We’re taking a break from our usual public relations and social media talk to look at one of my other passions in the world- Technology! In this case, it’s the ever-growing tablet market, and if it’s ready for prime time, at least for what I need in a business computing device. It started a couple of months back, when my laptop started going out and starting my work here more and more I needed something more reliable.
So instead of looking for a cheap laptop to pick up to tide me over, my wife and I decided to pick up the top of the line Android tablet, the Asus TF700. One of my coworkers has the TF201 with the keyboard dock and loves it. Since it’s light, has enough juice to do basic work-related tasks (email, some word processing), runs on Android (what can I say? I have a weak spot for open source), and can handle some light content management (e-books, maybe some Netflix from time to time) I decided to go with the new generation of Asus tablet.
The tablet is very nice, well built and the additional keyboard dock is a nice touch for those who are still a little wary about using bluetooth keyboards in public settings. (don’t laugh, we’re out there! ) Plus it provides an additional 4-5 hours of battery life. The TF700 has a 1920×1200 resolution screen, which holds up nicely when compared to the newest iPad’s Retina Display. And one of the selling points for me on this tablet was expandable MicroSD slot in the tablet itself, and an SD Card and USB slots in the keyboard dock, as well as Micro HDMI out to a projector or my TV. But in a business setting Android still presents some problems.
Some of the downsides of trying to work in the “App Life” come not from Asus, but from Google Android’s lack of a cohesive app suite, whether for business or for content. Something that Apple addresses head on with their app versions of the iLife and iWork suites, and what’s expected from Microsoft for the Windows RT Tablets. (At least a version of Microsoft Office for RT, since so many traditional “programs” won’t run in RT)
Having checked out the Google Play store, there are plenty of office suites available, both free and for sale, with reviews across the web leaving me even more confused than before. A couple of the free versions seem to be acceptable, only they are missing something critical, whether it’s spell check or a lack of power so the cursor always runs 5 seconds behind my typing. There is Google Drive, with all of the joy of Google Docs behind it, only you can’t really do much with it if you are offline (yes, this still happens) or your Internet dies. Plus I’m not sure I want to have my strategic documents in “The Cloud,” as awesome as that is to store my esoteric music collection. (This post is being written in Evernote, which works offline as well as providing some basic spell checking ability)
So what’s the answer?
As with so many things in business and life, it depends. One of Android’s strengths is its availability on a multitude of hardware platforms, like this TF700, which is almost on-par with the new iPad. Plus many of the basic business functions I use (email, calendar, etc.) are run on Google Apps, which as expected works hand in hand with Android. (Although, apparently, not with the latest releases by Google. But that’s a rant for another time.)
I love the flexibility of a tablet, it’s replaced my laptop for technology I take to the day job (I have a work laptop in my office, which still gets 95% of the work) and has done a capable job of replacing my laptop for much of my freelancing work.
But when it came time to pick up a tablet for my wife for our anniversary, I did notice that we immediately picked up a new iPad in part because of Apple’s richer, stronger ecosystem of apps. Which might explain why Apple has, and will probably keep, the lion’s share of the tablet market, in the U.S. at least.