Battle of the Tablets

With a flood of options hitting the market, now's the time to prep your apps and network.

For more than a year, government officials in Wellington, Fla., have put tablet computers through their paces. While Apple iPads can perform 90 percent of the tasks that city managers, council members and other leaders perform, CIO Tom Amburgey is eyeing the spate of newcomers entering the fray, including HP's Slate, Motorola's Xoom and Samsung's Galaxy Tab.

"I paid attention to what came out at the Consumer Electronics Show and was interested in the Android tablets with cameras," Amburgey says. City building inspectors who use web-based applications could tap camera-equipped tablets to complete and file their paperwork onsite and attach time-stamped photos.

Wellington has deployed more than a dozen iPads to city officials and has reaped great rewards, including the ability to migrate to a paperless environment. "City council members can download a 300- to 400-page agenda from an FTP site and edit it or attach notes," he says. This return on investment -- and the fact that tablets are less expensive than notebooks to buy and maintain -- have prompted Amburgey to boost his tablet deployment to 50 devices by the end of next year.

Chris Dixon, manager for state and local industry analysis for research firm Input, has noticed a swell in government interest around tablet computing. While he credits Apple for sparking this revolution, he believes there is room for competitors and no loyalty to one platform or device.

Craig Mathias, a principal with wireless and mobile advisory firm Farpoint Group, recommends that IT leaders carefully examine the purpose of a tablet deployment and weigh attributes such as ease of use and management. For instance, if you have a strong Cisco video conferencing infrastructure and intend to use tablets as an extension of this, then Cisco's newly announced Cius tablet might be your best bet. Or, if your IT team is familiar with RIM's ­BlackBerry offerings, then RIM's ­BlackBerry ­PlayBook might appeal to you, he says.

"There's going to be a tablet option for everyone, but you have to map them to your applications and other requirements," he says.

Mathias also suggests considering battery life, ruggedness and connectivity options such as Wi-Fi and cellular. Organizations that use web-based applications and have campuses blanketed with Wi-Fi will find more choice, cost effectiveness and easier adoption of tablet technologies.

Amburgey says his tablet rollout has been a success because the city's main applications are all browser-based. In addition, the government has an extensive Wi-Fi network.

"Tablets definitely favor lines of business that are doing most of their transactions through a web interface," Dixon says. "That way, IT doesn't have to worry about purchasing, installing and updating client software."

Apple iPad 2
OS: iOS 4.3
Display: 9.7"
Camera: 30 frames-per-second VGA video recording (forward-facing),
720p 30 fps HD video recording (rear-facing)

HP Slate 500 Tablet PC
OS: Windows 7 Professional 32-bit

Display: 8.9"
VGA webcam (forward), 3 megapixel camera (rear)
Connection: Wi-Fi

Cisco Cius
Display: 7"
Camera: 720p
30 fps high-definition video encoding and decoding (forward-facing), 5MP still pictures or VGA-quality video (rear-facing)
Connections: Wi-Fi and cellular

Motorola Xoom
OS: Android
Display: 10.1"
Cameras: 2 MP webcam (forward), 5 MP camera (rear)

Connections: Wi-Fi and cellular

RIM BlackBerry PlayBook
OS: BlackBerry Tablet OS
Display: 7"
Cameras: 3 MP HD (forward), 5 MP HD (rear)
Connections: Wi-Fi and cellular

Galaxy Tab

OS: Android
Display: 7"
Cameras: 1.3 MP (forward), 3 MP auto-focus (rear)
Connections: Wi-Fi and cellular

Toshiba Tablet (not released as of press time)
OS: Android Honeycomb
Display: 10.1"
Cameras: 2 MP webcam (forward), 5 MP auto-focus (rear)
Connection: Wi-Fi

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Mar 31 2011