard: Younger users might be fine but for people used to a traditional keyboard, it will be frustrating. Yes, you can get regular keyboards but at that point, you might as well get a laptop.
- App availability: The more niche a software vendor, the less likely they are to have a tablet app and if they do, it may not be a great experience.
- Power: Although some tablets are more powerful than computers, they still have limitations that computers don’t. Computers that control industrial machinery, high-end accounting, and graphic design are a few of the areas that often aren’t appropriate for tablets.
- Lack of accessories: There’s not much you can plug into your tablet
Although tablets are perfect for certain positions within the company, most will still find that a laptop is the best choice. If demand sustains for tablets, we may reach a day where all tablets make sense but from an enterprise perspective, tablet technology is still early in its evolution.